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Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
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Broadside ballads were popular songs sung in taverns or homes, on streets, or at fairs in Britain between the 16th and 18th centuries. The Bodleian Library holds more than 33,000 such ballads, and this site presents an online database of scanned images of each ballad sheet. The ballads range widely in subject, from politics and war to family life to sport and amusement. In addition, they are often illustrated with elaborate woodcuts and thus provide a window into British art history. For a general introduction, turn to the “Some Images” section, which presents images and short descriptions of six broadsides. The rest of the ballads may either be browsed or searched by specific words or images. Only a few of the ballads were accompanied with musical notation, and the site presents about 15 MIDI (audio) files of ballad tunes. For more information about the history of broadside ballads or for assistance locating ballads on the site, use the comprehensive “Help” section.

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