Broadsides: the Posts and Tweets of Renaissance England

Nicholas C. Rossis

When I moved to Edinburgh in 1995, I experienced something of a cultural shock. The language was different than anything I’d be taught at school (ach, hawd yer whisht, , my good friend Mike might say to this). TV programs were delightful, compared to Greek ones. And yellow press articles were sensationalist and, well, filled with lies at worst, and wild inaccuracies at best.

I now realize this latter bit is part of a proud British tradition, having its origins in the so-called broadsides; single incendiary sheets of paper that were sold on the streets of Britain as early as the 15th century and were single-topic fliers of songs, advertisements, and announcements that were often written anonymously. As Natalie Zarrelli of Atlas Obscura points out in an excellent post on the subject, these differ little from today’s Facebook posts and Tweets that share people’s personal tragedies with voyeuristic…

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