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Name: Thomas Weir

PhD: History

Thesis Title:

Sporting Participation and People with Learning Disabilities: A History, c.1960-2012

Thesis Description:

Short version: My project aims to be the first focused history of the sporting provision and experiences of people with learning disabilities in Britain between 1960 and 2012.

Longer version: Previous histories of people with learning disabilities have focused on their social marginalisation and discourses of stigma. Building on this historiography, this project will provide a study of the changing status of people with learning disabilities in civil society through the lens of sporting participation. It will illuminate, therefore, broader ideas of citizenship, class, gender and ethnicity, and highlight the roles of the voluntary sector and the state, both local and national, in light of changing perceptions of people with learning disabilities.

The project is national in scope, but will closely examine the sporting provision and participation in two contrasting areas. First, Leicester. In 2009 the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games were held in the city. The ICSHC and Leicester University produced a report on the Games’ legacy (Barton et al, 2009), and my research intends to utilise the contacts established during its research. The second case study is North London (Hertfordshire and Middlesex), where I have a long established personal connection with an inclusive theatre ‘Chickenshed,’ and have access to the wider learning disabled community within the county.

Key to my study will be conducting Oral Histories with athletes, coaches and volunteers who have been involved in disability sport. This will not only inform my study, but serve to create an archive and allow these voices to be recorded for posterity. 


Previous academic achievements:

  • De Montfort University- MA - Sports History And Culture (2014-2015)- Distinction
  • University of York - BA Hons - History (2008-2011)- 1st

Work History

July 2017-September 2017: World Rugby Museum, Twickenham- I produced a number of research documents on the theme of  "rugby in all its forms" to help inform the displays for the new museum, opened in January 2018. This also included making a number of interview video recordings.

May 2017- June 2017: Canterbury Christ Church University - Teaching a 2nd year undergraduate seminar course, on the specialist area of disability in sport.

April-June 2017: Leicester City Council: Museums - I have been working in a consultancy role exploring 'cultural access' for people with mixed disabilities in Leicester. This has involved consulting with multiple interest groups and individuals, and producing a report of recommendations for the Council and Attenborough Arts Centre.This has been organised through Midlands 3 Cities, and was the result of a successful bid for SDF funding. 

I won HLF funding to explore the history of Saracens Rugby Club during the First World War. This has been an ongoing project from 2014, due to be completed in November 2018 with the creation of a book of commemoration.

In addition I have been a tour guide in London since 2014, writing and researching a number of specialist tours. Prior to this I worked in financial recruitment in the City of London, and have also run a sales company whilst living out in New Zealand.

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Neil Carter- De Montfort University

Professor Matthew Taylor- De Montfort University


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • '"Why are you keeping us out of the Paralympics?" The development of Down Syndrome Sport in the UK' presentation September 2017 at BSSH conference, Worcester. I will also present on the same topic at CESH December 2017, Strasbourg. 
  • ‘Intellectual disability & sport, A History: 1960-2012’ [presentation], May 2017 as part of M3C research festival.
  • ‘Active Oral Histories’ [Poster] Presented in April 2017 as part of the poster competition, held at De Montfort.


  • Attendance at Committee of European Sports History (CESH) conference, Leicester September 2016
  • Attendance at British Society of Sports History BSSH conference, Edinburgh September 2016
  • Attendance by special invitation form the Wolrd Rugby Museum, Twickenham to 'Somme 100 France-England Rugby International Reception,' Paris March 2016


  • I Presented my MA paper: 'James Peters- The man they wouldn't play'  
    • World in Union conference, Brighton September 2015
    • British Society of Sports History Conference, Swansea September 2015
    • De Montfort University seminar series, Leicester February 2015



University email address:


Twitter: @tweir8

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