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Welsh ballads

Over the centuries the ballad has played an important and influential role in Welsh social and cultural life. Broadside ballad production was in its heyday in Wales in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although not usually poetry of the highest order, this popular verse is an invaluable field of study for anyone interested in the language, literature, history, religion and music of modern Wales. These poems are also an indispensable source for the study of the daily life and world-view of the common people of Wales in the modern period.

Digital content

Welsh Ballads Online includes about 4,000 digitised ballads, mainly dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the collections of the National Library of Wales and Cardiff University Library. The ballads were digitised as a joint project between Cardiff University and The National Library of Wales, with the support of the Universities of Bangor and Swansea, and University of Wales Lampeter. The project was funded by the JISC as part of its Enriching Digital Resources programme.

We are in the process of adding digital copies of all our printed ballads to our online Special Collections and Archives, including ten recordings sung by Dafydd Idris Edwards.

Scholarly articles

Articles by Prof. E. Wyn James, discussing various aspects of the ballad in Wales, together with related areas in the field of Welsh folk-song. A number of the articles are based on papers delivered at conferences. Such details, together with details of the original published version, are noted at the beginning of each article. Prof. E. Wyn James owns the copyright of those items which are included on this website under his name. He has asserted his right, in accordance with Sections 77 and 79 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of those items.

Bibliographies and useful links

Welsh Ballads Bibliography
A bibliography of publications in English and Welsh relating to Welsh ballads (under construction).

Maldwyn: Index to Welsh Poetry in Manuscript
The Maldwyn database is an index to Welsh poetry found in manuscript sources and dated before 1830. Among the search options available are first line, last line, poet, metre, type and subject. The database includes details of many manuscript ballads, and of manuscript versions of poems printed on broadsides. The search interface is only available through the medium of Welsh.

Early English Books Online (EEBO)
An electronic library of over 125,000 publications, including some ballads, from the period 1473-1700. It is possible to search by keyword. Despite its title, it contains a number of Welsh-language publications.

Historical Corpus of the Welsh Language 1500-1850
A searchable electronic collection of Welsh texts from the period 1500-1850, created by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. Among the texts are a number of 'anterliwtiau' (folk plays which contain songs in ballad metres) and some free-metre poetry, including a group of ballads by Huw Jones, Llangwm and Ellis Roberts (‘Elis y Cowper’).

Useful links