The roots of Morris dancing

Since prehistoric times, dancing has played an important role in those rituals designed to celebrate the rebirth of spring, and ensure the fertility of flock and field. We like to think that English Morris dancing has its roots in such pagan practices, though the earliest documentary evidence dates back only to the time of the first Tudor kings. The origin of the word "Morris" is subject to much debate. There is an 11th century church with a depiction of what is thought to be a Morris dancer.

During later centuries, the Morris became an integral part of the seasonal round, with many villages, especially in the Cotswolds, having their own side with its unique tradition. By the end of the 19th century, however, the custom had largely died out and been forgotten.

The present revival may be traced back to this period, when collectors such as Cecil Sharp were inspired to gather information from surviving dancers and musicians. Their work forms the basis of much of the dancing seen today. Some teams, such as Bampton in Oxfordshire, have a tradition unbroken for centuries.