REVOLUTION AND ROMANTICISM

"Streetprint: Revolution and Romanticism" is a database of popular print--ballads, chapbooks, political pamphlets, and so on--from late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain. It is the first in a series of such Streetprint databases, which will eventually cover all sorts of popular print, including popular images, from before printing to today.

Most of the material on the Revolution and Romanticism database comes from a private collection formed since the early 1980s. This material covers the transition from the old to the new street literature. The historic and traditional culture of street literature was centuries old, with roots in the Middle Ages, and changed relatively little over three centuries. From tales of Robin Hood to fortune telling and jokebooks, familiarity and repetition characterized this material, as it spoke to the lives of lower-class readers facing a subsistence economy with little prospect of improvement or change, and therefore with a strong interest in the luck, prophetic powers, or extraordinary gifts of strength, fortitude, or beauty described in this cheap literature.

By 1800, however, modernization in society, economics, and culture was creating a new lower-class, mainly urban readership, as revolutions in many spheres--society, culture, economics, technology politics, and global empires--transformed the world of common readers. Consequently, the historic print repertory was being augmented and largely displaced by a new, commercialized, novelty print culture much resembling forms of popular literature still with us today, including sentimental and Gothic romance, adventure, crime, populist politics and religion, and pop songs. The new street print, despite its differences from the old, was no less intimately connected to the lives, experience, values, and conflicts of its readers.

"Streetprint: Revolution and Romanticism" presents hundreds of examples from the revolution in street literature and the other revolutions that accompanied it and that this street print addressed, challenged, criticized, and tried to explain. "Streetprint: Revolution and Romanticism" discloses, then, a particular and critical historical moment; at the same time, it takes its place in a continuing research program examining the place of print in everyday life, past and present, local and global.