This article discusses the extent to which ‘gang-culture’ can be seen as central to the social world imagined in English ballads featuring the outlaw Robin Hood. Focusing on two ballads from the mid-sixteenth century manuscript known as the ‘Forresters’ collection, it illustrates some of the ways in which such texts show themselves to be aware of some of the social dimensions of banditry: for example, in relation to Hobsbawm’s concept of ‘peasant outlaws’ and in relation to apparent anxieties about the phenomenon of forced marriage. However, it also emphasises that ballad-material is often distinctively shaped by the demands of (implied) performance, and that the role played by gangs in such texts directly reflects particular assumptions about the nature of their reception. In the end, the specific characteristics of Robin Hood’s gang is at least as much a product of literary dynamics as of social ones.
Cartlidge, N. (2016). Robin Hood's Rules: Gang-culture in Early Modern Outlaw-Tales?. Cultural Dynamics, 28(1), 13-26. https://doi.org/10.1177/0921374015623385