The folk music movement was among the most important influences on English cultural life in the years immediately before 1914. Its major figure, both in terms of volume of material collected and published, and in terms of organization and publicity, was Cecil Sharp. Historical understanding of the movement and modern appreciation of the material have been hampered by a Marxist orthodoxy which sees folk music as the cultural property of the working class and which attempts to discredit the folk music collectors, particularly Sharp. This article summarizes the trends in scholarship and employs the first biographical survey of a large group of folk singers to challenge the Marxist interpretation.
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