Singing the English : Britain in the French Musical Lowbrow, 1870–1904 book cover
1st Edition

Singing the English
Britain in the French Musical Lowbrow, 1870–1904

ISBN 9780367416126
Published April 1, 2022 by Routledge
254 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Late nineteenth-century France was a nation undergoing an identity crisis: the uncertain infancy of the Third Republic and shifting alliances in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War forced France to interrogate the fundamental values and characteristics at the heart of its own national identity. Music was central to this national self-scrutiny. It comes as little surprise to us that Oriental fears, desires, and anxieties should be a fundamental part of this, but what has been overlooked to date is that Britain, too, provided a thinking space in the French musical world; it was often – surprisingly and paradoxically – represented through many of the same racialist terms and musical tropes as the Orient. However, at the same time, its shared history with France and the explosions of colonial rivalry between the two nations introduced an ever-present tension into this musical relationship. This book sheds light on this forgotten musical sphere through a rich variety of contemporary sources. It visits the café-concert and its tradition of ‘Englishing up’ with fake hair, mocking accents, and unflattering dances; it explores the reactions, both musical and physical, to British evangelical bands as they arrived in the streets of France and the colonies; it considers the French reception of, and fascination with, folk music from Ireland and Scotland; and it confronts the culture shock felt by French visitors to Britain as they witnessed British music-making for the first time. Throughout, it examines the ways in which this music allowed French society to grapple with the uncertainty of late nineteenth-century life, providing ordinary French citizens with a means of understanding and interrogating both the Franco-British relationship and French identity itself.

Table of Contents


Chapter One

Singing the English: At the Café-Concert

Chapter Two

Singing for Salvation: Music and British Evangelism in France

Chapter Three

Singing the Celts: British Folk Music and French Identity

Chapter Four

Singing in London: Dubious Music in French Travel Writing


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Hannah L. Scott is a Research Fellow at Newcastle University, with a particular interest in the world of performance in nineteenth-century France, especially popular songs, dance culture, and street spectacles. Her first monograph, Broken glass, broken world: glass in French culture in the aftermath of 1870, was published by Legenda in 2016.