Nineteenth-century French traditional culture was not immobile. Nor was it a conservative impediment to ‘modernization’. Focusing on the ethnographic work of two folklorists – Félix Arnaudin (1844-1921) in the Landes, and Victor Smith (1826-1882) – this article explores the ways that traditional culture circulated, and the people that carried it. Far from sedentary ‘peasants’, many of the singers and storytellers the folklorists collected from were actively involved in modern transport networks and worked in new occupations. These hybrid networks suggest a picture of nineteenth-century culture ‘from below’ that flows along informal, regional conduits, both within and beyond the borders of France.
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