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EBBA associates all ballads using a controlled vocabulary that was developed after years of cataloging and transcribing sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English broadside ballads. Our catalogers associate 3-5 keywords with each ballad in our archive; these assigned keywords are not meant to be exhaustive descriptors of every aspect of the ballad, but rather to capture the ballad's general "about-ness." This controlled list consists of the 52 keywords defined below.

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Keyword Definitions

advice: explicitly intended to admonish, counsel, warn, or teach; usually opens or closes with direct address or general moral

affliction / health: mental or physical distress; illness; medicine

alcohol: pertains to alcohol, drunkenness, or tavern life as principle subject

Americas: as a key part of plot or setting

animals / nature: animals as principal focus; description of flora and fauna

Bible / biblical figures: characters, locations, or incidents from

buildings / architecture: pertains to thick descriptions of architecture, or instances where historically significant buildings play a crucial role in setting or plot

catastrophe: pertains to natural disasters like fires, floods, famines, earthquakes, or plagues, or to national and/or economic disasters (e.g. the South Sea Bubble); not personal affliction

children: pertains to children as principal characters; not to giving birth/monstrous birth, or to family relationships between adults

class: pertains to conflicts and contrasts between defined socioeconomic groups

clothing / appearance: apparel (including disguise) or physical appearance as a significant plot element

country / nation: geographic, ideological, or cultural boundaries as significant plot element

crime: description of illegal acts

death: as theme or major plot element

economics / commerce: financial concerns; circulation of goods and services

entertainments: pertains to descriptions of leisure activities, celebrations, performances, etc.

family: pertains to familial relationships other than marriage, pregnancy, and childbearing; not to relations only between husband and wife (i.e. only to non-marital family relationships)

folklore: legendary figures or beliefs, e.g. St. George, Robin Hood, etc.

gender: construction and/or characteristics of or boundaries between genders as thematic element

holidays / seasons: observance of; seasonal conditions as significant plot element

infidelity: adultery, broken pledges (actual or perceived) between lovers

labor / craft: characterizes members of an occupation; describes work

law: thematizes courts, legal processes

London: significant description of; key element of setting

love: pertaining to romance, courtship

maritime: figures and events relating to the sea

marriage: conditions of or as a significant plot element

military / war: characterizes military life; acts of war

monstrosity: physical (not moral) deformity; grotesque or unnatural creatures

mythology / Classical: characters, locations, or incidents from

news: pertains to the relation or reporting of actual current events as the ballad's primary purpose

nobility / court: aristocrats as principal characters; court life

politics / government: national or local

procreation: pregnancy and childbearing as significant plot element

punishment: legal, moral, or spiritual

race / ethnicity: construction of

religious concepts: meditation or advice based on theology

religious figures: divine or other spiritual beings; saints; clergy or other members of religious institutions

religious groups: characteristics and/or conflicts of discrete religious groups as significant plot element

royalty: as principal characters

rural life: country activities such as farming or harvesting; includes pastoral

servitude: servants or slaves as principal characters

sex / sexuality: physical desire, seduction, intercourse, wantonness/chastity

supernatural / magic: spirits, sorcery/witchcraft; events that transcend laws of nature

travel: journeys, wandering as significant plot element

trickery / deceit: deception, not necessarily malicious

urban life: city activities or figures

vice: acts or attributes represented as morally bad

violence: description of

virtue: acts or attributes represented as morally good

vulgar humor: obscene, crass, or bawdy humor as significant plot element

youth / age: age group characteristics and conflicts