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Elite and Popular Cultures

| Discussion topics | Documents | Audio | Reading |

Discussion topics and Essay Questions

a) Popular and Elite Cultures
· Why have historians struggled to define 'popular culture'?
· Is the distinction between 'elite' and 'popular' meaningful?
· Did the spread of printing draw elite and popular culture closer together, or drive them further apart?

b) Witchcraft
· Were the European witch hunts primarily a war against women?
· Why did the legal pursuit of witches make less sense in 1750 than in 1500?

c) Animals
· Does history need animals?


**NOTE: Some eresources are accessible only on-campus or via off-campus proxies or the athens service**





Popular and Elite Culture

J. Deacon, ‘Dicks loyalty to his true love Nancy: or, A famous wedding’ (c.1671 and 1704)
English Broadside Ballad Archive and Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads



Jean Bodin, De la demonomanie des sorciers (1580) excerpts
George Gifford, A Dialogue concerning witches and witchcraftes (1593) excerpts
Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum (1486)
Witch Persecutions at Bamberg
N. Wallington's notes on the persecution of witches in East Anglia (1645)

Popular and Elite Culture

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-69), The Peasant Dance (1568)
A theatre ticket
Pieter Bruegel, The Fight between Carnival and Lent
Coronation of James I


Albrecht Dürer, Young Hare (1502) and Rhinoceros (1517)


Hans Baldung Grien, 'Witches Sabbath' (1510 Woodcut)
Scottish witches (1591)
Illustration from Ulrich Molitor, De laniis et phitonicis mulieribus (c.1496-1500)
The Devil abducts the witch of Berkeley


Audio/Video Links:

  • BBC documentary 'The Pendle Witch Child' Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
  • BBC Radio 4 'In Our Time' programme on Witchcraft
  • BBC 'A History of the World in 100 Objects': Dürer's Rhinoceros
  • The Watersons, ‘Swarthfell Rocks’, modern rendering of The Fox chace: or, The huntsman’s harmony (cf. sub ‘Texts’) [Spotify]

Search for suitable versions of the following pieces on hhtp://

  • 'The Gelding of the Devil', composed by John Playford
  • 'New Oysters', composed by Thomas Ravenscroft

Secondary literature

a) Popular and Elite Culture

  • Adamson, John, ed., The Princely Courts of Europe: Ritual, Politics and Culture under the Ancien Régime 1500-1750 (London, 2000)
  • P. Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1978; reprint, 1994)
  • " , 'Learned culture and popular culture in Renaissance Italy', in The Renaissance in Europe: A Reader, ed. K. Whitlock (2000), 73 - 81
  • Burke, Peter, What is cultural history? (2nd edn, Cambridge, 2008)
  • N. Z. Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France (1985), chs 4, 7 & 8
  • “ , ‘The Historian and Popular Culture’, in J. Beauroy & M. Bertrand (eds), The Wolf and the Lamb: Popular Culture in France (1977)
  • R. C. Davis, The war of the fists. Popular culture and public violence in late Renaissance Venice (1994)
  • Duindam, Jeroen, Myths of power: Norbert Elias and the early modern European court (Amsterdam, 1994)
  • Elias, Norbert, The Court Society, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York, 1983)
  • Europa triumphans: court and civic festivals in early modern Europe, ed. J.R. Mulryne et al. (Aldershot, 2004)
  • A. Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500-1700 (2000)
  • C. Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: the Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (1976)
  • Hadfield, Andrew; Dimmock, Matthew; Shinn, Abigail (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Culture in Early Modern England (Farnham, 2014)
  • T. Harris (ed.), Popular Culture in England c.1500-1850 (1996) esp. chs 1-3
  • S. L. Kaplan (ed.), Understanding Popular Culture (1984), esp. chs 3, 5, 7, 9
  • Mateer, David (ed.), Courts, Patrons and Poets (New Haven, 2000)
  • R. Muchembled, Popular Culture and Elite Culture in France 1400-1750 (1985)
  • H. Parker, “Toward a Definition of Popular Culture,” History and Theory 50 (2011): 147-170.
  • B. Reay, Popular Cultures in England 1550-1750 (1998)
  • R. Scribner, ‘Is the History of Popular Culture Possible?’, History of European Ideas 10 (1989)
  • “ , ‘Popular politics and cultural conflict in early modern Europe’, European History Quarterly 18 (1988)
  • G. Strauss & W. Beik, 'The Dilemma of Popular History', P&P 132 (1991), Beik debate and Strauss reply in P&P 141 (1993)
  • G. Sullivan and L. Woodbridge, 'Popular Culture in Print' in A. Kinney (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to English Literature 1500-1600 (2000), 265-286
  • M. Todd, ‘The persistence of popular festivities in early modern Scotland’, Journal of British Studies 39 (2000)

b) Witchcraft

c) Animals

  • Beaver, Dan, ‘The Great Deer Massacre: Animals, Honor, and Communication in Early Modern England’, Journal of British Studies British Studies 38, 2 (April, 1999), pp. 187-216
  • Darnton, Robert, 'The Great Cat Massacre' in his The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1985)
  • 'Does History need Animals?', special issue of History and Theory (Dec. 2013)
  • Jenner, Mark, 'The Great Dog Massacre' in W. Naphy and P. Roberts (eds) Fear in Early Modern Society (Manchester, 1997)
  • Jorgensen, Dolly, ‘Running Amuck? Urban Swine Management in Late Medieval England’, Agricultural History (2013), pp. 429-451
  • Kalof, L., Looking at animals in human history (Reaktion, 2007), esp. chaps 4 and 5 on 'The Renaissance' and 'The Enlightenment' respectively
  • Lovegrove, Roger, Silent Fields: The long decline of a nation's wildlife (Oxford, 2008), pp. 26-61
  • Manning, Roger, Hunters and poachers : a cultural and social history of unlawful hunting in England, 1485-1640 (Oxford, 1993)
  • Raber, Karen, ‘How to Do Things with Animals: Thoughts on/with the Early Modern Cat’, in Ivo Kamps, Karen L. Raber, and Thomas Hallock (eds), Early Modern Ecostudies: From the Florentine Codex to Shakespeare (Basingstoke, 2008), pp. 93-114
  • Ritvo, Harriet, 'Animal Planet,' in: Environmental History 9:2 (2004)
  • Oldridge, Darren, Strange Histories (2004), esp. chaps 3 'They hang horses don't they?' and 6 'Werewolves and Flying Witches'
  • van Dam, Petra, ‘Rabbits Swimming Across Borders. Micro-Environmental Infrastructures and Macro-Environmental Change in Early Modern Holland’ in B. Scott (ed.), Economies and Ecologies in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Leiden 2010), pp. 63-92