What do national anthems represent?

Posted: April 6, 2010 in Miscellaneous

Whilst teaching the French Revolution the question of the purpose of national anthems was asked. Furthermore, what are their origins and to what event do they signify? The ‘Marseillaise’ is perhaps one of the more famous and to students and teachers alike, the more emotive. The clip below is the Marseillaise together with the lyrics written in English. What impression does it give you of the French Revolution?

A short history and the lyrics are included in the link below.

The Marseillaise from an educational website.

There is still a debate in France surrounding the lyrics of the Marseillaise. They are violent and reflect a period of rapid change. Should the lyrics reflect contemporary France or should people respect their heritage? I am not trying to suggest either is the right course but one may have a strong opinion. The link below contains a few paragraphs explaining the recent controversies.

A general forum for bloggers.

There are famous national anthems, Great Britain and America as examples, but why are they famous. Who plays anthems and why? Historians are taught to analyse and question all information and evidence. Why do people all over the world recognise the British national anthem but not the Chinese? Is this because the media one has in the country you live in? Is it more to do with sporting achievements? The Chinese national anthem is below. Are their any similarities to the Marseillaise?

Several country’s national anthems have dominated the 20th century. The Soviet Union, USA, Germany and Great Britain are included below together with English lyrics.

National anthems do change and the German piece under the Nazis is one example. Two links below explain the changes and origins of the anthem. Wikipedia is obviously very detailed.

A web page from Country Reports.

Wikipedia page.

National anthems change with changing governments therefore. Has your anthem changed and can you find out why? The question not yet answered is what are anthems for? The Wikipedia page below explains it relatively well. What answers does it give you?

Wikipedia page.

Are there other reasons? Could they be part of a nationalistic agenda or be part propaganda? Should anthems be played at schools and businesses every day? To what extent should it be changed? The Marseillaise may change one day but there is also a movement in Britain to change ‘God save the Queen’ with the following;

It may be more uplifting but should one be traditional. Is it an important issue?

If you want to listen to any national anthem, click on the link below.

A site from National Anthems Info.

So much more could be written about national anthems. Are they songs to be proud of or a political tool? Could they form part of a cult of personality for a dictator? The answer is probably yes but does that mean they should not be used? This post may instigate a discussion and if it does, it serves its purpose.

  1. Mrs Oxley says:

    Before TV went on all night anthems used to be played at the end of TV transmission. In Singapore I remember watching the anthem ‘Majulah Singapura’with a short film after the late movie. The country has a number of ethnic group and they were carefully an proportionally all in the film. Our favourite was the Tamil lady firefighter with a hose as she looked so determined about ehr job.

    In Portugal the anthem was illustrated by an animation of the seven little boats in the middle of the shield on the flag disappearing over the horizon in search of new lands. This reflects Portugal’s seafaring history which is talked about in the anthem.

    I remember the day the Emperor of Japan died in 1990 there was back to back national anthem on the shopping centre muzak systems in Yokohama for several hours.

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