Dolly MacKinnon (2012, 2016)
The University of Queensland

Soundscapes of Emotion: Bell Ringing in England c.1500–c.1800

 This project analyses church bells as an evocative auditory symbol of rural and urban England.

Chelmsford Cathedral, Essex 10th December 2013-resize.jpg

Image: Chelmsford Cathedral, Essex, 10 December 2013. (c) Dolly MacKinnon.

This project analyses church bells as an evocative auditory symbol of rural and urban England. The sounds of bells are redolent of earlier centuries when bell ringing was a ubiquitous national practice. England’s bells were silenced during the Second World War. They were only fleetingly resurrected during the during the national millennium celebrations of 2000.

Today our ears struggle to grasp the complexity, subtlety and meaning of these nuanced sounds in a changing English soundscape between c.1500 and 1800.

This project redresses this by analysing the sounds of emotions, gender and identity. It traces of those sounds of cultural time, waxing and waning, in early modern parishes, across the English landscape.


‘“The Bell, like a speedy messenger, runs from house to house, and ear to ear”’: the auditory markers of gender, politics and identity in England, 1500–1700’. In Sound, Space and Civility in the British World, 1700–1850, edited by B. Buchan, P. Denney and K. Crawley, pp. 65–84. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

‘“[D]id ringe at oure parish churche... for joye that the Queene of Skotts . was beheaded”: Public performances of early modern English emotions’. In Performing Emotions in Early Europe, edited by edited by P. Maddern†, J. McEwan and A. M. Scott, 169–81. Turnhout: Brepols, 2018. 

‘The Ceremony of Tolling the Bell at the Time of Death’: Bell-ringing and Mourning in England c.1500–c.1700’. In Music and Mourning: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by J. W. Davidson and S. Garrido, pp. 31–39. Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Ashgate, 2016.  

‘“Jangled the Belles, and with fearefull outcry, raysed the secure Inhabitants”: Emotion, memory and storm surges in the early modern East Anglian Landscape’. In Disaster, Death and the Emotions, History of Emotions Series, edited by J. Spinks and C. Zika, pp. 157–75. London and New York: Palgrave, 2016.

‘“Ringing of the Bells by Four White Spirits”: Two seventeenth-century English earwitness accounts of the supernatural in print culture’. In Religion, the Supernatural and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe, Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, edited by J. Spinks and D. Eichberger, pp. 82–103. Leiden: Brill, 2015.