A ‘Barbarous’ Trade: Early-Nineteenth-Century Broadsides in Social and Historical Context

  • Kate BatesEmail author


This chapter will investigate the social and historical context of nineteenth-century crime and execution broadsides which represent a unique era in the history of this form of street literature. The main aim will be to challenge the assumption that these broadsides are evidence of state-authorised social control by investigating who actually wrote, produced and distributed them. This chapter will therefore look in detail at the nineteenth-century broadside trade, which was overwhelmingly working class, and in particular focus on the printers, authors and sellers of crime broadsides. It will also examine the readership of broadsides and chart the immense popularity and impact broadsides had in the early part of the century. Issues such as working-class literacy, competition between broadsides and newspapers, and middle-class attitudes to broadsides will be discussed and challenged. The central argument will be that broadsides can be viewed as authentically working class and, therefore, representative of their values and beliefs.


Broadsides Ballads Street literature Crime Murder Executions Nineteenth century Mayhew Trade Authors Printers Sellers Readers Literacy Class Popular culture Newspapers 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Liverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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