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This innovative study of the lives of ordinary people – peasants, fishermen, textile workers – in nineteenth-century France demonstrates how folklore collections can be used to shed new light on the socially marginalized. David Hopkin explores the ways in which people used traditional genres such as stories, songs and riddles to highlight problems in their daily lives and give vent to their desires without undermining the two key institutions of their social world – the family and the community. The book addresses recognized problems in social history such as the division of power within the peasant family, the maintenance of communal bonds in competitive environments, and marriage strategies in unequal societies, showing how social and cultural history can be reconnected through the study of individual voices recorded by folklorists. Above all, it reveals how oral culture provided mechanisms for the poor to assert some control over their own destinies.Read more
- Explains how historians can approach folkloric material as historical sources
- Shows how the voices of individual peasants, usually condemned to historical silence, can be preserved in oral history
- Each chapter is a microstudy showing how a particular problem in social history can be clarified through the study of folklore collections
- Winner of the 2013 Katharine Briggs Folklore Award
Reviews & endorsements
"This marvellously imaginative and original study eavesdrops on a wide spectrum of 'ordinary' people in nineteenth-century France through their folk songs and stories, written down by more educated contemporaries … Experts and undergraduates alike will find this book difficult to put down. It should be on every BA and MA social history bibliography. It is also sufficiently engaging to hold a general reader enthralled."
Pamela Pilbeam, HistorySee more reviews
"Hopkin's book is rich and provocative; he invites the reader into a conversation about methods and sources. His analyses of folklore offer ways of rethinking the relationship between the social and the cultural."
Mary Jo Maynes, The Journal of Modern History
"This thought-provoking book deserves a wide audience and I am keen to read the fruits of Hopkin's "exhortation to historians"."
Alison Carrol, European History Quarterly
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- Date Published: May 2012
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9780521519366
- length: 310 pages
- dimensions: 234 x 159 x 22 mm
- weight: 0.64kg
- contains: 3 b/w illus. 3 maps
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
Introduction: folklore and the historian
1. Storytelling in a maritime community: Saint-Cast, 1879–82
2. The sailor's tale: storytelling on board the North Atlantic fishing fleet
3. Love riddles and family strategies: the Dâyemans of Lorraine
4. Storytelling and family dynamics in an extended household: the Briffaults of Montigny-aux-Amognes
5. Work songs and peasant visions of the social order
6. The visionary world of the Vellave lacemaker
Conclusion: between the micro and the macro
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