‘Nothing to Shew for his Tomb but a Wave’: Storms, shipwreck and the human cost of global trade in seventeenth-century broadside ballads

By Duncan Frost, published November 2022


The sea was a source of danger but also the facilitator of global trade in the early modern
period. In England, broadside ballads proclaimed the benefits of global trade and praised the
actions of sailors. However, within maritime ballads, there are significant occurrences of storms,
shipwrecks and tragedy. This article investigates the function of storm ballads, analysing how
they allowed for imaginative experiences of disaster and enabled people to examine their own
complex relationship with maritime trade, presenting a battle between civilized culture and the
savage power of the sea. These ballads emphasize the human cost of England’s global activities.

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern)
Subjects include: Art & Music | Manpower & Life at Sea

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