History in England
While the earliest (15th-century) references place the Morris dance in a courtly setting, it appears that the dance became part of performances for the lower classes by the later 16th century; in 1600, the Shakespearean actor William Kempe Morris danced from London to Norwich, an event chronicled in his Nine Daies Wonder (1600).
Almost nothing is known about the folk dances of England prior to the mid-17th century. While it is possible to speculate on the transition of "Morris dancing" from the courtly to a rural setting, it may have acquired elements of pre-Elizabethan (medieval) folk dance, such proposals will always be based on an argument from silence as there is no direct record of what such elements would have looked like. In the Elizabethan period, there was significant cultural contact between Italy and England, and it has been suggested that much of what is now considered traditional English folk dance, and especially English country dance, is descended from Italian dances imported in the 16th century.
By the mid 17th century, the working peasantry took part in Morris dances, especially at Whitsun. The Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell, however, suppressed Whitsun ales and other such festivities. When the crown was restored by Charles II, the springtime festivals were restored. In particular, Whitsun Ales came to be celebrated on Whitsunday (Pentecost), as the date was close to the birthday of Charles II.
Morris dancing continued in popularity until the industrial revolution and its accompanying social changes. Four teams claim a continuous lineage[clarification needed] of tradition within their village or town: Abingdon (their Morris team was kept going by the Hemmings family), Bampton, Headington Quarry, and Chipping Campden. Other villages have revived their own traditions, and hundreds of other teams across the globe have adopted (and adapted) these traditions, or have created their own styles from the basic building blocks of Morris stepping and figures.
dances from an area mostly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire; an established misnomer, since the Cotswolds overlap this region only partially. Normally danced with handkerchiefs or sticks to accompany the hand movements. Dances are usually for 6 or 8 dancers, but solo and duo dances (known as single or double jigs) also occur.
North West Morris:
More military in style and often processional, that developed out of the mills in the North-West of England in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
From the English-Welsh border: a simpler, looser, more vigorous style, traditionally danced with blackened faces.
From Yorkshire and south Durham, danced with long, rigid metal or wooden swords for, usually, 6 or 8 dancers.
From Northumberland and Co. Durham, danced with short flexible sprung steel swords, usually for five dancers.
From Cambridgeshire. Traditionally danced on Plough Monday, they were Feast dances that were danced to collect money during harsh winters. One of the dancers would be dressed as a woman, hence the name. Joseph Needham identified two separate families of Molly dances, one from three villages in the Cambridge area and one from two in the Ely area.