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Home > Catalogue > Music and Society in Early Modern England with Audio CD
Music and Society in Early Modern England with Audio CD


  • 58 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 624 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 1.38 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 780.942/09032
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: ML3917.G7 M27 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Music--Social aspects--England--History--17th century
    • Music--Social aspects--England--History--16th century

Library of Congress Record

1 Hardback, 1 CD-Audio

 (ISBN-13: 9780521898324)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published September 2010

Unavailable - out of print December 2012

 (Stock level updated: 02:09 GMT, 28 November 2015)

£68.00 (+ VAT)

Music and Society in Early Modern England is the first comprehensive survey of English popular music during the early modern period to be published in over one hundred and fifty years. Christopher Marsh offers a fascinating and broad-ranging account of musicians, the power of music, broadside ballads, dancing, psalm-singing and bell-ringing. Drawing on sources ranging from ballads, plays, musical manuscripts and diaries to wills, inventories, speeches and court records, he investigates the part played by music in the negotiation of social relations, revealing its capacity both to unify and to divide. The book is lavishly illustrated and is accompanied by a website featuring forty-eight specially commissioned recordings by the critically acclaimed Dufay Collective. These include the first ever attempts to reconstruct the distinctively early-modern sounds of 'rough music' and unaccompanied congregational psalm-singing.

• Provides a unique perspective on the relationship between music and social relations, indicating the role of music within popular culture • Lavishly illustrated and accompanied by forty-eight specially commissioned recordings by the award-winning Dufay Collective • Covers a wide range of commonplace musical forms, activities and practitioners during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries appealing to historians, musicologists, practising musicians and general readers


Introduction; 1. The power of music; 2. Occupational musicians: denigration and defence; 3. Occupational musicians: employment prospects; 4. Recreational musicians; 5. Ballads and their audience; 6. Balladry and the meanings of melody; 7. 'The skipping art': dance and society; 8. Parish church music: the rise of the 'singing psalms'; 9. Parish church music: bells and their ringers; Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography.

Prize Winner

Ratcliff Prize 2011 - Winner

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2011 - Winner


Review of the hardback: 'A real ear-opener of a book. Chris Marsh's wonderfully engaging panorama of the musical culture of early modern England reconnects us to a vital lost dimension of lived experience. A superb achievement.' Peter Marshall, University of Warwick

Review of the hardback: 'This brave, ambitious and exciting book is scrupulously researched. It demonstrates, with considerable originality and through a splendid attached CD, how a vibrant musical culture informed and illuminated the mentality and society of early modern England.' Anthony Fletcher, University of London, and author of Growing Up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600–1914

Review of the hardback: 'Christopher Marsh's highly original study roves boldly through territory that social historians and musicologists rarely explore - namely the everyday musical experiences of men, women and children in early modern England. Packed full of facts and quotations from an impressively wide and diverse range of sources, the book allows the voices of its witnesses to speak in their own words about the relevance of balladry, metrical psalms, singing, dancing, playing instruments, collecting music, and even ringing church bells. Thoughtfully organized and often delightfully witty, it is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what meanings music and musical performance could possess in English life before the Enlightenment.' Dr John Milsom, University of Oxford

Review of the hardback: 'It's bad enough that it's engagingly written and full of fascinating pictures, but for it to include a fascinating CD of 16th-17th century noises (some but not all of them musical) is just unfair.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

Review of the hardback: 'Music and Society in Early Modern England offers a rich and colourful picture of music-making in the lives of men and women in the [sixteenth and seventeenth] centuries … this is a thoroughly researched and enlightening book that covers areas which have often received little attention from musicologists and even less from social historians … This is a must-read for those intrigued to know more about the everyday musical practices of the general population of early modern England, or the significance and meanings of music in their lives.' Katherine Butler, Early Music

Review of the hardback: '… this is much more than a survey of early modern attitudes to music … Dr Marsh offers a striking thesis on the dynamic relationship between music and words or performance … A paperback edition should fly off the shelves as fast as broadside ballads and psalmbooks did four hundred years ago.' Ian Green, English Historical Review

Review of the hardback: 'This masterful synthesis was 20 years in the making and well worth the wait … [Marsh] writes music history for his fellow historians, not for music historians or musicologists … and the work is the better for that, accessible to all with broad interest in the subject … Displaying his formidable, painstaking, and intelligent research and interpretations to full effect with lively, often humorous writing … the book as a whole is a triumph.' W. Metcalfe, Choice

Review of the hardback: '… a much-needed addition to the literature … Each chapter is a cornucopia of examples gleaned from primary sources … this book is destined to alter current perceptions of music-making in early modern England.' Penelope Gouk, Folklore

Review of the hardback: 'Marsh provides extremely well-documented and beautifully detailed glimpses into the uses and occasional abuses of music among all sorts of practitioners from early Tudor times until the mid-eighteenth century … The entire publication is a model of how exacting scholarship and historically informed performance can be brought together usefully and imaginatively for a range of academic readers.' Linda Phyllis Austern, Renaissance Quarterly

Review of the hardback: 'This new study by Marsh is an audacious undertaking, but one which will surely become the starting point for all serious work in the subject, and one with which established scholars will be required to come to terms … the work is richly illustrated and elegantly written with scarcely a sentence that is less than lucid. [Music and Society in Early Modern England] is based on a formidable body of scholarship, including the most recent unpublished dissertations. It is a remarkable achievement, and it may be a generation before it is superseded.' Peter Webster, Reformation

Review of the hardback: 'A remarkable achievement … The combination here of archival research, scholarly circumspection, multiple critical approaches, genuinely fresh analysis of musical examples, imaginative performances on the CD, and above all respect for the lived experience of individuals recommends Music and Society in Early Modern England to a wide variety of readers, including performers of early modern music as well as scholars of early modern culture.' Bruce R. Smith, Music and Letters

Review of the hardback: 'Musical life offers one of the better contexts within which to study society generally … Christopher Marsh followed that path in masterful fashion here in discussing the social contexts of the ballad, the catch, congregational psalm singing, dance music, and change-ringing in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries … by far the most up-to-date analysis of how the English Reformation affected church music.' William Weber, Journal of Social History

'Will act as the definitive source of reference for some … time to come.' Classical Net

'Highly recommended and deserves to be widely read.' Folk Music Journal

'In this important new book Christopher Marsh uncovers the variety of music made and heard in early modern England … [It] will surely prompt new ideas from historians and scholars of literature, theatre, music, and material culture. As recreation, as worship, as social comment and social mediation, or simply as fun, music was enmeshed in English culture at all levels and in many ways. Marsh's book provides a remarkable opportunity to eavesdrop on this neglected dimension of early modern English life.' Katherine E. Hunt, Early Theatre

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