CFP: Histories and Memories of Early Modern Popular Revolts in Oral Culture

Histories and Memories of Early Modern Popular Revolts in Oral Culture

Caen (France), on the 4th and 5th April 2013

Before 30 September 2012

Dans le cadre de ces journées d’études, la réflexion portera sur l’apport des sources orales pour l’histoire et la mémoire des révoltes, révolutions et contestations des XVe-XVIIIe siècle. L’objectif est de faire le point sur les travaux réalisés par des chercheurs issus de différentes disciplines et de stimuler de nouvelles recherches à partir de ces sources souvent négligées par les historiens modernistes.

A recurrent problem in the study of early modern revolts is the rarity or absence of sources directly emanating from rebel communities. A way round this difficulty is offered by the records of these events preserved in ‘oral tradition’ (songs, legends, anecdotes, proverbs…), even though these sources present other methodological difficulties. Usually recorded long after the events themselves, such material is the outcome of transmission over multiple generations, and sometimes through multiple genres: the form and content of such sources are the result of complex interactions between history, memory and tradition. With some notable exceptions (such as Philippe Joutard and Guy Beiner), few historians have turned to such sources to explore the history and memory of early modern revolts.

The purpose of this workshop is to highlight the potential of oral cultural sources for the study of the history and memory of popular revolts and social conflicts between the fifteeenth and the eighteenth century. We plan to highlight the existing studies, and encourage specialists working in different regions to learn how to approach such sources. We want to encourage interaction between historians and specialists in the field of oral culture, such as ethnologists, folklorists and ethnomusicologists. By these means we will prepare the groundwork for an international conference on this theme in Oxford in 2014.

We welcome proposed papers that deal with one or more of the following issues:

  • The value of oral cultural sources for the study of social conflict in the early modern period, and the methodological questions that arise from their use; the quality and reliability of the sources; the ways in which oral cultural sources complement the written and pictorial record; the effect of genre conventions on the accounts provided.
  • The factors that influence the construction and transmission of the memory of popular revolts: how particular versions of events were chosen, transformed and forgotten; mechanisms of popular heroisation; the interaction between the oral and the written record; the circulation, transfer and renewal of accounts across time and space, both within and outwith Europe.
  • The role played by the memory of popular revolts and social conflicts in the construction of collective identities; the significance of ‘false memories’, and the contradictions between the ‘official record’ and oral cultural sources; the mobilisation and rearticulation of popular memories of social conflict in later political contexts.

We welcome proposals concerning revolts that took place between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, including the revolutionary period. Although our main focus will be Europe, papers addressing other regions, and the circulation of narratives between regions, are also sought. We hope that this call for papers will be answered both by historians but also by researchers in other disciplines who deal with these sources, and these questions.
To submit
Proposals for papers (300 words maximum) should be sent to, accompanied by very short biographical details
before 30 September 2012
The organisers have some funds available for travel and accommodation expenses for participants coming from Europe. Details are available upon enquiry.

Papers may be presented in either English or French.
Éva Guillorel, University of Oxford, Hertford College / Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, CRHQ-UMR 6583
David Hopkin, University of Oxford, Hertford College / Faculty of History
Stéphane Haffemayer, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, CRHQ-UMR 6583
This Workshop, supported by The University of Caen (Lower Normandy) (CRHQ-UMR 6583 CNRS) and the University of Oxford (Faculty of History, Hertford College), will take place in Caen (France), on the 4th and 5th April 2013.

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