Current research activity

The cultural history of music in industrial society; music and conflict; music and philanthropy; musical entrepreneurship; nineteenth-century music; early Victorian Manchester; nineteenth-century British flute music and culture; music in Manchester during World War I; history of the humanities; military music.

PhD Research Project: Musical Networks in early Victorian Manchester (supported by the AHRC NWCDTP)

I investigated musical life in early Victorian Manchester, identifying what musical activities were taking place, who was taking part in such activities, and how this related to the changing structures of industrial society.  I undertook this PhD project at the RNCM, supported by an AHRC Studentship from the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership.

Contributions to Research Networks / Other Research Projects

Invited participant, AHRC International Research Network, ‘Mapping Music History’

Invited participant, History of the Humanities Research Network (University of Manchester / Amsterdam)

Invited participant, ERC-funded ‘Music in London 1800–1851’ (led by Roger Parker, KCL)

Invited participant, AHRC-funded ‘Making Music in Manchester during WW1’ (led by Barbara Kelly, RNCM)

Member of the Sonic Cultures Research Network (Manchester University / MMU)


Book Chapter (invited chapter): ‘From Conflict to Comradeship: British Army Bands and the British Army of the Rhine’, in Music and Conflict: The Politics and Escapism of Wartime Culture (part of the IAGMR/Routledge book series Rethinking Austrian and German Music, in preparation for 2024) 

Journal Article (invited contribution to special issue, in preparation): Rachel Johnson, ‘The Manchester Mechanics’ Institution and the Echoes of Peterloo’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (forthcoming Autumn 2024) 

Monograph: Rachel Johnson, Music and the Creation of Social Identity during the Industrial Revolution: Manchester, 1819-1857 (under contract with Routledge for the book series Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain, in preparation for 2024)

Book Chapter: Rachel Johnson, '"So Wide is the Field": Edward Taylor's Public Music Lectures', in Christopher Dromey, ed. The Routledge Companion to Applied Musicology, Routledge (2023), 130-140.

Journal Article: Rachel Johnson, ‘The Agency of Music in Industrial Society: A Comparative Study of the Royal Manchester Institution, Manchester Athenaeum and Manchester Mechanics’ Institution, 1834–1860’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 27/1 (January 2022), 97– 119

PhD dissertation: Rachel Johnson, "Musical Networks in Early Victorian Manchester", PhD diss., Awarded for a Collaborative Programme of Research at the Royal Northern College of Music by Manchester Metropolitan University, 2020.  

Journal Article: Rachel Johnson, ‘Reading Between the Lines: George Smart’s Annotated Programmes for Manchester’s 1836 Grand Musical Festival’, British Library Journal (2018),  

Journal Review: Rachel Johnson, ‘John Carnelly, George Smart and Nineteenth-Century London Concert Life’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 15/1 (April 2018), 96–99 

Selected research events:

Paper - ‘From Conflict to Comradeship: British Army Bands and the British Army of the Rhine’, IAGMR Conference 2023 Music and Conflict: The Politics and Escapism of Wartime Culture, 20 May 2023

Invited Paper - ‘Manchester, 1819: Music, Ideology and the Peterloo Massacre’, MMU long nineteenth century seminar, 18 November 2021

Invited Paper - ‘Music in Crisis: British Army Bands and Modern Conflict’, RNCM Research Forum, 17 November 2021

Invited Panellist - ‘Music, Environment and Social Change’, Festival of Social Science, 15 November 2021

Research Forum Roundtable - The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo, with Prof. Emily Howard (composer RNCM), Prof. Michael Symmons Robert (librettist, MMU) and Prof. David de Roure (Oxford), RNCM, January 2020

Paper - Music at Manchester's Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, Royal Musical Association Conference, Manchester 2019

Paper - The Hargreaves Choral Society's Programme Notes, Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain Conference, Canterbury, 2019

Paper - Reading between the Lines: George Smart's annotated programmes for Manchester's Grand Musical Festival of 1836, NetMatNW Workshop 'Distinctive Networks: Taste in the Archives', RNCM, May 2019

Paper - Music and Identity in early Victorian Manchester, RNCM, May 2019

Invited Paper - Manchester, 1819: Music, Ideology and the Peterloo Massacre, invited paper, British Music and Ideology Symposium, Institute for Musical Research, London, May 2019

Invited Paper - Music Lecturing in early nineteenth-century Manchester, The Making of the Humanities Conference, Oxford, September 2017

Paper - Musical Entrepreneurship in Early-Victorian Manchester, Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain Conference, Birmingham, June 2017

Paper - The contested roles of music in the institutions of early-nineteenth-century Manchester, Music & Politics Conference, KCL, May 2017

Paper - Musical Entrepreneurship in Early-Victorian Manchester, Musical Cultures Conference, Hull, April 2017

Paper - Networks of musical sociability: Manchester's Madrigal Society, Gentlemen's Glee Club, and Amateur Glee and Catch Club, RMA Research Student Conference, Canterbury, January 2017

Lecture Series - Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Glossop Guild, November/December 2016

Paper - Miltary Music and Manchester's Great War, RNCM Music in Manchester during WW1 Study Day, Manchester Histories Festival 2016

Paper - Materialities, Music and the 'Manchester Man', Material Cultures/Material Worlds conference, Nineteenth Century Studies Association, Boston, March 2015

Paper - Networks of musical provision in the Institutions of early-Victorian Manchester, RMA and Lucem Study Day on Amateur Music-Making in the British Provinces, University of Leeds, 18 June 2014

Paper - The Hargreaves Choral Society 1841-49, RNCM Research Student Symposium, 14 May 2014

Paper - 'Musical transformations of the public sphere in newly-industrialised Manchester', Joint RMA/BFE Study Day on Music and the Public Sphere, Manchester University, 11 April 2014

Paper - 'Musical Publics in Early-Victorian Manchester', Panel on Sport and Leisure History in Manchester, Manchester Histories Festival 2014

Paper - 'Music at the Manchester Mechanics' Institution', RMA Research Student Conference, January 2014

Paper - 'Reading between the lines: Sir George Smart's annotated programmes for the 1836 Manchester Musical Festival', RNCM Research Student Symposium 2013