Contra dancing, as we know it, was an outgrowth of English Country Dancing, which grew its own American style - especially in the period 1970-1990, when it morphed into the "zesty" style that we dance in these days.
For a wonderful discussion of the Chestnut dances, and a fabulous list of videos, see http://www.cdss.org/cracking-chestnuts.html.
Modern Contras 156
Some of the older contra dances are still danced in some communities. The most beloved of them got the appelation "Chestnuts" because they were danced so often. For a wonderful discussion of these dances, see http://www.cdss.org/cracking-chestnuts.html. For a list of links to many more videos, see http://www.cdss.org/cracking-chestnuts-toc.html.
These are the CONTRA dances from MO Dances, Volume I. For the English dances, see MO Dances, Volume I under English.