Margaret Murray: Who Didn't Believe Her, and Why?


  • Paul Cowdell


Folkloristics in Britain passed through a period of intellectual torpor in the mid-twentieth century, particularly during the ascendancy within the Folklore Society (FLS) of Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner. That it emerged relatively healthy is testament both to the better scholars who led its intellectual renaissance and to those who followed, people like Professor Jacqueline Simpson. The scars remain raw, however, and those triumphant scholars like Simpson, who have contributed to our disciplinary historiography, have been understandably short in their treatment of earlier trends. All broad historical summaries can erode nuance, and examination of some minor disagreements around one of Murray’s Presidential Addresses shows the ground on which the seeds of intellectual renaissance were cast. This article, originally written as a 90th birthday tribute to Simpson, examines the disagreement there and at subsequent public FLS lectures to flesh out more detail of the historical development and to enable a better understanding of later historiographical accounts of it.