Professor David Hopkin

Featured Publication
cover of rhythms of revolt


Rhythms of Revolt: European Traditions and Memories of Social Conflict in Oral Culture (Routledge, 2017)

The culture of insurgents in early modern Europe was primarily an oral one; memories of social conflicts in the communities affected were passed on through oral forms such as songs and legends. This popular history continued to influence political choices and actions through and after the early modern period. The chapters in this book examine numerous examples from across Europe of how memories of revolt were perpetuated in oral cultures, and they analyse how traditions were used. From the German Peasants’ War of 1525 to the counter-revolutionary guerrillas of the 1790s, oral traditions can offer radically different interpretations of familiar events. This is a ‘history from below’, and a history from song, which challenges existing historiographies of early modern revolts. 

Voices of the People in Nineteenth-Century France

Voices of the People in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

This innovative study of the lives of ordinary people – peasants, fishermen, textile workers – in nineteenth-century France demonstrates how folklore collections can be used to shed new light on the socially marginalized. David Hopkin explores the ways in which people used traditional genres such as stories, songs and riddles to highlight problems in their daily lives and give vent to their desires without undermining the two key institutions of their social world – the family and the community. The book addresses recognized problems in social history such as the division of power within the peasant family, the maintenance of communal bonds in competitive environments, and marriage strategies in unequal societies, showing how social and cultural history can be reconnected through the study of individual voices recorded by folklorists. Above all, it reveals how oral culture provided mechanisms for the poor to assert some control over their own destinies.


Folklore and Nationalism in Europe During the Long Nineteenth Century

Folklore and Nationalism in Europe during the Long Nineteenth Century

The growth of nations, national ideologies and the accompanying quest for the authentic among the people has been a subject of enquiry for many disciplines. Building upon wide-ranging scholarship, this interdisciplinary study seeks to analyse the place of folklore in the long nineteenth century throughout Europe as an important symbol in the growth and development of nations and nationalism, and in particular to see how combining perspectives from History, Literary Studies, Music and Architecture can help provide enhanced and refreshing perspectives on the complex process of nation-building. With a range of detailed case studies drawing upon archival, literary, visual and musical sources as well as material culture, it raises questions about individual countries but also about links and similarities across Europe.

Soldier and Peasant in French Popular Culture, 1766-1870

Soldier and Peasant in French Popular Culture, 1766-1870 (Boydell Press, 2002)

Revolutionary France gave the modern world the concept of the "nation-in-arms", a potent combination of nationalism, militarism and republicanism embodied in the figure of the conscript. But it was not a concept shared by those most affected by conscription, the peasantry, who regarded the soldier as representative of an entirely different way of life. Concentrating on the militarised borderlands of eastern France, this book examines the disjuncture between the patriotic expectations of elites and the sentiments expressed in popular songs, folktales and imagery. Hopkin follows the soldier through his life-cycle to show how the peasant recruit was separated from his previous life and re-educated in military mores; and he demonstrates how the state-sponsored rituals of conscription and the popular imagery aimed at adolescent males portrayed the army as a place where young men could indulge in adventure far from parental and communal restraints. The popular idea of moustachioed military folk-heroes contributed more to the process of turning "peasants into Frenchmen" than the mythology of the "nation-in-arms". WINNER OF THE 2002 RHS GLADSTONE PRIZE. David M. Hopkin is tutor and fellow in history at Hertford College, Oxford University.


  • Popular culture, and specifically oral cultures (songs, tales, legends, riddles, proverbs, memories, histories..)
  • Rural and maritime communities
  • Women workers, especially servants and lacemakers

I research the social and cultural history of the poor, the illiterate and the working populations of modern Europe (18th to 20th centuries), that is most people in the past.  I used to focus on France and its borderlands, but  my attention has switched now to Italy and the Low Countries.  My particular field is oral and popular culture (ballads, stories, dance, street theatre...).  I explore historical communities through the stories that they told about themselves.  

My first book, Soldier and Peasant in French Popular Culture, examined the relationship between rural communities and the army, as displayed through popular prints, conscription rituals, songs and tales.  It was awarded the Royal Historical Society's Gladstone prize in 2003.  A continuing interest in war and the collective culture of soldiers also led to project with two colleagues in France, Yann Lagadec and Stéphane Perréon, on Brittany’s experience of the second hundred years’ war (1688-1815) with Britain.  But mostly I have left military matters to turn to other social groups, such as fishermen and servants.  Their cultures, expressed through oral traditions, were the subject of my second monograph Voices of the People in Nineteenth-Century France.  This won the Folklore Society's Katharine Briggs Prize in 2012.  

I currently hold a Leverhulme Fellowship to research the working lives of lacemakers in France, England, the Low Countries and Italy.  Lacemaking was introduced to several regions of Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and wherever it travelled it brought elements of a common material and oral culture with it.  The themes of this transnational culture were poverty, a particular vision of Christianity, and the violence enacted by men on women.

With Éva Guillorel (Caen-Normandie) and William Pooley (Bristol), I have just completed an edited collection on how memories of Early Modern revolts in Europe were maintained and used in oral cultures in succeeding generations.  The examples dealt with in the book focus primarily on songs as a vehicle for historical traditions.  This work forms part of the French Agence nationale de recherche project, hosted at Caen, on Cultures des Révoltes et Révolutions.  Alongside this project I have been working on a particular theme: how rural societies remembered feudalism and its abolition around the time of the French Revolution, and how those historical traditions affected social and political practices in following centuries.  

As I am interested in oral and popular culture, I have to be interested in how these sources came to be preserved, and thus also in the history of folklore and anthropology as disciplines.  One fruit of this was the edited volume (with Tim Baycroft, Sheffield) Folklore and Nationalism in Europe during the Long Nineteenth Century.  I have also worked with European colleagues on this topic, especially with the Centre de recherche bretonne et celtique and the BEROSE team in Paris.  I am currently writing a chapter on ‘Folklore and Regionalism’ for a project led by colleagues at Leiden and Munich.  

In 2014-15 I held a Knowledge Exchange grant with Nicolette Makovicky (Central and Eastern European Studies), working with local museums and other heritage bodies on 'By the Poor, For the Rich: Lace in Context'.  website:

  • 'The Tinderbox: Military Culture and Literary Culture from Romanticism to Realism'

  • Working, Singing and Telling in the Nineteenth-Century Flemish Pillow-Lace Industry

  • Ballads and Broadsides in France: Accounting for an Absence

  • 'Ballads and Broadsides in France: Accounting for an Absence'

  • Regionalism and Folklore

  • Rhythms of Revolt European Traditions and Memories of Social Conflict in Oral Culture

  • Intimacies and Intimations: Storytelling between Servants and Masters in Nineteenth-Century France

  • Cinderella of the Breton Polders: Suffering and Escape in the Notebooks of a Young, Female Farm-Servant in the 1880s*

  • Legends and the Peasant History of Emancipation in France and Beyond

  • British Women Folklorists in Post-Unification Italy: Rachel Busk and Evelyn Martinengo-Cesaresco

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Ben Kehoe
  • Fanny Louvier

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding European social and cultural history, history of popular culture, history of the social sciences

I currently teach:


Peasant Societies, Economies and Polities in Western Europe c.1750-1950 (option in Economic and Social History).

I have also taught the core courses for the M.St and M.Phil in Modern British and European History


Foreign Texts: Tocqueville GHXI, GHXII, GHXIII, GHXIV
GH4 Disciplines
OS French Revolution and Empire FS Voltaire to Balzac
OS The Romance of the People FS Military and Society in Britain and France 
Historiography: Tacitus to Weber  
Social Media