Concerts, Commerce, and Charity: Musical networks and benefit performances in Georgian England, 1750-1780

Elizabeth Buckle

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates how the performers, organisers and audiences of benefit concerts held in England in the second half of the eighteenth century negotiated the ostensibly competing demands of commerce and philanthropy. It explores the relationships between music, mercantilism, social cohesion and moral reform in eighteenth-century England by combining data and network visualisations derived from my Database of Musicians and Concerts 1750-1800 with qualitative information found in newspapers, charity minute books, and performer lists. Chapter 2 applies quantitative and network analysis techniques to build a profile of the musicians who performed at benefit concerts in London. It also explores the business and personal relationships between performers and highlights trends in the types of venues that hosted benefit concerts. Chapter 3 takes Pierre Bourdieu’s forms of capital as a framework to assess the economic, social, cultural and symbolic motivations behind musicians’ participation in charity concerts in London, specifically at the Foundling Hospital and Lock Hospital. Chapter 4 widens the area of study beyond London to consider charity concerts in support of the infirmaries at Cambridge, Oxford and Leicester; it introduces sources previously overlooked by scholarship, including detailed performer lists from concerts for Addenbrooke’s Hospital, to assess the impact charity concerts had on the culture, concert life and music-making opportunities in these areas. Finally, Chapter 5 uses eighteenth-century theories of musical expression and notions of sympathy, sentimentality, and spectacle to explore the experiences and reactions of charity concert audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rose, Stephen, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • 18th century
  • Music
  • charitable giving
  • concerts
  • benefit concerts
  • Musicians
  • networks
  • hospitals
  • infirmaries
  • Cambridge
  • Oxford
  • Leicester
  • London

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