This study explores the ways in which topics of English history were central to conceptions of English identity, musical and otherwise, during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Its focus is on the masque, an early modern English musico-dramatic genre that was reinvented during the Victorian period as a vehicle for nationalistic, historically inflected popular entertainments. The masque operated as an "invented tradition", in the sense theorized by Eric Hobsbawm, and was used to connect the modern nation of Britain to its historical past. As conceptions of national identity became increasingly dependent on the image of "Merrie England" located in the English Renaissance and in the folk traditions of the countryside, genres such as the masque that were integrally connected to these ideological constructions became important ways in which national identity was represented. This in turn had profound ramifications for the ideologies of the English Musical Renaissance and its construction of a national musical idiom at the turn of the twentieth century.
DEBORAH HECKERT is a Lecturer at Stony Brook University and has taught at the University of Virginia, Utah State University, and Brooklyn College-CUNY.