Songs, Ballads and Broadsheets as Vocal Media in Early Modern Germany and Switzerland

Markus Bardenheuer

This project investigates the role of songs and ballads in the early modern media landscape of the German-speaking lands (1600–1800). Songs were part and parcel of early modern communication. They spread news and rumour, narrated tales and historical events, and conveyed lessons of faith and piety to a wide audience. In performance and print, songs became potent means of spreading interpretations of events past and present, and allowed elite and non-elite members of society alike to voice their opinion in a public setting. This project explores the meaning of these vocal practices within the early modern public sphere of Germany and Switzerland. How did people gain agency by writing, printing and singing songs? What was the impact of spreading songs, especially in times of conflict? By combining evidence of local song performance practices from Swiss and German archives with collections of printed ballad broadsheets and chapbooks, this project seeks to expand our knowledge of the pathways of early modern communication in the interplay of orality, manuscript and print.