Music, Power, and Place at Exiled English Convents in France and the Low Countries, 1660-1740

Caroline Elliott

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates music at exiled English convents in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Synthesising methodologies from book history, material history, the history of emotions, and the wider geo-humanities, it offers a thematic analysis of musical culture at 10 of the 22 religious houses established in continental Europe for English women. It explores how early modern English nuns used music to produce space within the convents, and how notions of invisibility and audibility shaped this process (chapter 2). Ensuing codicological case-studies in chapter 3 demonstrate how inscriptions in personal manuscripts of music reveal links to exiled English convents. This chapter argues that the manuscripts act as witnesses to the role of convents and their schools as important nodes within Catholic networks in late 17th- and early 18th-century Europe. Chapter 4 expands this discussion by exploring how English convents supported music education for early modern girls, highlighting the role of convent school pupils as musical go-betweens connecting the convent to other religious and/or musical institutions. Chapter 5 investigates how the liturgy and liturgical music at English convents were shaped by customs at musically influential French monastic houses like Montmartre Abbey, with implications for how music shaped English nuns’ modes of religiosity. Chapter 6 uncovers the English nuns’ experiences of space, time, and exile by exploring the nuns’ construction of musical identities within convent life-writing. This chapter offers new insights on how early modern English women conceived of their singing voices and musical abilities, particularly with regards to their gender identities. Through detailed reconstruction of exiled English nuns’ musical customs, networks, and identities, this thesis offers a revisionist view of English sacred music that focuses on the achievements of English Catholic women at convents in northern Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rose, Stephen, Supervisor
  • Stobart, Henry, Advisor
  • Whitelock, Anna, Advisor
Award date1 Aug 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 24 Aug 2023


  • music
  • religion
  • soundscape
  • convents
  • Catholicism
  • book history
  • history of emotions
  • Liturgy
  • musicology
  • manuscript studies

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