Samuel Cheney

Thesis title: "Sounds Exotic": British Perceptions and Representations of Chinese Musicality, 1793 - 1939


BA History, University of Oxford (2015 - 2018)

MPhil History, University of Oxford (2018 - 2020)

PhD History, University of Edinburgh (2020 - 2024)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Visiting Graduate Researcher - University of California, Los Angeles (Department of Ethnomusicology), Spring 2023

Undergraduate teaching

I have previously tutored on the following undergraduate courses in history:

  • Introduction to Historiography
  • Early Modern History: A Connected World
  • The History of Edinburgh: From Dun Eidyn to Festival City
  • Themes in Modern European History
  • Historian's Toolkit

I have also tutored the following undergraduate courses in music:

  • Topics in Popular Music


Research summary

"Sounds Exotic": British Perceptions and Representations of Chinese Musicality, 1793 - 1939

My PhD research analyses Sino-British cultural interactions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from the perspective of music and sound. It examines British interactions with the musics of China, and the multiple contrasting roles and functions performed by Chinese music across the British imperial world. It also examines how British musicians and composers communicated their perceptions of Chinese civilisation through various musical forms.

Current research interests

Sino-British Relations; Histories of the Senses; Global Music History; Chinese Music in Global Contexts; Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Music History

Current project grants

Scottish Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Award (2020 - 2024)


Co-Convener, Edinburgh Centre for Global History Graduate Workshop (Seminar Series: 2022 - 2023)

Co-Founder and Co-Convenor, Theoretically History: Theory, Methods, and Analysis for History-Adjacent Research (Workshop Series: 2023 - 2024)

Papers delivered

  • Composing the Concessions: Musical Responses of British Migration to China, c. 1860 – c. 1920 – Music, Knowledge, and Global Migration, ca. 1700 – 1900, University of California, Berkeley (April 2024).
  • From “Strangeness” to “Reverence”: Musical Authenticity and the Construction of a Chinese Christian Hymnody in Late-Qing China – Negotiating Authenticity in the Musics of China: Transcultural Perspectives, CHIME (Chinese Music Europe), University of Heidelberg (October 2023).
  • China and the Modern in British Art Music, 1900 – 1930 – Royal Musical Association Annual Conference, University of Nottingham (September 2023).
  • From Wearied Ears to Maddened Brains: Aural Discomfort as Epistemological Disruption in British Travel Writing on China, c. 1860 – c. 1920 – Borders and Crossings: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Travel Writing, University of Łódź (July 2023).
  • A ‘Sense of Strange Sadness’: Modernity, Nostalgia, and Chinese Sounds in Early Twentieth-Century Britain” – Sounding Modernism Conference, King’s College London (June 2023).
  • “A Touch of the Real Chinese Character”: Hearing Racial Difference in Late-Nineteenth Century Descriptions of Chinese Music – Cambridge Cultural History Workshop, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (October 2022).
  • Listening to Empire, Hearing Race: Music and Sound in British Travel Writing from China, c. 1860 – c. 1920 – London Nineteenth Century Studies Graduate Conference 2023: Home and Away in the Long Nineteenth Century, Institute of English Studies, University of London (February 2023).
  • “Exhausting the Ears”: Aural Discomfort as Epistemological Disruption in British Travel Writing on China, c. 1860 – c. 1920 – Postcolonial Faultlines Online Conference, Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee (October 2022)
  • “The Discordant Roar of the Multitude”: Sonic Encounters with China in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Travel Writing – Graduate Seminar in Global History, University of Edinburgh (May 2022)