Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I welcome enquiries from students interested in developing research projects on sixteenth- or seventeenth-century music, especially in relation to politics, theatre and pageantry, gender, ballads and pre-modern popular music-making, manuscripts and early printing, mythology and literature, or science, medicine and natural philosophy.

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Personal profile


Katherine Butler is a music historian with particular interests in the musical culture of England, c.1550-1800. 

Katherine studied at The Queen’s College, University of Oxford and then took her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London. After teaching for the Open University and working on the Early Music Online digitisation project (, she returned to Oxford in 2011 to take up a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She remained in Oxford as a researcher for the AHRC-funded Tudor Partbooks project ( before moving to the University of Leeds to manage an OfS-funded project across five institutions, focused on improving progression to postgraduate taught study among BAME students and those from areas with low rates of participation in higher education (

Katherine joined Northumbria University as a senior lecturer in January 2019.

She is now an Associate Professor and currently subject lead for Music,  Programme Leader for the BA, and Faculty Director of Access and Participation for ADSS. She is also an editor for the journal Music & Letters, on the advistory board for Renaissance Quarterly,  on the music committee for Newcastle Lit&Phil and a trustee for North Tyneside Music Opporunities for Young People.

Research interests

My research focuses on the musical culture of England  c.1550-1800 and encompasses a wide range of themes including court music, civic pageantry, ballads and popular song, social and community music-making, gender, death songs and elegies, music philosophy, mythology, manuscript studies, and early music printing.

My first book explored the political uses of music at the court of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). I reconstructed the significance of musical performances ranging from grand court pageantry to intimate music-making in the royal household to understand both the importance of music in Elizabeth’s royal image and how performances might be manipulated by courtiers and the nobility for their own ends. An off-shoot of this project also considered how cheaply printed and orally circulated songs for celebrating the Queen’s Accession Day shaped her image among the broader populace, and the extent to which these were official propaganda, opportunistic commercial exploitation, or genuine expressions of affection.

My second major project used myths and stories as windows onto musical thought in early modern England. Particularly fascinating was the how the increasing influence of empirical and experimental philosophy altered the reception of traditional stories about the powers of music, which opened up my interests in music’s place in early modern science and medicine.

Working on the Tudor Partbooks project provided an opportunity to develop skills in the digitisation reconstruction of damaged manuscripts and to pursue my interests in manuscript culture and early music printing. My extensive study of the only complete manuscript source of Protestant service music from the early years of the Elizabeth I’s reign (the ‘Hamond’ partbooks), shed light on liturgical practices and the training of boy choristers in this second phase of the Reformation, as well as music-making in Protestant households.

My current research interests are twofold: firstly, understanding the diverse social functions of rounds and catches - polyphonic songs that straddled oral and literate culture - c.1550-1700 and experimenting with reviving social catch-singing through Pop Up Community Catch Clubs; secondly exploring the musical networks of Newcastle musican and dancing-master Abraham Mackintosh, c.1800.

Education/Academic qualification

Music, PhD, Royal Holloway University of London

Award Date: 1 Jul 2011

Music, MA, MSt Music (Musicology, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jul 2007

Music, BA (Hons), Music, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jul 2006


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