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Songs Of The Seventeenth Century: Integrating Popular Music Into History Teaching

Author: Christopher Marsh

Type: Case Study


Music is neglected by historians of early modern popular culture. When I was planning a module on popular culture in my first years as a lecturer (mid-90s), I realised how difficult it was to obtain modern recordings of seventeenth-century popular songs. I also noted that, here in Belfast, the 'traditional' music scene is a lively one. I therefore decided to involve my students of popular culture in a project to produce, in-house, a learning/teaching aid featuring new recordings by local musicians of thirty ballads from the famous collection of Samuel Pepys. The ballads would be chosen in order to link in with three important themes in early modern social and cultural history: social structure, gender and religion. The resultant package would also contain facsimiles of the printed ballads, extensive introductory and interpretative notes, and would be designed for use in my own modules, but also for use by historians elsewhere. The twenty-four participating students would, I hoped, emerge from the module not only with an understanding of early modern culture, but with their skills enhanced in a number of other areas (see 'Description' and 'Impact', below).

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