The World Turned Upside Down

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For the 1975 song, see Diggers' Song. For the 1972 book, see Christopher Hill (historian).
Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull, (depiction of 1781 event).

"The World Turned Upside Down" is an English ballad. It was first published on a broadside in the middle of the 1640s as a protest against the policies of Parliament relating to the celebration of Christmas.[1] Parliament believed the holiday should be a solemn occasion, and outlawed traditional English Christmas celebrations. There are several versions of the lyrics. It is sung to the tune of another ballad, "When the king enjoys his own again".

American tradition has it that the British band played this tune when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at the Siege of Yorktown (1781).[2] "However, there was no historical record of which song or songs were played by the band. The account of it being that particular song was added to the historical record almost a 100 years after the event".[3] Ordinarily, they would have played a tune in tribute to the victors, but General Washington refused them the customary honours of war and insisted that they play "a British Army or German march."[4]


This song was recorded by Maddy Prior with The Carnival Band on their album Hang Up Sorrow and Care.

A different song with the same title was written by Leon Rosselson, and made popular by Billy Bragg.

The song is referenced in the novel Burr by Gore Vidal.

This song is referenced in the Broadway Musical Hamilton in the song "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)"

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Yorktown is Won - Cornwallis' sword is delivered to American Forces - The World Turned Upside Down". Yorktown, Virginia: Chronicle of the Revolution. October 19, 1781. , PBS
  3. ^ Yorktown Battlefield and National Park
  4. ^ "Surrender of the British General Cornwallis to the Americans, October 19, 1781". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Article 3 states that: “the garrison of York will march out to a place to be appointed in front of the posts, at two o’clock precisely, with shouldered arms, colors cased, and drums beating a British or German march. They are then to ground their arms, and return to their encampments, where they will remain until they are dispatched to the places of their destination.” 

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