A lark for the sake of their country

The 1926 General Strike volunteers in folklore and memory

By Rachelle Saltzman

A lark for the sake of their country


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9676-1
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published Date: November 2014
  • BIC Category: European history, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Labor & Industrial Relations, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Strikes, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history


A lark for the sake of their country tells the tale of the upper and middle-class 'volunteers' in the 1926 General Strike in Great Britain. With behaviour derived from their play traditions - the larks, rags, fancy dress parties, and treasure hunts that prevailed at universities and country houses - the volunteers transformed a potential workers' revolution into festive public display of Englishness. Decades later, collective folk memories about this event continue to define national identity. Based on correspondence and interviews with volunteers and strikers, as well as contemporary newspapers and magazines, novels, diaries, plays, and memoirs, this book recreates the context for the volunteers' actions. It explores how the upper classes used the strike to assert their ideological right to define Britishness as well as how scholars, novelists, playwrights, diarists, museum curators, local historians, and even a theme restaurant, have continued to recycle the strike to define British identity.


Winner of the 2012 Wayland Hand Prize for outstanding book in folklore and history, History and Folklore Section, American Folklore Society

'[P]raiseworthy in the judges' view is the author's integration of multiple methodologies including oral history, ethnographic analysis, rhetorical criticism, and social evaluation to offer a cohesive and persuasive argument for the symbol-building functions of historical events that groups embrace to achieve a cooperative society out of conflict.'

'[Rachelle H. Saltzman's] book will help restore volunteers to a more central place in the story of the General Strike, and indeed in British social history more broadly.'
Georgina Brewis, Contemporary British History, May 2013

'The book succeeds in drawing on memoirs, newspaper articles and a great many marvellous interviews to capture the motivations and experiences of the many thousands of men and women who volunteered to keep basic services running. The strike emerges not as a great national festival but as a ritual enactment of the politics of class.'
Susan Pedersen, London Review of Books, August 2013

'...Saltzman... draws most extensively on original fieldwork carried out in 1985-6 and involving contact with over three hundred respondents .... In the picture which she builds up from these, it is with the recent experience of First World War that the idea of service to the nation is inseparably associated.'
Kevin Morgan, History Workshop Journal, February 2013



Wayland D. Hand Prize for Outstanding Book in Folklore and History


1. Introduction: folklore, memory, and the volunteers of 1926
2. Building Jerusalem: The General Strike as social drama
3. Social distinctions, social actions among the upper and middle classes
4. Fides est servanda: keeping the faith
5. Images of the volunteers: media versus memory
6. Humours of the Great Strike
7. The volunteers' farewell: closing rituals, genteel ironies
8. From ethos to mythos: the General Strike and Britishness
9. 1926 and all that . . . : Britishness and the volunteers


Rachelle Hope Saltzman is Executive Director of the Oregon Folklife Network at the University of Oregon

A lark for the sake of their country

By Rachelle Saltzman

Paperback £19.99 / $29.95

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

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