A broadside was one of the first forms of widespread printed news. Broadsides are basically one-page sheets of news that often also contained some sort of picture or illustration to depict the message of the article. Most broadsides were set up so that the top part was a “woodcut or copper engraving” of an important, often historical, event, and the lower part was a description of the details of the event.
Broadsides first appeared in the 15th century, but remained an important source of news well into the 17th century as well. Broadsides were a great source of propaganda, which became increasingly significant due to the the Thirty Years War in the early to mid 1600s.
Throughout the Thirty Years War, broadsides were predominantly printed in major cities including Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.
The broadsides printed during the Thirty Years War are unique because the majority of the publications from this time period focus solely on the war, whereas in the past they had covered a much wider array of topics.
The illustrations in the broadsides encompass a variety of scenes. From city skylines to battles and sieges, as well as victory parades and the glorification of commanders in chief. These broadsides also often included important religious and political symbols of the time period.
Broadsides were very prevalent all over Europe. They were often posted on walls of shops and restaurants, sold on street corners, and even sung in groups to familiar tunes.
As one article states, “By modern standards, the speed, accuracy, and truthfulness of this early picture journalism is remarkable.” Many broadsides have been preserved over the years to help historians piece together the past through the specific events accounted for in these publications.