The folk revival of the early 20th century revealed songs from the rural parts of England, and the songs reflected the life of farm labourers or rural craftsmen. Even at that time, these songs were seen by many as belonging to a bygone era. Most English working people by then lived in large cities and towns, and worked in factories, mines, and other places of intense mechanisation and industrialisation. Before the 1960s, it was assumed that these people did not have any "folk songs", but when the second revival came about, the two people who are said to be most responsible for it both found this not to be the case. Bert Lloyd had been employed by the National Coal Board in the late 1950s to find songs from miners, and Ewan MacColl at the same time was engaged in researching the radio ballads, many of which were concerned with heavy industry.
Industrial songs are overwhelmingly about two industries, mining and cotton or woolen mills, and mostly concerned with the hardship and misery of the job or the even worse situaion of being out of work. Books and recordings of industrial aonsg are to be found in:
- One Hundred Songs of Toil, Karl Dallas, 1974, Wolfe.
- The Singing Island
- The Urban and Industrial Songs of the Black Country and Birmingham, Jon Raven, 1977, Broadside