Project Name: The English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA)
Project Website: http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/
Project Director: Patricia Fumerton
Project Affiliation: University of California, Santa Barbara
Reviewed by: Lauren Liebe
Review Date: 20 March 2013
Tags or keywords: Renaissance, Early Modern, English, Ballad, broadside, history, culture, popular, research, recording, resources, performance
Review: The English Broadside Ballad Archive is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in popular culture in the early modern period. Based at the University of California Santa Barbara, the archive is in the process of collecting all extant broadside ballads from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Along with presenting facsimile copies of these broadsides, the archive includes transcripts of the ballads both with their original artwork and in plain text, and, in the cases where the tune has survived, a recording of the ballad being sung. These recordings are one of the places in which EBBA truly shines, for they emphasize the performative aspect of the ballads, which would have been heard throughout the streets, taverns, and playhouses of England.
EBBA’s focus on preserving the tunes behind these ballads is incredibly useful for tracking the changes in these tunes over time. Often, with the publication of a particularly popular ballad, the name of the tune listed will change. For example, tunes listed as “The Fair Angel of England” and “The Poor Man’s Comfort” are actually the same tune under two different names. EBBA’s search functions recognize this, and allow the user to look at all ballads that have the same tune, enabling the user to track changes in the identification of the tune over time.
Another benefit to using EBBA is the ability to search through the ballads by keyword. Each broadside has extensive citation information that is easily viewable, and includes the full title of the ballad, the tune to which it is sung, its publication date, author (if known), printing information, and where the physical copy of the ballad exists. The citation information also provides a list of keywords associated with the ballad, and these are also linked to a list of works that also fall into the same keyword categories, making it easy to organize the ballads by theme. In the advanced search, it is also possible to select more than one keyword in order to look at the intersections between themes, or to examine a more specific genre of ballad.
EBBA also provides a number of fantastic articles on broadside ballads. These articles work to place the ballads in their historical context, while emphasizing the role that they played in popular culture. They also detail the printing methods used to create the ballads, the history and methodology behind the various collections of ballads that the archive encompasses, and the music and artwork that accompany the texts. For users who are new to ballad studies, these articles are immensely informative. EBBA’s bibliography of outside sources is likewise indispensable for those seeking to study ballads, and directs users to both other ballad sources and secondary criticism. There is also a list of links to other ballad sites for further research.
EBBA is freely accessed by the public, making it useful for traveling scholars, those unaffiliated with a library with the funding for subscriptions, and members of the general public who have an interest in ballads.
http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home (Early English Books Online; contains a number of Early Modern books, including a small collection of broadside ballads. This site does not include recordings of the performances, nor does it always include transcripts of the ballads.)
http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads/ (Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads; offers facsimiles of over 30,000 ballads dated from the 16th century to the 20th century. A few recordings are included.)
Expertise Required: To fully appreciate the ballads, some knowledge of their place in Early Modern England is recommended, but not required. EBBA’s many articles and links to outside resources make becoming familiar with ballad culture and production easy.