Political and Historical Songs

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There are many songs which detail historical events, particularly battles, hangings, and rebellions. Whilst the Folk Revival was ushered in on a wave of very political songs such as the CND songs, Irish rebel songs, and union songs, the traditional songs were often more subtle in their attack on the cruelty of the bosses and the establishment.

Roy Palmer is a scholar who has produced many antholgies on particular themes, and three relevant to this one are:

  • A Touch on the Times, Roy Palmer, 1974, Penguin Education. Subtitled Songs of Social Change 1770 to 1914, this is a fascinating mix of potent fine songs, old photographs, and historical commentary from the author. J B Priestly called the book "revealing, funny, pathetic, and a measure of authentic social detail."
  • The Sound of History, Roy Palmer, 1988, OUP. Covering broadly similar subjects to "A Touch on the Times", this is a more academic treatment of the subject, but equally simulating.
  • A Ballad History of England, Roy Palmer, 1979, B.T.Batsford. The book covers "from 1588 to the present day",and is exactly what its title claims.
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