English professor partners with UC Santa Barbara’s Broadside Ballad Archive


ChessSimone Chess, associate chair and associate professor of English, has partnered with the University of California, Santa Barbara to collaborate on its English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA). She will assist the university in running Wayne State’s own brand new chapter of the EBBA.

Broadside ballads — pieces of paper sold on the street that contained a narrative verse in the form of a ballad — were popular from the 15th century until the 19th century. Many of these broadside ballads shared news about recent executions, crimes or disasters. They were meant to be sung to the tune of a popular song of the time. 

Chess will create a searchable online catalogue to Dianne Dugaw’s book, Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850. She will also teach two courses at Wayne State for the 2019-20 academic year, in which students will have a chance to study and analyze these ballads.

The EBBA provides open access to a wide range of early modern broadside ballads. Its goal is to archive all of the surviving ballads, which were published in the 17th century; it is estimated that there are about 11,000 works in the entire broadside ballad collection.

Chess was offered the role of team manager for WSU’s EBBA because of her long history and continued involvement with the archive. She has used the EBBA as a resource in her own work and was a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara with EBBA founder and director Professor Patricia Fumerton.

The searchable online engine that Chess creates will include a never-before-published catalogue of Dugaw’s famous book about Warrior Women broadside ballads. This genre of broadside ballads tells stories of women masquerading as men in an attempt to gain love and glory. Users will be able to search the online index, which will include links to complete ballads, woodcut images, transcriptions, music and other resources. 

Chess will also teach two broadside ballad courses at Wayne State — one for graduates and one for undergraduates.


Students be required to do original research and writing on the genre of Warrior Women ballads — especially fitting for a group of Wayne State Warriors. They will assist Chess in building the EBBA’s online catalogue by creating an entire Warrior Women site within the EBBA. The students will digitize and transcribe the archive and its ballads, and create thematic and theoretical essays that will be published on the EBBA website.

“The new EBBA/WSU collaboration is an exciting opportunity for Wayne State students to do a deep dive into early modern ballad and broadside culture while also developing important skills in research, theory and digital humanities,” says Chess. “This will be a unique chance for Wayne State students to become the experts on Warrior Women, and to make decisions about how to make these special ballads more accessible, searchable and relevant to modern readers.”


Header image courtesy of EBBA, ID: 21260 - Pepys Ballads 3.246.


By Sarah Pickett, CLAS marketing and communications associate

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