ISBN 978-1-935243-80-9 (paperbound) ISBN 978-1-935243-77-9 (hardcover)
1768 saw the birth of a century of struggle for democracy by the working people of Great Britain; it was also the golden age of the broadside ballad — inexpensive songsheets sold on the street, often spotlighting popular figures and spreading the word of reform efforts. This collection traces the history of this tumultuous period with 120 songs from historical sources, all with appropriate tunes, extensive commentary, and rich illustrations from contemporary publications. Here are songs about Wilkes and Liberty, the United Irish, the anti-slavery movement, Luddites, Captain Swing, the Naval Mutiny, antiwar movements, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and the Chartist movement; songs that bring to life important figures like John Wilkes, Major Cartwright, Thomas Paine, Thomas Muir, Wolfe Tone, Henry Hunt, William Cobbett, Feargus O’Connor, and William Gladstone.
Frankie Armstrong, Godmother of the Natural Voice Singing Movement
There is no more exciting way of bringing historical times to life than through the songs of the people living through them. This book’s selection of political reform songs of the eighteenth and nineteenth century illuminates the conditions that poor people in particular, were determined to change — sometimes at great cost to themselves. The songs have an energy and commitment fueled by anger, despair, humour and wit — what better way of meeting the ancestors who fought and improved our lives too.
Oskar Cox Jensen, Historian and Author, University of East Anglia
Dick’s book is a worthy successor in spirit and outlook to Roy Palmer’s "Ballad History of England." It picks up the flame of resistance and reform, adding detail and colour to a period of history that, too often neglected, can manifestly still be heard. Especially useful are those now-unique songs from the frustratingly inaccessible, microfilm-only Madden Collection at Cambridge. Featuring a mix of original, sympathetic, and surprising musical settings, deftly arranged and notated by June Nishimoto, this is a supremely singable collection, and should enlighten and enliven our discussions and our singing in equal measure.
Oskar Cox Jensen
Joe Hickerson, Head Emeritus, Library of Congress Folklife Center
What better way to explore the century-long history of English political reform than with the songs of the times. Covering 1768 to 1868, these compositions highlight such topics as the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the French Revolution, and Crimean War, and dwelling on such personages as John Wilkes, Thomas Paine, Daniel O’Connell and Napoleon Bonaparte. Scholar/singer Richard Holdstock has assembled an amazing array of 120 songs from the popular presses of the day, many of them extremely rare. and all with appropriate tunes. Throughout his thorough exploration we see the fascinating history of violence, chicanery, patriotism, and sacrifice woven in the fabric of song. This work is essential for any institutional or personal library dealing with the history of England and the struggle of the working class in general.