Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Melissa de Graaf

Second Committee Member

Karen Henson

Third Committee Member

Karen Kennedy


The broadside ballad was an important form of popular street music that flourished from the 16th to the 19th centuries in the British Isles, Continental Europe and North America. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain’s fighting sailor—commonly known as “Jack Tar”—became a prominent subject of the country’s broadside ballad tradition, thanks to songwriters like Charles Dibdin, who forged a new and compelling image for the sailor, depicting him as Britain’s brave, patriotic, and loyal defender. In the early years of the nineteenth century, hundreds of broadside ballads about the noble Jack Tar were written and circulated in Britain, extolling his virtues and highlighting his importance for national defense. Based on extensive primary research into broadside ballad archives, this thesis will holistically and comprehensively examine nineteenth-century broadside ballads about Britain’s fighting sailor. It will elucidate the complex image of Jack Tar in these popular songs, exploring his evolving and multi-faceted characterization, his profound cultural implications, and his intriguing iconography as both protector of Britain’s monarchy and republican hero. In addition, this thesis will carefully examine the music, history, forms, conventions, writers, printers, and performance practices of the nineteenth-century popular songs that brought Jack Tar to the forefront of wartime Britain’s imagination.


Broadside ballad; ballad; Jack Tar; sailor songs; British popular song; British street music