a recording of this lecture will be available to ticket holders for two weeks after the event

The period between 1890 and 1970 was the heroic and formative age for British folklore collecting, in which a huge trove of popular traditions and customs was assembled by middle-class scholars. A fundamental belief which drove those scholars was that rural people were essentially unchanging, and so preserved relics of very ancient religion and culture in their seasonal rites and their stories. It inspired promient academics, who made considerable use of the folklore concerned in major works of theory such as Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The purpose of this talk is to find out why the early folklorists had such an interest in ancient paganism and such a conviction that traces of it had survived in the British countryside. It is an investigation that takes us from the halls of academe and the villages of England to India, and the pages of Dr Jekyll nd Mr Hyde, and Dracula.

Speaker: Professor Ronald Hutton is a Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He is a leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs.