Songs of protest, songs of love

Popular ballads in eighteenth-century Britain

By Robin Ganev

Songs of protest, songs of love

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7890-3
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: December 2009
  • BIC Category: The arts / Folk & traditional music, Humanities / British & Irish history, Traditional & folk music, Folk style, European history, MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Folk & Traditional, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain
  • Series: Studies in Popular Culture


Songs of Protest, Songs of Love shows how songs can bring back voices from the past in a new way. The focus of the book is on rural Britain in a time of crisis. As the traditional rights of peasants were being jettisoned to enforce a new system of enclosure, rural labourers chanted out their concerns in songs of protest. These songs became increasingly strident and popular after the 1770s as rural life became even more precarious with fluctuating grain prices and uncertain employment opportunities. Many ballads in the eighteenth century were love songs. But these are also rich in social meaning. Many of these love songs celebrated the free and easy sexuality of rural workers, especially milkmaids and ploughmen, which was contrasted with the tepid and flaccid sex life attributed to urban aristocrats.

The book will be of interest to scholars, advanced students and readers with an interest in cultural history and popular ballads.


1 What are popular
ballads and what can they tell historians
2 The language of
complaint: Ballads as social criticism
3 Ballads and poems' condemnation of enclosure
4 "Though My Labour's Hard Stil 'Tis Sweet:" the celebration of the life of
5 Milkmaids and Ploughmen: the celebration of rural labourers' sexuality
6 Hannah More takes on popular ballads: the effort to reform the morals of the poor


Robin Ganev is Assistant Professor in British History at the University of Regina

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