Portrait of Professor Rachel Cowgill Professor Rachel Cowgill

r.e.cowgill@hud.ac.uk | 01484 471397


Professor Rachel Cowgill is Head of Music and Drama in the School of Music, Humanities and Media. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a first-class BMus (Hons) degree, and completed an MMus (Historical Musicology) and PhD at King’s College London, where her research focused on the reception of Mozart’s music in late Georgian London. She began her career at the University of Huddersfield (1996–2000) and returned to the University in her new role as Head of Music and Drama in 2014. In the interim she taught at the University of Leeds (2000–09), and was appointed to professorships at Liverpool Hope University (2009–11) and Cardiff University (2011–14; Head of School, 2013–14).

Research and Scholarship

Rachel works in the area of cultural musicology, exploring the place, practice and meaning of music in its cultural, historical and political contexts. She has published widely on British music and musical life from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century; opera studies; music, conflict and memorialisation; Mozart reception and canon formation; and gender, sexuality and identity in music. Rachel’s research has been funded by the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), and she was a member of the Leverhulme International Research Network Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts, c.1875–1960, led by Sarah V. Turner (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and University of York). Currently she is principal investigator for In Concert: Towards a Collaborative Digital Archive of Musical Ephemera, part of the AHRC’s Digital Transformations project, Transforming Musicology, led by Lancaster University, and a member of the Romantic National Song Network funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh led by Kirsteen McCue (Glasgow University). Rachel’s current research addresses the following themes: 

  • Music and the First World War in Britain
  • Music and Modernity in early Twentieth-Century British Culture
  • Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain
  • Collective Performance and Negotiated Identities in Nineteenth-Century British Music
  • Gender and Adaptation in Nineteenth-Century British Productions of Mozart’s operas
  • The Victorian Reception of Mozart’s Requiem
  • Operatic Femininities
  • Music and Northern Identities
  • Archival Research and Digital Musicologies

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Cowgill, R (2016) ‘‘Proofs of Genius’: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Construction of Musical Prodigies in Early Georgian London’. In: Musical Prodigies: Interpretations from Psychology, Education, Musicology, and Ethnomusicology. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 511-549. ISBN 9780199685851

Dix, A., Bashford, C., Cowgill, R., McVeigh, S. and Ridgewell, R. (2016) ‘Spreadsheets as User Interfaces’. In: Proceedings of AVI 2016 (the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces), 7-10 June 2016. Italy: Bari: ACM. pp. 192-195. ISBN 978-1-4503-4131-8


Dix, A., Cowgill, R., Bashford, C., McVeigh, S. and Ridgewell, R. (2014) ‘Authority and Judgement in the Digital Archive’. In: Proceedings of the 1st International Digital Libraries for Musicology Workshop (DLfM 2014), ACM/IEEE Digital Libraries Conference. London: City University. pp. 33-40.

Turner, S., Mansell, J., Scheer, C. and Cowgill, R.(2014) Pioneering Spirit: Maud MacCarthy - Music, Mysticism and Modernity [Show/Exhibition]


Cowgill, R (2012) ‘On the Beat: The Victorian Policeman as Musician’. In: Music and Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Farnham: Ashgate. pp. 221-246. ISBN 9781409405832

Cowgill, R (2012) ‘'Attitudes with a Shawl': Femininity, Performance, and Spectatorship at the Italian Opera in early nineteenth-century London’. In: The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 217-251. ISBN 9780195365870

Cowgill, R. and Poriss, H. (2012) The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century . New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195365870

Cowgill, R (2012) ‘Performance Alfresco: Music-Making in English Pleasure Gardens’. In: The Pleasure Garden: From Vauxhall to Coney Island. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 100-126. ISBN 9780812244380


Cowgill, R (2011) ‘Canonizing Remembrance: Music for Armistice Day at the BBC, 1922-7First World War Studies: Journal of the International Society for First World War Studies , 2 (1), pp. 75-107. ISSN 1947-5020


Cowgill, R., Cooper, D. and Brown, C. (2010) Art and Ideology in European Opera: Essays in Honour of Julian Rushton . Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 9781843835677

Cowgill, R (2010) ‘New Light and the Man of Might: Revisiting Early Interpretations of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte’. In: Art and Ideology in European Opera: Essays in Honour of Julian Rushton. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. pp. 194-221. ISBN 9781843835677

Cowgill, R (2010) ‘Of Science and Nature: Mozart versus the Modern Bel Canto in early nineteenth-century London’. In: Mozart, Marcos Portugal e o seu tempo [Mozart, Marcos Portugal and their Times]. Lisbon: Edições Colibri/Centro de Estudos da Sociologia e Estética Musica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa. pp. 35-51. ISBN 9789727729593


Cowgill, R (2009) ‘Barthelemon family; Burney, Charles; Crotch, William; Gardiner, William; Horn family; Latrobe, Christian Ignatius; Novello; Peploe, Mrs’. In: Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. . ISBN 9780199554522

Cowgill, R (2009) ‘Germondo and Vittorino: Genre and Politics in the London Reception of Goldoni's Libretti in the 1770sProblemi di Critica Goldoniana , 14, pp. 231-265. ISSN 1127-2570


Cowgill, R. and Dideriksen, G. (2008) ‘Opera Orchestras in Georgian and Early Victorian London’. In: The Opera Orchestra in 18th-and 19th-Century Europe: Vol. I The Orchestra in Society. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag. pp. 259-321. ISBN 9783830514879

Cowgill, R (2008) ‘'Such scientific and profound harmonies': The Italian Opera Orchestra and Early Performances of Mozart's Don Giovanni in London’. In: The Opera Orchestra in 18th-and 19th-Century Europe: Vol. II The Orchestra in the Theatre - Composers, Works, and Performance. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag. pp. 1-20. ISBN 9783830514886


Cowgill, R (2007) ‘Disputing Choruses in 1760s Halifax: Joah Bates, William Herschel, and the Messiah Club’. In: Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 87-113. ISBN 9780754631606

Cowgill, R. and Holman, P. (2007) Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914 . Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 9780754631606

Cowgill, R (2007) ‘Elgar's War Requiem’. In: Elgar and His World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 317-362. ISBN 9781400832101

Hewitt, M. and Cowgill, R. (2007) Victorian Soundscapes Revisited . Leeds Working Papers in Victorian Studies. Leeds: Leeds Trinity & All Saints/Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies/Leeds University Centre for English Music. ISBN 0954015983


Cowgill, R (2006) ‘'Hence, base intruder, hence': Rejection and Assimilation in the Early English Reception of Mozart's Requiem’. In: Europe, Empire, and Spectacle in Nineteenth-Century British Music. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 9-30. ISBN 9780754652083

Cowgill, R. and Rushton, J. (2006) Europe, Empire, and Spectacle in Nineteenth-Century British Music . Music in 19th-Century Britain. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 9780754652083

Cowgill, R (2006) ‘Mozart Productions and the Emergence of Werktreue at London's Italian Opera House, 1780-1830’. In: Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 145-186. ISBN 9780754650980

Cowgill, R (2006) ‘Callas, Maria; Female cross-dressing; Lang, k.d.; Opera; Opera queens; Sutherland, Joan’. In: The Routledge International Encyclopaedia of Queer Culture. London: Routledge. . ISBN 9780415306515

Butler, P., Cowgill, R., Duffy, C., Hand, R. and Price, D. (2006) ‘Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives on the British Library's Archival Sound Recordings ProjectPerformance Research , 11 (4), pp. 117-126. ISSN 1469-9990


Cowgill, R (2005) ‘The Cradle of Music in Ireland, review of Barra Boydell, A History of Music at Christ Church Cathedral, DublinEarly Music , 33 (3), pp. 514-515. ISSN 03061078


Cowgill, R (2004) ‘Billington, Elizabeth; Stephens, Catherine’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. . ISBN 9780198614111


Bashford, C., Cowgill, R. and McVeigh, S. (2003) ‘The Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century London Database Project’. In: Nineteenth-Century British Music Studies. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 1 -12. ISBN 9780754636144


Cowgill, R (2002) ‘Review of Brian Robins, The John Marsh Journals: The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer (1752-1828)Early Music , 30 (3), pp. 470-471. ISSN 0306-1078

Cowgill, R (2002) ‘The Business of Music in Late Georgian and Victorian HalifaxTransactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society , 10, pp. 77-95. ISSN 1351-5705

Cowgill, R (2002) ‘An Unknown Handel Arrangement by Mozart?: The Halifax JudasMusical Times , 143, pp. 19-36. ISSN 0027-4666


Cowgill, R (2001) ‘Braham, John; Catalani, Angelica; Corri family; Crouch, Anna Maria; Harrison family; Kelly, Michael; Linley family; Mara, Gertrud Elisabeth; Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus; Ries, Ferdinand; Singing’. In: An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture 1776-1832. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. . ISBN 9780199245437

Cowgill, R (2001) ‘Savage, Jane; Weichsel, Charles’. In: New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians. London, UK: Macmillan. . ISBN 9780333608005


Cowgill, R (2000) ‘'Wise Men from the East': Mozart's Operas and their Advocates in Early Nineteenth-Century London’. In: Music and British Culture, 1785-1914: Essays in Honour of Cyril Ehrlich. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 39-64. ISBN 9780198167303

Cowgill, R (2000) ‘The Papers of C.I. Latrobe: New Light on Musicians, Music, and the Christian Family in Late Eighteenth-Century England’. In: Music in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 234-258. ISBN 9781840146882

Cowgill, R (2000) ‘'The most musical spot for its size in the kingdom': Music in Georgian HalifaxEarly Music , 28 (4), pp. 557-575. ISSN 0306-1078


Cowgill, R (1999) ‘Burney, Charles; Opera, English’. In: The Reader's Guide to Music: History, Theory, Criticism. Chicago, USA: Fitzroy Dearborn/Routledge. . ISBN 9781579581435


Cowgill, R (1998) ‘The London Apollonicon Recitals, 1817-32: A Case Study in Bach, Mozart, and Haydn ReceptionJournal of the Royal Musical Association , 123 (2), pp. 190-228. ISSN 0269-0403

Cowgill, R (1998) ‘Re-Gendering the Libertine; or, The Taming of the Rake: Lucy Vestris as Don Giovanni on the Early Nineteenth-Century London StageCambridge Opera Journal , 10 (1), pp. 45-66. ISSN 0954-5867


Cowgill, R (1992) ‘Le nozzi di Figaro voor het voetlicht te London, 1786-1813Musica Antiqua , pp. 168-177.


Rachel is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS), of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), and of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She is a member of the AHRC Peer-Review College (Strategic Reviewer), an External Adviser to the Arts & Humanities Board of the Open University, and a member of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Rachel was a Vice-President of the Royal Musical Association (2012-17) and Chair of the National Association for Music in Higher Education (2013-16) – she continues as a member of the NAMHE Committee.

- Editorships

Rachel co-edits the book series ‘Music in Britain, 1600–2000’ with Byron Adams and Peter Holman for Boydell & Brewer, and was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 2007–12.

- Keynote Addresses and Plenaries

  • Keynote, Between the Chapel and the Tavern: Church Music and Musicians in Britain, 1660-1900, Canterbury Cathedral and Canterbury Christ Church University, 20-23 June 2017
  • Keynote, Music, Texts, Interpretations and Rituals: A Symposium, Monash University, Melbourne, 27 November 2015
  • Opening keynote, The Music of War: 1914–1918, British Library, 29–31 August 2014
  • Respondent to Music session, Internationalism and the Arts: Imagining the Cosmopolis at the Long fin de siècle, Tate Britain, September 2013
  • Plenary, ‘Burlesquing the Don on the Early Nineteenth-century London Stage’. Don Juan: Interdisciplinary Symposium, Open University Literature and Music Research Group, 23 September 2011
  • Music Keynote, ‘Performance Alfresco: Music-Making in London’s Pleasure Gardens, pre-1880’. Vauxhall Revisited: Pleasure Gardens and Their Publics, 1660–1880, Tate Britain (supported by the Paul Mellon Centre), July 2008
  • The Mason Lecture, ‘“Wild, capricious, and not always pleasing”: Mozart and Musical Genius in Late Eighteenth-Century England’. Thirty-First Annual Conference of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Queens’ College, Cambridge University, January 2002 

- Invited lectures (forthcoming and most recent)

  • 'Relations with the Enemy: E.J. Dent, Eaglefield Hull, Musical Internationalism, and the Politics of Postwar Recovery’. Hartley Research Residency, University of Southampton, March 2018
  • '"Tone Poems born of the World-Soul": John Foulds, Maud MacCarthy, and the Music of the Future'. Modernity and Esoteric Networks: Theosophy, Arts, Literature and Politics, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, and Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Kyoto, Japan, March 2017
  • '"We might now be living in the new Millennium": Cultural Diplomacy, Veterans’ Internationalism, and the Musical Rituals of Armistice Day in Britain, 1923–26'. Music, Nationalism and Transnationalism: Diplomacy, Politics, Aesthetics, 1918-1945, Royal Northern College of Music, 23-24 November 2016

- Visiting Fellowships (most recent)

  • Visiting Scholar in Musicology, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, 50th anniversary celebrations, Monash University (November 2015)
  • Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (2012)
  • Visiting Research Fellow at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California (Winter 2012–13)

- Appointments as External Examiner

  • PhD, University of Durham (2018)
  • PhD, University of Melbourne (2017)
  • PhD, University of Edinburgh (2017)
  • PhD, Royal Holloway (2008, 2014)
  • BMus, University of Glasgow (2012–13)
  • MMus Music, Royal Holloway, University of London (2012-15)
  • MA Music, Oxford Brookes University (2012–16)
  • PhD, King’s College, London (2012)
  • PhD, University of Liverpool (2011)
  • Master in Music, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (2010–15)
  • MA Music and Culture, Roehampton University, Dissertation module (2010)
  • PhD, National University of Ireland, Maynooth (2009, 2011) 
  • MPhil, Cambridge University (2008)
  • MA, University of Melbourne (2008)
  • MA Music (and MLitt (2008)), Newcastle University (2007–10)
  • MA Musicology, Cardiff University (2006–10)
  • BMus/BA Music, Roehampton University (2006–10)
  • MMus/MPhil dissertations, Academic External Examiner (SEA), Royal Northern College of Music (2006–11)
  • PhD, University of Manchester (2003, 2004)

- Media Appearances (most recent)

  • Consultant and participant, A Choral History of Britain (4-part series), BBC Radio 4, Autumn 2017
  • Participant expert, Who Do You Think You Are? Series 13 (Warwick Davis), BBC1, Winter 2016/17
  • Consultant and presenter (with Sara Mohr-Pietsch), ‘Tommy’s Tunes’, The Choir, BBC Radio 3, 29 June 2014
  • Series consultant, episode 3, Rule Britannia! Music, Mischief & Morals in the 18th Century, BBC FOUR, 21 April 2014
  • Newspaper reviewer: ‘Good Morning, Wales’, BBC Radio Wales, 8 February and 27 June 2014
  • Participant: Pack up Your Troubles, BBC Wales Today, 2 February 2014
  • Participant: About the Boys, BBC Radio 4, 31 December 2013
  • Interview (live) on prima donnas and divas, Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, 26 September 2012
  • Participant: Wandering Minstrels, BBC Radio 3, 18 August 2012
  • Participant: Emma Hamilton's iPod, BBC Radio 4, 11 December 2010  
  • Participant: Chopin: The Women Behind The Music, BBC FOUR, 15-17 October 2010   

- Memberships

  • Associate of Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies (invited)
  • Society for Theatre Research
  • International Society for Music Education
  • Royal Musical Association
  • International Musicological Society
  • American Musicological Society
  • British Association for Victorian Studies
  • Northern Nineteenth-Century Network
  • Northern Opera Research Network
  • North-American British Music Studies Association

Research Degree Supervision

Rachel has supervised and co-supervised a number of research degrees to completion, including dissertations on:

  •  music in Victorian town halls (Dr Rachel Milestone)
  •  the composer Henry Rowley Bishop (Dr Ann Royle, AHRC)
  •  the audio-engineer in Jamaican popular music (Dr Ray Hitchins)
  •  DIY music as queer feminist resistance (Dr Julia Downes, ESRC)
  •  tonic sol-fa in nineteenth-century Britain (Sarah Taylor, MPhil)
  •  women, agency and the soundtrack in RKO Radio Picture crime films, 1939–50 (Dr Catherine Haworth)
  •  two AHRC-funded CDA projects with Dr Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds) and Opera North – the poetics of the opera libretto (practice-led, Dr Adam Strickson) and Opera North and the access agenda in action (Dr Jennifer Daniel)
  •  two MA by Research: Richard Fox (music and identity in Delius’s Koanga) and Ian Parr (twentieth-century operatic adaptations of Macbeth)

Rachel supervises Clare Wheat in a PhD on performance practice in British light opera, operetta and musical comedy, and Richard Piatak in a PhD on the soundtracks of Derek Jarman’s films. Rachel has contributed to the Oxford University Digital Humanities Summer School, and panels and training sessions at the Royal Musical Association Research Students Conference and at the Institute of Musical Research, University of London. With Dr Lisa Colton (University of Huddersfield) and Prof. Jo Wainwright (University of York) she devised and coordinated the AHRC-funded Music Archival Research Skills programme in 2005–07. 

Rachel is a member of the Academy for British and Irish Studies, and was co-founder of the Northern Opera Research Network (NORN) with Dr Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds) and Dr Sarah Hibberd (University of Nottingham).  

Rachel would like to hear from potential research/graduate students particularly with interests in opera studies, music and conflict commemoration, and British music and musical cultures. 

Enterprise Activities

Professor Cowgill appears regularly on TV and radio, and has provided programme notes, lectures and/or preconcert talks for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Leeds International Concert Series, London Handel Festival, London Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the National Portrait Gallery, Opera North, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Southbank Centre, Welsh National Opera, Music in the Round, The Three Choirs Festival, Huddersfield Choral Society and Halifax Choral Society. Most recently, with members of the Enchanted Modernities Leverhulme International Research Network, she has co-curated the exhibition Pioneering Spirit: Maud MacCarthy – Music, Mysticism and Modernity, Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York, 7 February – 9 May 2014 (online at http://hoaportal.york.ac.uk/hoaportal/pioneering-spirit.jsp) and authored exhibition text to accompany prints from Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Thought-Forms (1901), as part of Enchanted Modernities: Mysticism, Landscape and the American West, Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Utah State University, USA, 16 April – 10 December 2014 

Administrative Responsibilities

Head of Department of Music and Drama, and member of the University Teaching and Learning Committee.

Teaching and Professional Activities

Music on Stage: Opera and Musical Theatre from Orfeo to Matilda

Music, Gender and Identity (team-taught)

Undergraduate Dissertations

Masters thesis and PhD supervision