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Leather trousers and leopard skin waistcoats: missing objects and endangered material knowledge in the Kalahari (WINGFIELDCU19cdpSMACBM)

University of East Anglia

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,559
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 25th March 2019
Closes: 3rd May 2019

No. of positions available: 1

Hours: Full time/Part time

Contract: Temporary


Dr Chris Wingfield (Sainsbury Research Unit, UEA) -
Professor Ceri Ashley (British Museum) -

Project description:

The focus of this PhD is the processing of leather and fur in the Kalahari region of southern Africa, and the ways in which this has been transformed over the past two centuries. Contemporary methods of craft production will be used to better understand the making and use of historic objects in the British Museum’s collections. The project will also involve archival research on objects such as leather trousers and leopard skin waistcoats, recorded in historic accounts but absent from museum collections.

This PhD would contribute an important strand to the umbrella project, Re-collecting the Missionary Road (, initiated in 2017. This seeks to re-collect and re-assemble a wide range of artefacts associated with the missionary road, a series of mission stations that extended into the interior of the Africa continent from the turn of the nineteenth century.

Research questions include:

  • How closely do contemporary modes of craft leather processing relate to examples in historic collections?
  • To what degree did leather production, already a focus for precolonial trading networks, become re- oriented towards the European market?
  • What was the impact of new hunting technologies such as guns and horses?
  • How did the production of leather clothing respond to missionary endorsed forms of dress?
  • Was the technology of leather production impacted by contact with European modes of tanning, including the preparation of skins for taxidermy by natural history collectors (such as William Burchell & Andrew Smith)?

Scope for Moulding Project

The intention of this project is that it could be undertaken by students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds across the humanities, including Archaeology, Anthropology, History, or Conservation Science. Depending on the background and experience of the successful student, we anticipate that different approaches to the research may become more or less prominent.

For further information, see:

Person Specification:

Acceptable first degree - History, Geography, History of Science, History of Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Education, Cultural Studies. The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1. Masters or equivalent experience in a professional setting.

Funding notes: 

This studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) via a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Award between the British Museum and the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU), University of East Anglia. The studentship is funded for 3 years (full-time) and pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home/EU rate for PhD degrees as well as full maintenance for UK citizens and residents only. The value of the maintenance stipend is around £15,559. The successful candidate will also have access to the Student Development Fund which allows an extension of up to 6 months to undertake related placements and training.

The British Museum will provide an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project worth up to £1,000 per year for three years, and the Sainsbury Research Unit will provide £2,000 in research support funds and £500 in conference support funds over the course of the studentship.

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