English folk music movement 1898-1914

Bearman, Christopher James

Economic and social history

Thesis or dissertation

© 2001 Christopher James Bearman. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The folk music movement was an important influence on English cultural life in the years immediately before the First World War. From remote origins in the 1830s and 1840s and small beginnings in the 1880s and 1890s, it suddenly caught the public mood between 1904 and 1914 and for a brief moment it seemed as though a genuinely indigenous and unifying cultural force might have been found. This proved to be a false hope, but nevertheless the movement has survived and has a continuing place in English cultural historiography.

This movement, however, has never been provided with a general history, still less one which has tried to analyse what actually happened. Instead, over the past thirty years since 1970 an interpretation has developed based on Marxist political thought and cultural theory. Coming as it does from a political position based on class conflict and hostility towards nationalism, this interpretation is profoundly antipathetic to the phenomenon it has sought to analyse and has been more concerned to condemn than to understand. It has seen folk song and dance in terms of material expropriated from the working class, misrepresented and transformed in order to reflect 'bourgeois' ideology, and then fed back to the working class via their children in the state education system.

Its weakness is that it has never been able to prove these propositions. This thesis attempts to undermine the Marxist interpretation and to provide a firm foundation of research for future analysis. Chapter One is a historiographical survey of the literature showing how it has developed and exposing its lack of a research base. Chapter Two is a narrative intended to provide a connecting thread for the analytical material which follows. Chapter Three examines the folk music organisations. Chapters Four and Five challenge the central assumptions of the Marxist interpretation by showing that the material was not exclusively 'working class', that folk music collection and publication was careful and scrupulous, and that the movement never succeeded in penetrating the state education system to any significant extent before 1914.

Department of Economic and Social History, The University of Hull
Ambler, R. W.; Reid, Douglas A.
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PID : 396055
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