And it's my plan if some great man, Dies with a broken head, Sirs, With much bewail I does detail, His death before he's dead, Sirs!
You wouldn't think so from its trendy shops and restaurants today, but Seven Dials was once one of the worst slums in London. Intended as a smart residential area when its construction was completed in 1710, this cartwheel of streets between Charing Cross Road and Covent Garden quickly declined to become an over-crowded refuge for the city's thieves. It was here that London's thriving trade in gallows ballads made its home.A collaboration across more than 100 years, from the jobbing hacks writing ballads and selling them at the foot of the gallows to the historical investigation of the British Library's broadsheet collection by MeFi's own Paul Slade, to modern rock, folk, and blues musicians, and then to your ears. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders digitizes over five hundred broadsides owned by the Harvard Law Library, all of them devoted to "last dying speeches"--that is, sensational accounts of crime, punishment, and (fictional) confession, intended to be sold at public executions. The New York State Historical Association has an online exhibition devoted to nineteenth-century American murder pamphlets. You can find a couple of seventeenth-century examples at the Early Modern Web and the Folger Library. Old Bailey Online briefly puts this literature into context. (Main link via C18-L.)
Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads Digital images, plus the occasional sound file, for the Bodleian's massive collection. In addition, Samuel Pepys was an enormously important collector, and the Early Modern Center at UCSB has digitized his collection--again, with some sound files. See also the Francis J. Child Ballads, taken from Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. (For previous MeFi sojourns in the wonderful world of ballads, see here, here, and here.)