Gypsies, Egyptians, Romanies, and -more recently-Travellers. Who are this marginal and mysterious people who first arrived in England in early Tudor times? Are tales of their distant origins on the Indian subcontinent true, or just another of the many myths and stories that have accreted around them over time? In fact, can they even be regarded as a single people or ethnicity at all, or are they little more than a useful concept?
Gypsies have frequently been vilified, and not much less frequently romanticized, by the settled population over the centuries, but social historian David Cressy now attempts to disentangle the myth from the reality of Gypsy life over more than half a millennium of English history. In this, the first comprehensive historical study of the doings and dealings of Gypsies in England, from their first appearance in early Tudor times to the present, he draws on original archival research, and a wide
range of reading, to trace the many moments when Gypsy lives became entangled with those of villagers and townsfolk, religious and secular authorities, and social and moral reformers.
Crucially, it is a story not just of the Gypsy community and its peculiarities, but also of England's treatment of that community, from draconian Elizabethan statutes, through various degrees of toleration and fascination, right up to the tabloid newspaper campaigns against Gypsy and Traveller encampments of more recent years.
Born and educated in England, David Cressy has made his career in the United States, as a college and university teacher and a prolific author of studies in social history. His work is driven by curiosity about the interactions of elite and popular culture, mainstream and marginal society, and official and unofficial religion. He is currently George III Professor of British History Emeritus at Ohio State University, and Research Professor in Arts and Humanities at Claremont Graduate University, California. A frequent visitor to the United Kingdom, he may also be found exploring the beaches and deserts of the American West.