Concert Life in 19th-Century London
Database and Research Project


Drawing of a meeting of The Madrigal Society from Illustrated London News, 24 January 1846.Our methodology is based on a technique called ‘slice history’, which was developed by a group of Australian social historians and involves the deepest possible investigation of one-year slices of history, a generation apart [Ref].

For this project our ‘slice’ years are 1815, 1835, 1855, 1875, and 1895, which were deliberately chosen to ‘stand for’ their respective decades. Different issues emerged in our selection and treatment of the sources for each of these years, however, principally because of the explosion in print culture. So while at the beginning of the century it was possible to index the principal surviving newspapers, by the end of the period, we had to be far more selective and abandon ideas of comprehensive coverage.

Sources consulted were as follows:


Morning Chronicle; Times; Morning Herald; Morning Post; Sun; programmes of the Concerts of Ancient Music


Times; Sunday Times; Morning Post; Morning Chronicle; Court Journal; Atlas; Spectator; programmes of the Concerts of Ancient Music; Musical Magazine; Athenaeum; Morning Herald


Musical Directory; Musical World; Morning Chronicle; Daily News


Musical World; Musical Directory; Daily Telegraph


Musical Directory; Daily Telegraph; Athenaeum

Definitions of what constituted a concert, and indeed what constituted London, at each point in the century are somewhat blurred. Some examples will serve to demonstrate this. Our working definition of a concert has been:Drawing of child prodigy Henri Ketten, 1859

any event featuring a musical performance by one or more performers, and taking place before an audience, but excluding complete dramatic performances involving scenery, costume, acting and stage machinery – operas, ballets, and so on.

We also have made a policy only to include performances that were a matter of public record. For more on issues of definition and for a detailed account of the database’s conceptual design click here [link to book article as pdf]. In Phase I we erred on the side of inclusiveness on the grounds that it was easier to capture and discard an event than to attempt to recapture it at a later stage.

Contact Details:
Professor Rachel Cowgill