Sarah Oliver

Thesis Title: A Preacher’s Handbook: Song and Intellectual Culture in the English Miscellany London British Library Arundel MS 248 



Sarah transferred to the University of Liverpool Music Department in 2022 having completed four years of part-time PhD study at the University of Huddersfield under the supervision of Professor Lisa Colton.  

A music graduate of Christ Church, Oxford in the mid-1990s, she combines her doctoral research with a full-time teaching role as Head of Sixth Form Academic Music at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. 

Sarah’s PhD thesis focuses on a single thirteenth-century manuscript, GB-Lbl Arundel MS 248, a collection of Latin theological texts, sermons, verse, and mnemonic aids useful to a preacher in communicating to the laity in the wake of reforms in pastoral care brought about by the  Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Her research has placed this manuscript at the Cistercian Abbey at Kirkstall at the point of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. 

The fifteen songs in the manuscript reflect the three literary languages of Medieval English culture: Latin, English and Anglo-Norman. There are examples of both double-texted songs and contrafacta, as well as unica, several of these presenting intriguing wider connections to lyric song and chant found in other British and continental sources. 

Sarah’s central research questions focus on exploring connections between the apparently miscellaneous contents of the manuscript and how these shape our understanding of the function of medieval para-liturgical song, as well as what the contents and inscriptions in the manuscript tell us about the book’s owners and users, both in the Medieval period and after the dissolution of the monasteries. 

Teaching and Learning: 

Sarah has over twenty years’ experience as a full-time teacher in secondary music education, including two head of department posts in state comprehensive schools between 2001 and 2007 

Since 2007 she has been Head of Sixth Form Academic Music at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester (a specialist 8-18 school) where she has also run academic music outreach programmes and study days for sixth form music students. 

Sarah is also part of ABRSM’s presenter team, delivering INSET to music educators on all aspects of music exams, as well as being a grade examiner for ABRSM, both in the UK and overseas. 

Conference Papers:

“A Preacher’s Handbook: New Perspectives on the Users and Owners of London British Library, Arundel MS 248”. Medieval and Renaissance Conference 2022. University of Uppsala, 4-7 July 2022. 

Clerks and Chaplains: Christus Vincit in the court of Henry III”. Medieval and Renaissance Conference 2020. University of Edinburgh (online), 1-4 July 2020. 


Oliver, Sarah. (2023) [accepted chapter] Latin Song in a Thirteenth-Century Miscellany: London British Library Arundel MS 248”. In Latin Song in the Medieval World, edited by Mary Channen Caldwell and Anne-Zoé Rillon-Marne. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. 

Awards: Musica Britannica Trust Research Award 2019. 


  • Musical interpolations in thirteenth-century miscellanies 
  • Song in medieval sermon manuscripts 
  • Connections between song, preaching and pastoral care in medieval England 
  • Music and cultures of knowledge in Henry III’s England 
  • Medieval book history 

Supervisors: Professor Lisa Colton and Dr Martin Heale (Reader in late medieval history)