John Cutting has written a discursive and enlightening history of the Morris from its first definite sightings (1458 is the key date to remember) through to 1850, when documented living memory could be said to have taken over the mantle of preserving the story.
As a dancer and an obvious devotee of the Morris, his approach is that of the expert amateur, gently mocking some of the more obtuse academic analyses while not afraid to defeat some of the more fantastical claims of pre-Christian ritual survival by holding them up to the actual evidence.
He treads much the same path as John Forrest's book of a few years ago, examining the verifiable records and the evidence and attempting to strip away myth and conjecture; but Cutting approaches the material with a much less rigidly academic approach, a practitioner's standpoint verging at times on the self-deprecating (`I, for my part, intend no more than a light skip across the quicksand' he says at one point of particular controversy).
The book examines documents, etymology, pictorial evidence, the links between the Morris and the emerging arts of masques and drama, and many other facets of the story.
This is an entertaining, highly readable, and affectionate addition to the Morris bibliography.