The Banks of the Nile was printed as a broadside, mostly around the 1850s (e.g. the Bodleian broadside Harding B 11(158) dated between 1855-1858). It describes a sailor who has been ordered to oppose Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the start of the campaign against British India half a century earlier. The sailor's sweetheart attempts to join him at sea, but she is prevented due to naval regulations. Other women persisted, and for example, they helped carry powder to the guns at the Battle of the Nile in August, 1798.

This ballad remained popular among country singers in Scotland and England through the early 20th century. The words were re-written to suit other campaigns, including an Australian sheep-shearing ballad, On the Banks of the Condamine, as pointed out by Roy Palmer. The page on Mainly Norfolk does a tremendous job organizing the lineage of the numerous recordings for this song. The modern versions do a better job avoiding the racist undertones.