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BIC Excellence Award

The Folklore of Cornwall
The Oral Tradition of a Celtic Nation

By Ronald M. James

The Folklore of Cornwall
This edition is not available yet.
Hardback, 256 pages £45.00
Published: 2018
ISBN: 9780859894703
Format: 234mm x 156mm
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Subjects: History, South-West Studies, University of Exeter Press

By considering the folklore of Cornwall in a Northern European context, this book casts light on a treasury of often-ignored traditions. Folklore studies internationally have long considered Celtic material, but scholars have tended to overlook Cornwall’s collections. The Folklore of Cornwall fills this gap, placing neglected stories on a par with those from other regions where Celtic languages have deep roots.

The Folklore of Cornwalldemonstrates that Cornwall has a distinct body of oral tradition, even when examining legends and folktales that also appear elsewhere.  The way in which Cornish droll tellers achieved this unique pattern is remarkable; with the publication of this book, it becomes possible for folklorists to look to the peninsula beyond the River Tamar for insight.

A very readable text with popular appeal, this book serves as an introduction to folklore studies for the novice while also offering an alternative means to consider Cornish studies for advanced scholars. The comparative analysis combined with an innovative method of The Folklore of Cornwall is not to be found in other treatments of the subject.


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‘His detailed research in the United States, for example, reveals how emigrant Cornish men and women took their folklore to the mining frontier of the American West, adapting it to local conditions (as in the ‘tommyknockers’), yet further evidence of the tradition’s continuing vitality and relevance.
‘Cornish folklore has been literally global in its impact and extent, and in this important book Ronald M. James encourages us to look at this fascinating subject in new and innovative ways. It is sure be the standard volume for many years to come.’
Philip Payton, Professor of History, Flinders University, Australia

‘Exploring a wealth of interesting and enjoyable tales, James sets the rich folklore of Cornwall – from the indigenous piskie to the emigrant tommyknocker – within a much wider historic and geographic context. This book is both highly informative and a real pleasure to read.’
Dr Ceri Houlbrook, Researcher in the History Group, University of Hertfordshire 


Ronald M. James is a historian and folklorist.  He was adjunct faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he taught history and folklore. He is currently associated with the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Iowa State University. He has authored or co-authored thirteen books and contributed chapters and articles to many more, including Cornish Studies: Second Series published by UEP.

He was the nation’s I.T.T. Fellow to Ireland in 1981-1982, where he conducted graduate studies at the Department of Irish Folklore, University College, Dublin, under the direction of Bo Almqvist (1931-2013). James was mentored by noted Swedish folklorist Sven Liljeblad (1899-2000), himself a student of the renowned Carl Wilhelm von Sydow (1878-1952).

In 2014, James was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. In 2015, he received the Rodman Paul Award for Outstanding Contributions to Mining History from the Mining History Association. In 2016 he was elected to the College of Bards of Gorsedh Kernow.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 256 pages
 234mm x 156mm

BIC Code:
  HIS000000, SOC005000, SOC011000, SOC022000, SOC026000
 University of Exeter Press


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