Humanities (HUMN) 420

Anglo-American Popular Music Traditions (Revision 2)

HUMN 420 course cover image

Permanently closed, effective June 5, 2017.

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Reading course - Humanities

Prerequisite: None. HUMN 285 or MUSI 285 and HUMN 286 or MUSI 286 are strongly recommended.

Precluded Course: HUMN 420 is a cross-listed course—a course listed under 2 different disciplines—with MUSI 420. HUMN 420 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for HUMN 422 or MUSI 420.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Humanities Home Page

HUMN 420 has a Challenge for Credit option


Anglo-American Popular Music Traditions examines the genesis and development of various folk and other popular music traditions in Britain and North America before World War I. Among the topics studied are English and Scottish ballads and folk lyrics, broadside ballads, industrial song, music hall, the transformation of Anglo-Celtic folk music when transplanted to North America, indigenous American folk music, Afro-American musical forms, spirituals, early blues, minstrel shows, and ragtime.

This course is designed for students in the last year of their degree program. It should normally be attempted only by students who have already completed six credits in the history of popular music (such as HUMN 285 and HUMN 286 or their equivalent at another university). It does not require more than a basic knowledge of music theory and terminology, but it is not an introductory course and it does demand a high level of reading and writing skills. Students are expected to make extensive use of library materials to complete the reading and written assignments.


Anglo-American Popular Music Traditions is divided into the following twelve units:

  • Unit 1: Old High Cultures? The Origins and Styles of Traditional Music
  • Unit 2: British Folk Music Traditions I: Ceremonial Songs and Narrative Ballads
  • Unit 3: British Folk Music Traditions II: Lyrical Songs and Later Ballads
  • Unit 4: North America and the Debt to Africa
  • Unit 5: Forms of Popular Music in America, 1620-1880
  • Unit 6: Parlour Music
  • Unit 7: Concert Music and the Music-Hall in Victorian England
  • Unit 8: Community Music in Victorian England
  • Unit 9: Politics, Patriotism, Social Comment, and Industrial Song
  • Unit 10: Africa and the Origins of the Blues
  • Unit 11: The Influence of the Blues in Popular Music
  • Unit 12: Ragtime


To receive credit for HUMN 420, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least “D” (50 percent) and a grade of at least 50 percent on the examination. A supplemental final exam is available. Weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Essay 1 Essay 2 Final Exam Total
30% 35% 35% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Lloyd, A. L. 1967. Folksong in England. New York:
International Publishers.

Russell, Dave. 1987. Popular Music in England, 1840-1914:
A Social History
. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Van der Merwe, Peter. 1989. Origins of the Popular Style.
London: Oxford University Press.

Other materials

The course materials also include a study guide, a student manual, and a reading file.

Challenge for Credit Course Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows students to demonstrate that they have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, and intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university level course.

Full information for the Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the HUMN 420 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least “D” (50 percent) on the entire challenge examination.

Part I: Exam Part II: Exam Total
50% 50% 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, January 26, 2011

View previous syllabus

Updated April 03 2019 by SAS