Brown Bag Talk #6: Sofia Zepeda presents "Sailors and Women in Chapbooks, Broadsides, and Prints”


Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - 12:30pm

“Sailors and Women in Chapbooks, Broadsides, and Prints”

Sofia Zepeda

This chapter breaks down the recurring themes and messages in prints and ballads about sailors and the women associated with them. In so doing, it considers how the differing markets for prints and ballads influenced messages about sailors. It shows that goods aimed at a wealthier audience, while rejoicing in sailors' patriotic service, tended to delight more in the bawdy possibilities that sailors presented. Meanwhile, prints targeting an audience living shoulder to shoulder with sailors and their wives or sweethearts tended to take a different view, one that considered the triumphs, tragedies, and fidelities of sailors. This difference is worth noting because tars, while representative in some ways of the British nation as a whole, also filled a specific, unique place in British society and had a very particular and difficult job to do. Although the cheaper ballads and chapbooks tended to reflect those realities, while still dealing in character tropes and melodrama, works aimed at wealthier clientele seemed to see sailors as lawmakers saw them—people who lacked the basic skills to handle their relationships and their money, but who were uniquely suited to serve at sea. This chapter is part of a larger work (Fighting Men, Enduring Women: Sailors and their Families in the United Kingdom, 1770-1820) focusing on the everyday lives of sailors and their wives and sweethearts, particularly emphasizing life on shore within seafaring communities. In keeping that focus, this work is able to locate the ways that sailors, and especially their wives, created networks of legal (and illegal) support within those communities. Thus, it shows how military service shaped the lives not just of those called on to serve, but those they left behind.
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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