The study of popular culture has long been a central aspect of early modern studies, but the definition of popularity has remained contested. As Roger Chartier has argued, the search for ‘popular culture’ may rest on a number of false premises:

first, that it is possible to establish exclusive relationships between specific cultural forms and particular social groups; second, that the various cultures existing in a given society are sufficiently pure, homogeneous and distinct to permit them to be characterized uniformly and unequivocally; and third, that the category of ‘the people’ or ‘the popular’ has sufficient coherence and stability to define a distinct social identity that can be used to organize cultural differences in past ages according to the simple opposition of populaire versus savant.2