The Blind Beggar’s Daughter of Bednal Green

A detail from EBBA 33233, "The Blind Beggar of Bednal-Green." This detail contains the ballad's title and two side-by-side woodcuts. The first shows two men walking outdoors (a tree to the left, a house to the right). One man uses a cane and leads the other man, who grasps the cane-user's arm.  The second woodcut depicts two men and a woman in a shop. The woman sits, and one man doffs his hat to her. The other man stands behind the counter, handling wares he has taken from a large shelf of pitchers, plates, and so forth.

This broadside ballad is variously titled “The Blind Beggar of Bednal-Green,” “The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green,” “The Rarest Ballad that ever was seen, Of the Blind Beggar’s Daughter of Bednal-Green,” and so forth. It appears in a number of iterations in the English Broadside Ballad Archive.

Webpage: Text transcription of EBBA 33233 (National Library of Scotland, Crawford.EB.709[1])

Audio: Musical Recording of EBBA 33233 (13:51)

Accessible PDF

Word Document

Encountering the Text

Cheap print ballads are one of the best tools we have for getting clues about early modern culture, and this one has become somewhat canonical in cultural historical studies of disability. We were especially interested in the way that it talks about disability and women’s lives, and where we see disability being evaluated for community value. 

  • Do you have thoughts about the ways that disability is (or isn’t) intersectional here? How is disability about class, or race, or generationality, or nationality here?
  • Consider the relationship between the ballad text and its woodcut(s), or the relationship between variants of the ballad.