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WHO WERE THE FOLK? THE DEMOGRAPHY OF CECIL SHARP'S SOMERSET FOLK SINGERS

  • C. J. BEARMAN (a1)
    • Published online: 16 January 2001
Abstract

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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I would like to thank the staffs of the Public Record Office and of Somerset Record Office, particularly Mr T. W. Mayberry, the Assistant County Archivist. Most of the research was done while I was in receipt of a postgraduate scholarship from the University of Hull, which has also helped with travel costs. This article has gone through many drafts and I am indebted to Dr John Cunliffe, Chris Heppa, and Lewis Jones for critical readings at various stages. The greatest credit, however, is due to my academic supervisor Dr Douglas Reid for his comments on almost every version and for getting the statistical tables into a shape the author could never have achieved.
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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