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It is now generally acknowledged that Festivals in Early Modern Europe were a significant cultural and political force. Their records are of enormous value for historians, art historians, scholars interested in the theatre and costume history, and for musicologists and dance historians. In other words, Festivals touch on every conceivable aspect of social, political and cultural history.
Recognition of their immense value has always been patchy, but recent scholarly enterprises have begun to make their riches available to a wider audience. There are, for example, the two handsome volumes of Europa Triumphans, published by Ashgate in 2004, which assemble key festival texts of the Early Modern period from all countries of Europe and from the new World. And now we have this major undertaking, the digitisation of some 253 Festival books from the British Library’s collections.
My talk will be illustrated from those holdings, showing how extraordinarily fertile they are, and what a marvellous resource for the scholar. I shall try to indicate how they might be studied and exploited for a range of disciplines.