Bob Bushaway – By Rite

Custom, Ceremony and Community in England 1700-1880


Political philosophers (such as Gramsci) and social historians (such as E. P. Thompson) have suggested that rural customs and ceremonies have much more to them than the picturesqueness which has attracted traditional folklorists. They can be seen to have a purpose in the structures of rural society. But no historian has really pursued this idea for the English folk materials of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the period from which most evidence survives.

Bringing together a wealth of research, this book explores the view that such rural folk practices were a mechanism of social cohesion, and social disruption. Through them the interdependence of the rural working-class and the gentry was affirmed, and infringements of the rights of the poor resisted, sometimes aggressively.

By Rite represents the results of detailed research in a wide range of sources, including the local Press, Antiquarian and Field Studies papers, county journals, local collections and archives throughout England and Wales.


1 The Context of Custom
Custom and the Past
Custom and Sources
Custom and Perspective
2 The Community and its Calendars
The Reconstruction of Local Calendars
Local Customary Groups: The Case of Church Ringers
3 Custom and Legitimation
The Chruch
The Manor
4 Custom and Social Cohesion
Harvest and Harvest Perquistes
Calendar Rituals and the Shape of the Community
5 The Rituals of Privation and Protest
Custom, Conflict and Commensality
Protest and the Enemies of the Community
6 Crime, Custom, and Popular Legitimacy
7 The Control of Custom

Appendix 1: The Development of Folklore Studies in England
Appendix 2: The Ritual of the Year

General Index
Index of Places
'An excellent survey of custom 1700-1880', E. P. Thompson, Customs in Common

'Bob Bushaway … commenced the work of integrating popular customs into mainstream history…', Ronald Hutton, Stations of the Sun
Dr Bob Bushaway worked for thirty years as a University manager, part-time Adult Education tutor and was the founding Director of Research and Enterprise Services at the University of Birmingham. He completed his doctoral research at the University of Southampton and has continued to research and publish on English rural life and culture during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with a particular emphasis on popular custom and belief. Bob regularly tought social history classes for HEIs, WEA and schools and colleges and published and performed in the field of folk studies including the supervision of a group of postgraduate research students. He broadcast regularly and appeared on TV, including the Channel 4 series About Time. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.