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history began with a song. Long before Homer composed his Iliad, poet-seers chanted ballads about folk heroes before excited crowds. In the 19th century there were still historians inspired by Clio’s music. “If the Past Time cannot become melodious,” exclaimed Thomas Carlyle, “it must be forgotten, as good as annihilated!” His French contemporary, Jules Michelet, said that anybody who really wanted to understand the peasant uprising which erupted in the Vend?e during the revolution, should go to one of the region’s many lonely crossroads, put his ear to the ground and listen to the music.

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