Original Research

‘… Earth’s proud empires pass away…’: The glorification and critique of power in songs and hymns of Imperial Britain

Gertrud Tönsing
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a3637 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.3637 | © 2017 Gertrud Tönsing | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 July 2016 | Published: 24 February 2017

About the author(s)

Gertrud Tönsing, Department of Practical Theology, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, South Africa


Songs and hymns shape faith and play a part in shaping political landscapes. They can be used to build or maintain power as well as to critique and challenge it. This has been true for South Africa, and some brief examples will be given. But this article focuses on hymns and patriotic songs from the time of the British Empire and explores how they portray power, entrench superiority or build a common, global Christian identity.


hymns; British Empire; power; patriotic songs; colonialism; mission


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