Sport in History Podcast 34 – Dr Johanna Mellis

The history of sport and Hungary in this week’s podcast brought to you by the British Society of Sport History in association with the Institute of Historical Research with Dr. Johanna Mellis of Ursinus College in the United States.

Conor talks to Johanna about her work on the relationship between sport and politics in Hungary during the Cold War and how defectors were viewed by those who remained loyal to the Communist régime. Johanna also talks about the challenges of conduction oral history in a second language and her teaching of sport history at a college where approaching 40% of the students are athletes.

Dr. Johanna Mellis is an Assistant Professor of History at Ursinus College near Philadelphia, PA where she teaches courses in world/global history, European history, and sport and oral history. She received her PhD in History at the University of Florida in 2018, where she worked with the prestigious Samuel Proctor Oral History Program ( Her research connects the history of Hungarian sport to the global arena of international sport during the Cold War by using oral histories to show how Hungarian athletes shaped not only their lives under the socialist system, but also the worldwide governance of the International Olympic Committee. Her first article, “Cold War Politics and the California Running Scene,” is based on her collaborative oral history project with Dr. Toby Rider, titled “The Cold War Athlete-Refugee in CA Oral History Project.” It is the subject of her second project about the experiences and politics of sporting defectors from the Eastern Bloc to the West in the Cold War ( In her most recent article, “From Defectors to Cooperators,” she analyzes how the momentous events of 1956 in Hungary influenced athletes and socialist sport leaders alike to cooperate with—and not work against—one another, in order to achieve their own goals from the 1960s-1980s ( She is also starting to work on a collaborative oral history project with Dr. Emese Ivan of St. John’s University. The first of its kind in studies about Eastern Bloc sport, the project will consist of interviews with a women’s basketball team who trained at Hungary’s Central Sport School in the 1970s. Dr. Mellis can be found on Twitter @JohannaMellis

BSSH Podcast History

f1insburyparker View All →

Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).

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