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'A People's History of England': Print, Authority and the Past in Early Modern English Ballads

Moon, Nick (2013) 'A People's History of England': Print, Authority and the Past in Early Modern English Ballads. PhD thesis, University of York.

Nick Moon PhD Thesis 2013.pdf
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Early modern broadside ballads, the chief objects of this study, were a significant part of the developing print trade, with potentially as many as 3-4 million broadsides circulating in the second half of the sixteenth century. Ballads on historical subjects appear to have made up a relatively small, if significant, part of the ballad corpus. When broadsides were reprinted in collections or ‘garlands’, however, historical ballads made up a disproportionate amount of the contents. It has frequently been recognised that history was a subject of considerable importance throughout the early modern period. History was present in a wide variety of elite and popular discourses, such as humanist scholarship, Tudor chronicles, the plays performed in the public theatres, and more ‘popular’ texts such as almanacs and broadside ballads. Ballads were one of the chief sources for the ‘popular’ historical culture which was available to non-elite subjects. This thesis will provide evidence of popular historical culture which is found in early modern broadside ballads. It provides new evidence to show how ballads established truth claims through paratextual markers, negotiated their relationship with a variety of historical discourses, and both drew on and helped to construct the various competing narratives from which this ‘popular’ history of England' was constructed. My thesis includes close readings of texts which have previously been neglected by scholars, and contributes to a historiography which is focused on the contemporary understanding, reuse and reinvention of the past for a variety of secular and religious ends. This thesis finds that the ‘people’s history of England’ constructed in early modern broadside ballads uses historical events and narratives to create both national and religious identities for a popular ballad audience. Largely unconcerned with the details of the historical record, they construct a nostalgic, timeless image of the past, directed towards contemporary polemical ends. In bringing together contemporary representations of historical events, the role of print culture, and the construction of communities in early modern broadside ballads, this thesis enlarges our understanding of the popular historical culture available to early modern audiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Early Modern, Ballad, History, Popular Culture, Print Culture
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.595086
Depositing User: Mr Nick Moon
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 16:01
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:30
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5165

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