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The Rise and Fall of Merry England

The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400-1700 by Ronald Hutton

A study of the festive year -- straight through the period of the Reformation.

Starting with a list of the annual revelries, with May poles and hobby horses, and May kings (and some queens, but May kings were more popular) and the Lords of Misrule.

Into the efforts to suppress, revive, suppress again -- what worked, what didn't, what we don't know about because it escaped the records. Lots of interesting details. The habit of having the church bells rung for the events in the sovereign's life, not in religious calender. A writer who cited in objection to Summer King that they -- horrors -- dressed their attendants in green or yellow or "some other light wanton color." How the churches used to support themselves with church ales. and even when the ales continued, they often stopped being a revenue source. How a fervent objection to frivolous merriment was registered by an imprisoned Jesuit when the jailer brought in the seasonal hobby horse to amuse them -- the Counter-Reformation had its side, too.

Lots more. Somewhat dry and academic in places since he's heavy on the evidence and sources.
Tags: author: h, genre: non-fiction, review, subject: history
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