Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and North America: The Interface between Print and Oral Traditions (Hardback) book cover

Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and North America

The Interface between Print and Oral Traditions

By David Atkinson, Steve Roud

© 2014 – Routledge

306 pages

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About the Book

In recent years, the assumption that traditional songs originated from a primarily oral tradition has been challenged by research into ’street literature’ - that is, the cheap printed broadsides and chapbooks that poured from the presses of jobbing printers from the late sixteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth. Not only are some traditional singers known to have learned songs from printed sources, but most of the songs were composed by professional writers and reached the populace in printed form. Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and North America engages with the long-running debate over the origin of traditional songs by examining street literature’s interaction with, and influence on, oral traditions.


Shortlisted for the 2015 Katherine Briggs Folklore Award. ’Here is a very important book for anyone who is interested in the origins and evolution of folk song. …essential if you have any interest in this subject.’ English Dance and Song Magazine ’This is a well-balanced collection, exhibiting throughout the results of careful research, drawing considered conclusions. Ballad studies are thriving, and it is a welcome addition to the field.’ Folk Music Journal 'The essays are detailed and informative - I learned a lot from them … Street Ballads takes a large step beyond the pieties of authenticity that have often constrained scholarship on ballads, and it provides a model for future investigations into the complex histories of a tantalising cultural form.' SHARP News

About the Authors

David Atkinson is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, UK. Steve Roud is an independent scholar in the UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature
MUSIC / Printed Music / Piano-Vocal-Guitar