AHRC-Funded PhD Studentship in History with Northumbria University and the National Railway Museum, York

Northumbria University

Duration: 1st October 2018 – 30th September 2022
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Application deadline: 1st June 2018

Northumbria University is seeking PhD applicants for an AHRC Funded Collaborative PhD opportunity between the Department of the Humanities and the National Railway Museum, York.

This PhD will address questions such as: How did the construction of railways help produce Britain’s modern uplands? How should we write the social, cultural, and environmental history of upland railways and the development of the settlements and industries that they encouraged? How has the environmental legacy of these railways been treated, particularly when they are located within National Parks?

The focus will be on the Dartmoor upland around Princetown, which was connected by rail to the port city of Plymouth in the 1820s. The railway catalysed the development of the area’s granite quarrying industry, bringing workers and their families to the area. The railway was also used to help make the case for developing the abandoned Prisoner of War depot into a convict prison in the 1850s. This process took a further step forward in the 1880s, when the railway was integrated into the Great Western Railway. In this way, the railway helped make this isolated and marginal agricultural landscape easily accessible and the concern of both the state and industry long before it was designated a part of Dartmoor National Park in 1951. Since the railway’s closure in 1956, the trackway has been maintained by the park authority as a footpath. The traces left by the Princetown railway provide rich evidence of Dartmoor’s past industrial life and its current post-industrial condition. By helping to establish how the life and afterlife of the Princetown railway was an agent of social, cultural, and environmental change, the PhD researcher will consider how the lifecycle of upland railways helps produce new rural landscapes.

This PhD opportunity comes at an exciting time in the development of the National Railway Museum, York (NRM). The NRM is currently developing its new Masterplan and the successful applicant will have the opportunity to participate in the radical overhaul of the Museum’s offering.

This PhD research is ideally suited to a historian who wishes to combine archival research with a desire to develop an intimate knowledge of an iconic landscape on foot.

The funding is for 42 months, with a start on 1 October 2018 (ending 30 September 2022). It covers UK/EU tuition fees and includes a full maintenance grant. The student will be based at Northumbria University with periods of work at the National Railway Museum, York.


For further details about the project and how it might be approached, please contact Prof. Matthew Kelly (matthew.j.kelly@northumbria.ac.uk). The supervisory team also includes Anthony Coulls and Oliver Betts (National Railway Museum) and Joseph Hardwick (Northumbria).

Applicants should hold a 2.1 undergraduate degree as well as have, or expect to obtain, a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. They should also meet AHRC eligibility criteria for this type of funding: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/skills/phdstudents/fundingandtraining/training-grantsand-training-grant-funding-guides/.

Applications should include: a curriculum vitae (no more than 2 sides of A4, including the names and contact details of two referees who have agreed to write on the applicant's behalf); a sample of writing (up to 4,000 words); and a covering letter including a 500-word statement outlining a possible approach to the above project. Please send application materials to matthew.j.kelly@northumbria.ac.uk by 1 June 2018.

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