Scholarship on 19th-century songs of labour?

Richard Floyd's picture

A student has expressed interest researching songs (and, I would imagine,
ballads, doggerels, rhymes, plays, ditties, poems and so on) by, in support
of, or generally reflecting, labour unions in the second half of the 19th
century.  I am somewhat familiar with the topic, but (a) from the 1930s
and later and (b) from the perspective of primary sources.  This student,
on the other hand, is interested in (a) the mid-to-late 19th century and
(b) she says she's chiefly interested at this phase in secondary
sources--and I have virtually no basis to guide her in these respects.

I (and my student) would be grateful if anyone could make suggestions or
generally point us in promising directions.  (I suspect she also might find
it useful to know of primary source collections, and/or songs etc. dealing
more generally with the working classes.

With best wishes,
I am--

Richard Floyd /

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia

Dear Richard,

A good place to start, perhaps, would be the work of folk song collector and anthologist Roy Palmer. He has produced a number of collections of ballads which may of interest to your student, including:

Industrial Ballads and Poems from Britain and Ireland, 1780s to 1980s, David Herron, 2010.

Older, but still interesting, is:

A Touch of the Times: Songs of Social Change, 1770-1914, Penguin, 1974.

Best wishes,


Neil Davie,

English Department, Université Lumière Lyon 2, Lyons, France