© 2018

Cultural Identity in British Musical Theatre, 1890–1939

Knowing One’s Place


Part of the Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre book series (PSBMT)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Ben Macpherson
    Pages 1-28
  3. Domestic and Personal Identities

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 29-29
    2. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 31-61
    3. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 63-90
    4. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 91-117
  4. Imperial and Ideological Identities

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 119-119
    2. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 121-153
    3. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 155-180
    4. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 181-208
    5. Ben Macpherson
      Pages 209-214
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 215-245

About this book


This book examines the performance of ‘Britishness’ on the musical stage. Covering a tumultuous period in British history, it offers a fresh look at the vitality and centrality of the musical stage, as a global phenomenon in late-Victorian popular culture and beyond. Through a re-examination of over fifty archival play-scripts, the book comprises seven interconnected stories told in two parts. Part One focuses on domestic and personal identities of ‘Britishness’, and how implicit anxieties and contradictions of nationhood, class and gender were staged as part of the popular cultural condition. Broadening in scope, Part Two offers a revisionary reading of Empire and Otherness on the musical stage, and concludes with a consideration of the Great War and the interwar period, as musical theatre performed a nostalgia for a particular kind of ‘Britishness’, reflecting the anxieties of a nation in decline.


Cultural identity British musical theatre Victorian popular culture Britishness Nationhood Class Gender

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of Media and Performing ArtsUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUnited Kingdom

About the authors

​Ben Macpherson is Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre in the School of Media and Performing Arts at the University of Portsmouth, UK. His publications include Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience (co-edited with Konstantinos Thomaidis, 2015) and he has written widely on both voice studies and British identity in musical theatre.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Cultural Identity in British Musical Theatre, 1890–1939
  • Book Subtitle Knowing One’s Place
  • Authors Ben Macpherson
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-59806-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-95919-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-59807-3
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XV, 245
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Theatre and Performance Studies
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“A masterly analysis of the various aesthetic forms and the changing social, political and ethical concerns of musical theatre from the last years of the Victorian era to the start of WWII, the book provides a lucid explication of the interrelated nature of popular entertainment and its sociopolitical contexts. It is likely to become required reading for students and scholars of the British musical and of social history.” (Robert Gordon, Professor of Drama, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)