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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)
-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

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)


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