'Rime and reason': the political world of the English broadside ballad, 1640-1689
McShane Jones, Angela
This thesis explores political broadside balladry in England in the period from c.1640 to the Glorious Revolution, and argues that it was a medium by which the political ideals of Christian humanism were transmitted to a socially and geographically diverse audience. The investigation is based on an analysis of all extant broadsides and titles of the period in conjunction with contemporary sources such as diaries, discourses on literature and politics, state papers and court records. No comprehensive historical study of this material across such a broad period has been done to date.\ud \ud The thesis is divided into three sections: the market, the medium and the message of the broadside ballad world. These analyse the range and nature of products and consumers in the political ballad market, set out the functions of the political ballad and present the political analysis that ballads offered contemporaries as they sought to render comprehensible the political world in a period of momentous change.\ud \ud The findings of the thesis are first, that the use of cheap print as a source by historians necessitates a serious engagement with the material culture, the genre and the content of print products. Second, it challenges the long-standing orthodoxy that the broadside ballad functioned primarily as a news medium and offers an accurate assessment of the ballad genre as political cultural broker between centre and periphery and a more nuanced explanation of the ballad as vehicle of choice for political debate. Third, in the light of material and generic insights and through detailed content analysis, it reveals the way in which the most traditional broadside ballads, printed for most part in black-letter, used Christian humanist ideas, based on Aristotle and the New Testament, to explain the trauma of the civil war and interregnum, to complain at the incursions into law and liberty by corrupt and radical Stuart government and to lay out the constructs and constraints of a political world which made it possible for the xenophobic English to eject an English King in 1688-9 and make a Dutch one acceptable, by dressing him in the mantle of an English Protestant hero.
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