Our Collaborative Doctoral Awards allow you to contribute to the development of a research project that has already been outlined by a team of established researchers within our consortium and partner organisations.

Each CDA includes provision for specific skills training to support the research to be undertaken, and also for employability enhancement opportunities within and beyond academia. Your research proposal should explain the direction you propose to take the project, the expertise you bring to the project, and the particular career development opportunities you are most interested in capitalising upon.

Outlines of each of the CDA projects can be found below.

For more information on the CDA application process, please read the SWW DTP2 Guidance for Applicants 2021-2022 and SWW-DTP2-Application-FAQs-2021-22 documents.

Applications for entry in September 2022 have now closed.


Professor Vike Martina Plock, University of Exter, v.plock@exeter.ac.uk

Professor Simon Potter, University of Bristol, simon.potter@bristol.ac.uk

Robert Seatter, BBC, robert.seatter@bbc.co.uk


Using an extensive amount of previously unexamined archival holdings in the BBC Written Archives Centre, the British Library’s Radio Broadcast Recording Collection and the BBC’s Monitoring Archive, the CDA will investigate how BBC German-language programmes were used to project positive images of Britain in post-war Germany. When the war in Europe ended in 1945, the BBC German Service already had a dedicated following among listeners who had turned to the British broadcaster for accurate information about current events that had been deliberately distorted by Nazi media outlets. As new political alliances were forged on the European continent and Britain entered a period of imperial decline, the BBC became an important instrument through which the country wielded soft power abroad. Examining surviving recordings, programme scripts, staff files, newspaper articles, governmental directives and other historical documents, the CDA will be the first study to analyse how the BBC’s German-language programmes presented democratic Britain as a role model for designing a new, non-militaristic German nation in the post-war period. Britain’s recent exit from the European Union and the country’s efforts to re-position itself in a rapidly changing global economy make this research extremely timely. Commencing in the year of the BBC’s centenary, the CDA will allow the doctoral researcher to develop specialist knowledge relevant for academics, heritage institutions, policy makers and the general public.

Research Questions and Methods:

Research questions cluster around a series of issues relating to transnational broadcasting, Anglo-German relations, media history and European political history, but will be shaped by the interests and research expertise of the postgraduate research in consultation with supervisors. They might include: – How did the BBC interpret governmental requests to become an agent of cultural diplomacy and use its programmes to boost Britain’s cultural standing in post-war Germany? – What were the programmes designed to cement Britain’s leadership role within post-war Europe and who were the people chosen to address listeners in post-war Germany? – What can these attempts to influence opinions abroad tell us about the role that the BBC played within European politics in the post-war period? – What are the lessons to be learned from historical precedents for a post-Brexit Britain aiming to redefine its role in Europe through the projection of “Global Britain” today?


Between them, members of the supervision team cover all areas relevant to this cross-disciplinary project. Professor Vike Martina Plock (Exeter) has published a monograph on the BBC German Service during the Second World War that was supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. Professor Simon Potter (Bristol) has published books on global news flows, the BBC and empire and on British broadcasting and internationalist thinking, and he has led a Leverhulme international research network on global radio history. Both HEI supervisors have worked extensively with the UK National Archives, the BBC Written Archives Centre and other radio-related archives around the world. Both have a track record of supervising PhDs to completion and have previously acted successfully as co-supervisors for a SWW DTP-funded PhD student working on the BBC. Further subject expertise is provided by the Non-HEI supervisor Robert Seatter, who is—in his role as Head of BBC History—ideally placed to create a dialogue between the academic side of the project and current BBC priorities. Leading on commissioning, managing and co-ordinating the wider interpretation of BBC history, his role on the supervisory team is central in facilitating access to further training opportunities and to other divisions within the BBC.




Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley, University of Southampton c.l.riley@soton.ac.uk

Dr Stacey Hynd, University of Exeter s.hynd@exeter.ac.uk

Dr Kerrie Holloway, The Overseas Development Institute k.holloway@odi.org.uk

This project contributes to the decolonising of knowledge around overseas aid and development. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) seeks to explore and understand its own history, having been established as an international development-focused think tank in 1960 during the decolonisation of the British Empire. Sixty years on, the international development sector is ever increasing in size, with its actions highly contested: lauded by some as a crucial source of redistributive justice, but criticised by others as a damaging form of neo-colonialism that perpetuates the very structures of global inequality that it protests. This project will not be an institutional history of ODI, but a critical reappraisal of the foundation, functioning and impact of the institution, using this case study to explore shifting ideas and practices of development, and the racialized structures of power that underpin it.

This PhD will make a major contribution to decolonising structures of knowledge about development and the functioning of the development industry. It will be based across the History departments at the University of Southampton and University of Exeter and the ODI in London.

There is significant scope for applicants to adapt the proposal to suit their individual skills and interests: – The project is adaptable to different (inter-)disciplinary backgrounds, particularly History, Development Studies, Politics, Sociology and Anthropology. – The PhD’s specific thematic and methodological focus will be guided by the student’s preferences and skills. Potential topics include: economic development knowledge and the ODI Economic Fellowship scheme; professionalization of development and social networks; agricultural development; women and gender in development; global cooperation, or a regional/country case study approach. – Alternative formats for thesis submission can be agreed to suit the project focus and researcher’s career aims, potentially incorporating archival, digital or policy-facing outputs for those interested in research and/or development sector careers. Options include producing briefing papers on how to pursue decolonizing knowledge initiatives for NGOs, or developing a digital repository of ODI papers or oral interviews, as part of the thesis.

Research Questions and Methods:

Three core critical/conceptual research questions underpin this project.

• What is the relationship between decolonisation as a process and development as a practice/industry?

• What forms of knowledge have underpinned the evolution of development policy and practice, and how have these shaped the structures of power and forms of difference that undergird (and inhibit) global development?

• How can development organisations engage in the decolonizing of their practice Academic training will be provided by Southampton and Exeter, in addition to SWW DTP training and development.

ODI will provide access to current and former employees for oral history. It will provide a workspace for the student at their headquarters in central London, allowing the student to directly engage with the organisation and interact with current employees. The digital communications team at ODI and Exeter Digital Humanities Lab can provide training to the student on creating an open-access digital repository, and ODI will give the student public impact and engagement training and opportunities. The combination of academic and non-HEI training will prepare the student for careers in academic, development/NGO, and archive sectors.



Dr Jaclyn Granick, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, granickj@cardiff.ac.uk

Professor Tony Kushner, Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations and History Department, University of Southampton, A.R.Kushner@soton.ac.uk

Dr Jenny Carson, Holocaust Educational Trust, jenny.carson@het.org.uk


British Jews have a long history of overseas humanitarianism and supporting Jewish migrants and refugees to Britain, but this is only recently being recognised and analysed in the scholarly community. The student would undertake a history of 20thc British Jewish humanitarianism with the Holocaust as its core, exploring its antecedents and marginality in British memory thereafter. The project aims to connect the efforts of the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF) and the Chief Rabbi’s Religious Emergency Council (CRREC) to (1) elite, liberal traditions of British Jewish activism predating the 1905 Aliens Act, including those of Zionism, migration, and agricultural colonies (2) Jewish intra-communal tensions along the Orthodox/Progressive divide, class, immigration history, and gender roles (3) other Jewish and British traditions of humanitarian activism, intimately connected to war and empire (4) the status of British Jewish humanitarianism post 1945, including CBF’s evolution into World Jewish Relief.

The British Jewish humanitarian tradition is neither a focus of current research on humanitarianism nor a part of British Holocaust consciousness. Conversely, British Jews have yet to be integrated into the narrative of 20th century transnational Jewish activism. This project will contribute to research on British Holocaust consciousness, humanitarianism, British Jewish history, and Jewish international activism. Reframing discussions of Jewish agency in humanitarian assistance is timely given the 2023 Kindertransport anniversary and the 2025 UK Holocaust Memorial opening.


Research Questions

Why is the British Jewish humanitarian tradition neither a focus of research, nor a part of Holocaust memory culture outside of the specific, romanticised story of the Kindertransport?

Were the origins of CBF located in the 19th century elite British humanitarian traditions in connection with the French Alliance Israelite Universelle, in the rise of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the Great War, in connection with the British Mandate for Palestine, in the tradition of migration assistance, or a combination of these acculturated, liberal forms of Jewish activism?

What role did rabbinic and Jewish communal leadership, represented primarily by CRREC, play in British Jewish humanitarianism during the Holocaust, and what are the origins and afterlife of this “emergency” organisation?

How did British Jewish humanitarianism relate not only to other Jewish forms of humanitarianism, but also to a strong British tradition of humanitarianism, as both were entangled in empire and war?

Methods and Skills

The core of this research project, the historical narrative of British Jewish humanitarianism during the Holocaust, will be grounded in archival and contemporary sources. Research will require extensive work in records of the key organisations and individuals, as well as with oral histories. Archival material is available in abundance at the Parkes Library at Southampton, the London Metropolitan Archive, and the Wiener Holocaust Library, which collectively house most collections formally pertaining to Jewish life in the UK. Further material is at the Rothschild Archive and at National Trust houses whose wealthy Jewish families were politically involved in the relief effort and fundraising. Extensive oral history and refugee organisation records are available in museums and libraries in London, Manchester, and Cardiff. National Archive material will illuminate state/Jewish interactions.

The research will also include methods from memory studies to examine the culture of the recent past. To ascertain the postwar trajectory of British Jewish humanitarianism and its place in British memory, the student will further need to seek out public history materials. There is room for creativity, which could involve interviews, observation of HET, the Holocaust institutional landscape, schools curriculum, media, and/or the built memorial and heritage environment.

The project would build capacity in HET’s important recent initiative to integrate British Holocaust histories into its teacher training programme. The student researcher would be engaged in creating resources for teachers and students directly from this research project, as well as feeding into a project to create interpretive resources for teachers based on the Association of Jewish Refugee’s ‘UK Holocaust Map’ of Holocaust sites in Britain. This collaboration will result in heritage-specific and transferable skills, plus a strong network of contacts in the heritage and charities sector.

The student will have academic independence to follow the research where it takes them, and the supervisory team is open to the student’s interpretation and strengths as well as archival discoveries. The triple supervisory partnership brings complementary skills and resources which will provide the postgraduate researcher with a unique and valuable skillset.

Supervisory Team and Institutional Settings

Dr Granick is an expert in Jewish humanitarianism and charities in international history, and Co-I of the AHRC-funded Jewish Country Houses project, which would provide interdisciplinary and active research context. Dr Carson researches postwar humanitarianism and British Holocaust culture. Professor Kushner brings deep expertise in British Jewish, refugee, and Holocaust history, as well as having seen 50 PhD students to completion under his guidance.

The postgraduate student will join the dynamic academic environments of the interdisciplinary School of History, Religion and Archaeology at Cardiff University and of the Parkes Institute at the University of Southampton, as well as the national activities of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). Through HET, a leading UK Holocaust education organisation, the student would gain public engagement experience by creating research-led resources and workshops. Southampton’s Parkes Institute, a preeminent Jewish studies centre, holds crucial archival collections. Successful applicants will receive a fully funded studentship through Cardiff University regardless of nationality or financial means.


Professor Jason, Hall University of Exeter, j.d.hall@exeter.ac.uk

Professor Martin, Willis Cardiff University, willism8@cardiff.ac.uk

David Strange, Norman Lockyer Observatory, dgstrange@btinternet.com


This project focuses on astronomy’s visual heritage as preserved in the archives at the Norman Lockyer Observatory (NLO), in Sidmouth, Devon. Towards the end of the 19th century, astronomers started replacing the human eye and the hand-drawn illustration with the photographic plate as a detection device for recording celestial images and stellar spectra. Photographic plates provided a permanent record that could be analysed in an objective and reproducible way. Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920)—co-discoverer of Helium and founding-editor of the journal Nature—was one of the pioneers who adopted and transformed this imaging technique. Comprising thousands of photographic plates (Lockyer’s own and some by his contemporaries and successors), the NLO’s extensive archive is a unique resource for the history of astronomical imaging, constituting a ‘diverse and rich’, but underutilized, ‘data set’. Historical plate collections ‘operate as time capsules’. Because the NLO remains undigitized, it is less studied than some other collections (e.g., Harvard’s Astronomical Photographic Plate Collection), yet is nevertheless a rich resource of historical data. Central to this project are methods relating to the material specificity of the NLO plate archive, which comprises roughly 6,000 spectral plates and historical lantern slides. Plates include pictures of stars and nebulae, as well as eclipses and astronomical expeditions. Recent additions to the collection include images of early aircraft, ballooning, motoring, portraits and group photos. Alongside images recorded on glass, the spectrum plate collection contains records of the wavelengths and intensities of spectral lines (the chemical elements present in stars). Spectrum plates have handwritten information concerning the object, telescope, operator/astronomer, date, time, exposure duration and other data. NLO plates are accompanied by a basic index (from 2003). The handling and evaluation of plates as fragile objects containing data in specific formats will thus form an important part of the methods for the project, as will an ability to cross-reference glass-plate data within the collection and from other collections, as well as against other forms of historical material (e.g., contemporary scientific texts, observation notes).

The project will be the first to offer sustained historical and ‘textual’ analysis of this image archive. It will facilitate a deeper understanding of Lockyer’s contribution to the visual culture of late-Victorian astronomy. The doctoral student will have the opportunity for extensive archival work at the NLO and will be able to cross-reference NLO archives with materials from Exeter’s special collection of Lockyer resources (including letters and research papers). There is thus a unique opportunity for the PhD student to make original discoveries in a rare and wonderful archive of astronomical images. The under-examined and extensive nature of the NLO collection provides significant scope for a PhD student to develop original and individual research questions. The variety of image plates and of objects recorded presents similar opportunities for tailored research: from work on Lockyer’s reproductive techniques or annotation procedures, to research into expedition images or spectrum data.

The project’s supervisory team combines expertise in the history of astronomy and visual culture with experience in the technologies of science in the 19th century and specialist knowledge of the NLO archival collections. Professor Jason Hall (Exeter) has written widely on 19th-century technologies; Professor Martin Willis (Cardiff) is an expert on Victorian visual cultural and astronomy; David Strange (director of the NLO) is an experienced astro-photographer and historian of astronomy with 40 years involvement in astronomy outreach.




Dr Fiona Brock, Cranfield University, f.brock@cranfield.ac.uk

Mr Fabio D’Agnano, University of the West of England, fabio.dagnano@uwe.ac.uk

Diana Davis, The National Museum of the Royal Navy, diana.davis@nmrn.org.uk

Dr Eleanor Schofield, Mary Rose Trust, e.schofield@maryrose.org


HMS Victory and the Mary Rose: Comparative Conservation Strategies for the Preservation of Neighbouring Historic Warships


The Mary Rose and HMS Victory are arguably the two most important historic warships in the UK, and are internationally renowned. The Mary Rose served in King Henry VIII’s naval fleet for 34 years before sinking in battle in 1545. It was raised from the seabed in 1982, and is now housed in a purpose-built museum situated within a dry dock with bespoke environmental control at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. HMS Victory was Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), and has been dry-docked since 1922. It stands in the neighbouring dock to Mary Rose but, in contrast, is uncovered and constantly exposed to the elements. Both ships face multiple challenges in terms of their conservation and share similar goals in terms of their long-term preservation, although their contrasting histories and the environments in which they are now housed have driven their conservation strategies in different directions. These strategies must be responsive to changes in the preservation of the wood that can occur for a variety of reasons, including constant movement and structural changes, exposure to the elements (Victory), contaminants from environment and treatments, and the activity of fungi and wood borers. It is easy to assume that, as both ships were made from oak, they remain composed of similar material, when in reality there is a great deal of variation not only between the two ships, but also between different timbers from the same ship.

The student will investigate the preservation state of the original oak timbers of both ships (as well as historic replacements on HMS Victory) and explore how the different environments and conservation treatments they have experienced have altered the initial materials and their associated properties (chemical, biological and mechanical). How this then influences their respective conservation management strategies and can be incorporated into the ships’ long-term conservation strategies will subsequently be explored; do the findings change current approaches to either/both ship(s)?

The project will further investigate how the different wood preservation states and the impact of conservation treatments can be recorded visually for dissemination through museum websites and visitor attractions, thereby engaging the public with this crucial work that ensures the survival of these unique objects. Both museums, individually caring for unique pieces of history, have an obligation to share their research, processes and results with the public and their peers. It is critical that they have the right tools to do this.

Fiona Brock is Lecturer in Applied Analytical Techniques at Cranfield Forensic Institute. She is a chemist with over 15 years’ experience working in archaeological sciences and alongside museum conservators. Her main research interests are in the preservation of organic materials through time. Fabio D’Agnano is an architect and Associate Professor in the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE, specialising in 3D modelling and manufacturing. Diana Davis is an accredited large objects conservator and Head of Conservation for the NMRN. She is responsible for the team maintaining and preserving HMS Victory as well as the museum’s other historic ships, aircraft and collections. Eleanor Schofield is Deputy CEO at the Mary Rose Trust and is responsible for the care and understanding of the collection. Her background is in Materials Science and Engineering and her research focuses on understanding degradation mechanisms in both organic and inorganic marine archaeological objects, developing new conservation treatments and methods to evaluate their efficacy. Fiona and Diana have worked together for several years, co-supervising two MSc projects investigating challenges to conservation on HMS Victory, and one PhD student who is currently investigating and communicating Deathwatch Beetle activity on the ship. Diana and Eleanor have a collaborative working relationship as leads of conservation teams at the neighbouring organisations on Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.



Dr Grace Huxford, University of Bristol, grace.huxford@bristol.ac.uk

Professor Richard Toye, University of Exeter, R.Toye@exeter.ac.uk

Dr Harry Raffal, Royal Air Force Museum, harry.raffal@rafmuseum.org

This project will explore the history of contemporary Britain through one of the most dynamic branches of the British military: the Royal Air Force (RAF). Focusing particularly on the history of women in the RAF, the student will explore the recruitment, training, day-to-day tasks, roles and deployment of servicewomen, placing such developments within broader social, economic and political contexts. The project will also explore the experience of women in the RAF too, as well as the wider relevance of gender to the institution and military communities. The student also has the opportunity to conduct original oral history interviews as part of this project and their research and career development will be fully supported by a supervisory team from Bristol, Exeter and the RAF Museum.


Research Context

This project explores the history of women in the RAF alongside the profound social and economic changes that took place in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century: the contraction of both the welfare state and the British military, major shifts in employment, the rise of ‘the individual’, changing social structures and cultural norms, and the persistence of gender and race inequalities. By analysing under-used archival documents and first-person testimony this doctoral project will provide original insight into these themes in contemporary British history. It also has the potential to provide a new angle in British air power and military history: few academic studies beyond women’s Second World War experiences exist and even fewer connect that history to wider social and economic trends, nor do they routinely analyse the broader significance of gender relations and gendered experiences to the RAF as a whole. This project has the potential to fill such gaps and bridge different historical fields.


Research Questions

Depending on the interests of the selected student, research questions will likely cluster around institutional policies, recruitment, training and/or experience of service, potentially including:


What economic, social and political conditions in Britain since the 1960s influenced recruitment and job opportunities in the RAF? Who might have been attracted to join the RAF and why? How did people regard the RAF in contemporary Britain? How far did Second World War memories shape understandings and expectations of the institution?

Was there a change in recruitment practices and the profiles of people joining in this period? How were personnel represented in recruitment material? How far did this reflect, reinforce or influence perceptions of women in British society?

What roles did women generally hold from the late 1960s onwards? What education, training and progression opportunities did they have? What was their involvement in military operations? What were the rules and policies surrounding gender in the RAF in this period? How did women’s permitted roles within the RAF change?

What was the relevance of race, age, marital status, rank and class in servicewomen’s experiences of and treatment by the RAF?

How did RAF policies relating to sexuality and relationships change over time? How were these changes experienced by service personnel and associated military communities?

What role did gender, broadly conceived, play in the experience of service personnel in the modern RAF, both in their working lives and in everyday sociability? How have they narrated that experience subsequently? What might oral history reveal about the gendered experience of military service?

Overall, how useful is the RAF as an institution to understand a period of profound social and economic change? What broader stories can we use its institutional history to tell?


The project might explore topics including (but not limited to): social history (including the social history of conflict), economic history, defence studies, military sociology, gender history, women’s history, and contemporary British history. The student will also be encouraged to engage with oral history theory and practice, with training opportunities available to help build experience in this area.


Methods and Approaches

The project will use both archival documents and oral history testimony. Original and often under-used documents relating to contemporary military experience, gender and sexuality are held at the RAFM, the National Archives and military archives across the UK. The student will also have the opportunity to conduct and analyse oral history interviews, with the student using the RAFM’s existing audio collection and conducting their own interviews to be deposited at the museum, addressing gaps in the collection. There is considerable scope for the student to craft their own project within the parameters set out here, as dictated by source availability and the student’s own interests. Gender as a category of analysis might also generate further discussion. The student will be encouraged to conduct their own informed and independent critical analysis of the RAF, its practices and its relationship to wider socio-economic and gender histories – both the RAFM and HEIs fully support this analytical freedom.


Student Development

Based at Bristol, the student will attend PGR training held by the History Department, School of Humanities and Arts Faculty, as well as the opportunities available through the Bristol Doctoral College and the SWWDTP itself. They will also take part in the Researcher Development programme at Exeter, including training on career options, fellowship applications and writing. The student will attend the Institute of Historical Research’s Oral History Spring School or advanced oral history training at the British Library. The student will be supported by RAFM curators, undertake an RAFM placement if desirable, and disseminate their research via the RAFM’s vibrant Research Programme lecture series and public engagement programme, which will improve their ability to communicate complex knowledge to a non-specialist audience. The student will join the cadre of RAFM CDA students and volunteers, actively supported during the CDA and after. The student will also be welcomed into the active Modern British History network between Bristol and Exeter. The whole supervisory team are committed to supporting the student’s development and next career steps, in whatever field they choose.



Prof. Henry French, University of Exeter, H.French@exeter.ac.uk

Prof. Ian Gadd, Bath Spa University, i.gadd@bathspa.ac.uk

Prof. Helen Berry, University of Exeter, H.M.Berry@exeter.ac.uk

Emma Dunn, Devon & Exeter Institution, emmadunn@devonandexeterinstitution.org

The student will be supervised jointly by Prof. Henry French (Exeter) & Prof. Ian Gadd (Bath Spa), with input from Prof. Helen Berry (Exeter). Prof. French’s expertise is in eighteenth-century ‘middling’ culture, and he is also a trustee of the Devon & Exeter Institution. Prof. Gadd is a specialist in the history of libraries and book culture in the eighteenth century, and incoming Chair of the Board of Directors of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (https://brlsi.org/). Prof. Berry is head of department in History at Exeter and an expert on eighteenth and nineteenth-century urban associational culture, and has strong connections with the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society from her previous appointment at University of Newcastle. The student will work alongside the DE&I Director (Emma Dunn), throughout an intense period of strategic development at the D&EI. In the first instance, this will involve one-to-one orientation training on the development of the ‘project vision’ via needs-led stakeholder consultation and the necessary business planning, legal and fundraising skills required to deliver a project of this nature. The student will be closely involved in progress meetings with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and with the project team, to support delivery of the Activity Plan.

The project has been developed in partnership with the Devon & Exeter Institution, and will run alongside their NLHF project between 2022 and 2025.


The Enlightenment Library in an Age of Industrialisation: how Cultural Organisations responded to an Era of Rapid Social Change c. 1750-1914

Research on enlightenment ‘associational’ culture in England in the period c. 1660-1820 has focused on the history of clubs and societies (Clark, 2000), and the ‘English Urban Renaissance’ (Borsay, 1989), which reshaped English towns around new civic buildings, assembly rooms, theatres, libraries, and clubs. The New Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (vols. 2 & 3) has provided a national overview of the ways that regional ‘associational’ cultures created new cultural institutions, and how enlightenment projects like subscription libraries were governed, but individual case-studies remain rare. Subscription libraries have frequently been depicted as eighteenth-century phenomena, eclipsed after 1830 by the democratisation of knowledge through public civic libraries, mechanics institutes, working men’s associations, and popular literary culture. Yet, the New Cambridge History demonstrates that many of these bodies engaged new audiences, adapted to rapid social and cultural change, and applied their collections and resources to new media and ways of learning in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The CDA will investigate these issues for subscription libraries established three English regional centres between c. 1750 and 1900. Historical research will focus on the Devon & Exeter Institution (DE&I), founded 1813 (https://devonandexeterinstitution.org/), the least-studied among the institutions selected. Situated in the cathedral city, county town, and port of Exeter, in the former town-house of the Courtenays of Powderham Castle, it drew on a sizeable and influential group of urban professionals, with significant metropolitan and imperial trading links. It was founded as an elite debenture (shareholder) institution, devoted to literary, scientific, and philosophical subjects, lectures, and collections – spending £5,000 in its first decade to accumulate a large collection of volumes, prints and pamphlets, and amassing collection of cultural and natural objects and specimens from across the globe (donated to form the nucleus of the county museum in 1868). By the 1860s, the DE&I opened to a wider subscription membership, and had a full-time, female, librarian. Efforts to update the book collection, expand the membership (and deal with recurrent financial crises), and attract different audiences were made and contested hotly throughout the century, particularly as the composition of the city and county membership changed, and Church-Tory influence waned by the 1890s. The DE&I’s history has not been researched in depth, or set in the context of comparable literary institutions. The studentship enables proper comparison of the currents of change and adaptation in the DE&I with the Bromley House Library, Nottingham, founded 1816 (https://bromleyhouse.org/), and the Newcastle Literary & Philosophical Society, founded 1793 (https://www.litandphil.org.uk/), for which published histories exist. These were established towns, but unlike Exeter, both were rapidly-growing industrial centres, with distinctive socio-cultural profiles (e.g. extensive religious nonconformity) and nascent traditions of political protest.

While the central objective of the studentship is clear – to research the historic development, personnel, and policies of the DE&I in comparative context over the long nineteenth century – there is considerable scope for applicants to adapt the proposal to their research interests. For example, if applicants have expertise in book history or the history of libraries, the focus could shift to the evolution of the collection, its curation, management and use in the period. If applicants were particularly interested in nineteenth-century social history, then the study could be adapted to concentrate on the relationship between the DE&I and the development of social and cultural life in the city. If the applicant wanted to focus on aspects of colonial history, colonising activity and knowledge creation/diffusion, the research could be focused on members, donors and collections related to colonial travel, object acquisition, and audiences.

The outcome of the project will be an 80,000-word thesis alongside a public-facing activities about the changing history if subscription libraries and the DEI in particular, at the DEI and potentially in Nottingham and Newcastle as well.

It is also expected that the student’s research will enhance assessments of the DEI archive collections and their context, and that stories the student uncovers will be used in public engagement initiatives.

Research questions and methods

Key research questions:

• How did the DE&I’s responses to the changing intellectual, societal, and economic environments of urban life in the nineteenth century compare to that of other subscription libraries, particularly the two case-study comparators?

• How far did these institutions become more socially ‘inclusive’ or intellectually open, and how far did they promote cultures of social and intellectual exclusion?

• Did their membership, functions, collections and public role and agency in ‘civil society’ change, and did these expand on, or retreat from, their founding ‘enlightenment’ ambitions?

• Did the composition of those who sponsored and ran these organisations change over time, compared to their founders (in terms of rank, religious conviction, gender, and race)? How far did these changes reflect the changing social composition of the cities in which they were located?

• If so, did they incorporate an emergent, expanding middle-class, or become defensive cultural arbiters controlled by pre-existing urban elites? How far were social tensions entrenched or resolved within their membership and governing structures?

• Where did these subscription libraries rank within the urban cultural infrastructure, and how did they compete with newer cultural organisations and institutions, and for middle-class and other audiences?

Research context

Subscription libraries have been studied in three specific research contexts:

1) the diffusion of ‘enlightenment’ intellectual institutions and cultural regeneration in British and Irish towns in the ‘long’ eighteenth century

2) the history of the diffusion of cultural and scientific knowledge, constructions of knowledge as popular entertainment, and the emergence of mass audiences for cultural institutions in nineteenth-century cities

3) the specialist history of libraries, particularly through survey analyses of the constitution, governance, membership and activities of libraries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The project engages with each of these. The DE&I was a relatively late institutional foundation, spurred in part by the availability of a suitable building/site. At present, the relationship between the foundation of the DE&I and the pre-existing, lively eighteenth-century ‘associational culture’ in Exeter is not well understood, notably its connections (if any) to the Society of Gentlemen (founded 1796) and the Public Select Library (1807). Similarly, the influence of regional libraries such as the Bristol Library (1773) and the Plymouth Proprietary Library (1810) is unclear. The project will examine how these precursors shaped the intellectual prospectus, founders’ interests, and early objectives of the DE&I. In addition, better knowledge of the early institutional culture and personnel will provide a context to explore the conflicts that frustrated Sir John Bowring’s attempts at reforming the governance and objectives of the DE&I in the early 1860s. This ties into the second research area, particularly (as noted above) the relatively under-explored influence of urban cultural change in the ‘second’ industrial revolution c. 1860-95, rather than the ‘first’, and competition from ‘popular’ cultural entertainment and new institutions (mechanics’ institutes, travelling lecturers, circulating libraries). Thirdly, existing historical understandings of the DE&I have either considered it sui generis or in the context only of the city’s history. Its history needs to be set in the context of these two socio-cultural processes of change, and in relation to the evolution of comparable library and literary and philosophical organisations in comparable regional centres.

Main resources/collections in this area

The project will research several categories of historical sources: 1) records of the governance, administration, finance, collections and members’ ‘comments’ of the DE&I between 1813 and 1914, held by the Institution; 2) records of cognate institutions in Exeter (borough corporation, Devon & Exeter Hospital, city charities, Cathedral); 3) Exeter and Devon newspaper collections (on-line and at DE&I); 3) comparative historical research on change, governance and membership at Bromley House Library and Newcastle Literary & Philosophical Society, including archival visits.

Research methods will include prosopographical research into DE&I shareholders and members, to establish activities in decision-making within the Institution, and wider involvement in civic life in nineteenth-century Exeter and elsewhere; collections research, to examine histories of donations and disposals within the library, and of the ethnographic and natural history collections; comparative research on the institutional governance, management, membership and policies of the DE&I in relation to selected comparator institutions.

Skills developed by student and employability enhancement

The student will be closely involved in progress meetings with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and with the project team, to support delivery of the Activity Plan. The student will receive hands-on experience in public engagement with special collections, co-curated and digital interpretation, and audience development. The Director will mentor the student in project management, partnership working, and the advocacy skills required to lead culture change, in order to deliver a programme of activity with diversity, equality, and inclusion at its heart. There will be ample opportunity for the student to disseminate research findings via the D&EI’s public programme of talks, lectures, displays and events. The student will also learn about capital development of heritage sites and the infrastructure and conservation upgrades required to make the Grade II* listed building fully accessible for the first time.

The collaboration with the D&EI will give the student a range of skills to enhance their future academic and leadership prospects, including invaluable access to top-level decision making and an understanding of the business models which underpin operational and cultural programmes in heritage sites, museums, and libraries.




Cassie Newland, Bath Spa University, c.newland@bathspa.ac.uk

Richard Noakes, University of Exeter, r.j.noakes@exeter.ac.uk

Gareth Parry, PK Porthcurno Museum of Global Communications, gareth.parry@pkporthcurno.com

The HEI supervisors are historians of telecommunications with much experience supervising PhD students collaborating with heritage organisations on projects transforming understanding of our electrically-connected world. Noakes has published on the history of cable telegraphy and is currently supervising three AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral projects with BT Archives. In 2009-10 he was PI on the £289k AHRC-funded Connecting Cornwall: Telecommunications, Locality and Work in West Britain, 1870-1918, a collaborative research project with PK Porthcurno that produced a new exhibition, academic publications and online resources for specialist researchers and schools. Newland is an expert on industrial archaeology who worked on the AHRC-funded project Scrambled Messages: The Telegraphic Imaginary, 1857-1900, curated London Guildhall’s Victorians Decoded exhibition, and is currently finishing an academic monograph on submarine cables and environmentalism prior to the period of this project. The PK Porthcurno supervisor, Emeritus Professor Gareth Parry, combines experience supervising PhD students with public engagement work in science and engineering, and expertise in the history of submarine cable communication.

The project represents the latest of many collaborations between PK Porthcurno, Exeter and other HEI organisations that have led to the successful completion of PhD dissertations and major outputs for the museum.


‘Sustaining the Nervous System of the World’ is a systematic study of the environmental strategies, broadly conceived, of the world’s leading submarine telegraph cable manufacturers between 1880 and 1940, the period when the business peaked. First laid in the 1840s and extending to over half a million kilometres by the 1920s, submarine telegraphs were powerful drivers of nineteenth and twentieth century globalisation and laid the foundations of our information age. Cable making was dominated by a handful of British-based private firms, notably the Telegraphic Construction and Maintenance Company (later Telcon), W. T. Henley’s Telegraphic Works, and the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraphic Works Company, whose long-term success depended on tackling critical environmental issues affecting the supply of the materials used in cables. For example, cable manufacturers had to create plantations in South-East Asia for gutta-percha trees from which a critically important electrically-insulating plastic substance was extracted, develop synthetic plastic alternatives to the depleting gutta-percha stocks, and recycle materials from moribund cables. However, these business/environmental strategies have not received the attention they deserve from historians. Using the underexplored archives of cable makers at PK Porthcurno and elsewhere, this project will significantly enrich historical understanding of the way the telecommunications industry has coped with its environmental impacts and this will underpin new critical perspectives on modern problems of reducing cable waste in our oceans. We’re increasingly anxious about the problem of plastic waste, especially in our rivers and oceans, and this project is a powerful lens through which we can better understand the historical roots of the problem.

The outcomes of the project will be a doctoral dissertation (100,000 words) and significant contributions to PK Porthcurno’s archive and object catalogues, its website and its public engagement activities. It is also expected that the student’s research will inform new environment-related displays at the museum.

This project represents an exciting alignment of the research objectives of the HEI supervisors and PK Porthcurno. Located in what was for much of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the world’s largest cable station, PK Porthcurno is one of the largest museums of its kind and holds more archive materials and objects relating to submarine cable telegraphy than anywhere else. The project will help PK Porthcurno better understand and exhibit materials in its collections relating to cable making, including archival documents and objects from Telcon, Henley’s and similar British firms. It will also help PK Porthcurno develop public understanding of the environmental impacts of telecommunications, past and present (as demonstrated by its Planet PK programme and collaboration with Subsea Environmental Services on the recovery and recycling of co-axial cables).

Research questions and methods

This project requires the student to closely study a wide range of published and unpublished source material, including business records, company magazines, technical reports, maps and objects. The interpretations and critical approaches to this material will draw on the recent historiography of technology, economics, imperialism and colonialism, and environmentalism, as well as Science and Technology Studies. The research questions focus on issues relating to cable making and environmentalism and might include the following:

How did Telcon and other cable manufacturers manage the flow and depletion of gutta-percha and other natural materials used in submarine telegraph cables?

To what extent did plantation-building, recycling and research into alternative natural and synthetic materials feature in their business strategies?

What were the attitudes of cable manufacturers towards their environmental impacts, both above and under the sea?

What can the study of recovered cable fragments tell us about their environmental impacts?

How can the study of cable manufacturers help PK enhance public understanding of telecommunications and environmental issues?

There will be ample scope for the student to develop, in consultation with the supervisors, questions and approaches based on their own research strengths and interests. For example, they could focus more on questions of recycling than plantations or synthetic plastics; they could explore the impact of cables on marine life; or they could examine a period later than 1940 when, owing partly to the development of submarine cable telephony, environmental questions about synthetic plastics used in cables become more important than in earlier periods.

Research context

Academic historical studies of submarine cable telegraphy have been dominated by analyses of its technical development and of its significance in national/global politics, commerce, media and in the exact sciences. Typically, these studies have focused on cable operation, whereas historiographically more sophisticated studies of cable manufacturing, are thin on the ground. Helen Godfrey, Cassie Newland, John Tully are among several scholars who have recently begun to plug this gap by analysing the devastating environmental impacts of the late nineteenth-century global trade in gutta-percha and other natural materials used in cables. This project builds on and moves well beyond this literature in two significant ways. First, it focuses much more on the cable manufacturers rather than indigenous peoples involved in extracting cable materials (well covered in Helen Godfrey’s Submarine Telegraphy and the Hunt for Gutta-Percha: Challenge and Opportunity in a Global Trade (2018)) and second, it covers a later (mainly twentieth century) period when cable-making faced new environmental challenges with the use of synthetic plastic insulators, magnetic alloys and other new materials in cable designs. Revisionist historical perspectives on submarine cable making have never been more urgent given the rising awareness of today’s communication and power cable makers of their environmental responsibilities (see, for example, the work of the British Approvals Service for Cables).

Main resources/collections in this area

This project will exploit a wealth of untapped source materials for making a highly original contribution to a topic with considerable historical and contemporary significances. These include Telcon’s engineering and scientific research reports, minutes of business meetings, financial records, company magazines, photographs, maps and private diaries at PK Porthcurno, the National Maritime Museum and Merseyside Maritime Museum; technical reports and company literature of Henley’s at PK Porthcurno; and scientific and engineering periodicals held in the University of Exeter, the British Library, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. The student’s interpretations of this material will be shaped by their critical study of the relevant secondary literature, the major contributions to which are available in Exeter and Bath Spa. The student will have full access to PK Porthcurno’s collection catalogue which will help them locate relevant documents and objects. Discussions with PK Porthcurno’s curators and volunteers will also help them locate research materials and open up new directions for enquiry. They will have ample opportunities to create new and update existing electronic/online records which will enrich the publicly available PK Online Collections, and much of this work could be undertaken remotely from PK Porthcurno.

Skills developed by student and employability enhancement

In researching and writing the doctoral dissertation the student will develop their skills in academic historical research and writing. The HEI supervisors will provide guidance on research materials and methods, feedback on written work, and support for personal and professional needs. The University of Exeter’s Doctoral College and Bath Spa University’s Researcher Development Programme will also provide personal and professional development opportunities via workshops, courses, careers guidance and funding to help plug students’ skills gap and research needs. The PK Porthcurno collections team will provide the student with first-hand experience of managing a museum collection, training in handling, preserving organising and cataloguing materials, as well as supervision in such generic transferable skills as time-management, teamwork and the communication of research to expert and lay audiences (e.g. on the PK Porthcurno website, social media and museum-based talks).


What’s it like to be a CDA student? Q&A with Sophie Welsh, second year part-time CDA student

Sophie’s project looks at Thomas Hardy, Dorset and the wider world. Landscapes of Hardy’s Wessex, historic cartography and Victorian literature fits into this.

Sophie works with academic supervisors Angelique Richardson (University of Exeter) and Justine Pizzo (University of Southampton). Dorset Museum and Dorset History Centre are the non-HEI partner organisations. Sam Johnston, County Curator, Dorset History Centre and Dr Jon Murden, Dorset Museum are the partner supervisors on this project.

“The CDA process has felt very organic for me. The work I do with partner organisations is very archive-driven, and I find this has taken me in new and unexpected interesting directions” –  Sophie Welsh, third year CDA student

Q: How have you found your CDA project so far?
A: It has been a very organic process doing an archive-driven project with two heritage organisations, which has shaped my PhD in new and unexpected directions.
Although the CDA project offers a title and topic for the PhD, I’ve found that this is a very loose structure which allows for multiple interpretations (e.g. there are two of us working on this same CDA quite differently from each other).

My project has also moved quite far away from my original proposal, so the CDAs work very similarly to other PhD projects in that sense.

“Doing additional work for my CDA partners that is related to but separate from my own project has helped me to get some distance from my project to see it as part of a larger picture as well as helping me to make unexpected discoveries”. – Sophie Welsh, third year CDA student

Q: What do you work on?
A: CDA title: ‘Hardy, Dorset and the Wider World’. The landscapes of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex and how they are constructed in response to various forms of contemporary and historic forms of cartography. More broadly I look at the interactions between nineteenth-century maps and the Victorian novel and explore its attempts to recreate the real world accurately.

Q: Most exciting part of your PhD studies so far?
A: Making a unique discovery in the National Archives which gave credence to my entire argument as it revealed that Hardy’s writing was indeed intertwined with contemporary mapping methods!

Q: How you feel this opportunity will help you in future career?
A: Connections to and experience working with heritage organisations from an academic standpoint. I’d love a career that allows me to combine working in academia and the heritage sector, so I feel the CDA experience is preparing me for that.

Q: What you know now that you wish you’d know then (on applying, what to expect)
A: here’s a few pearls of wisdom:
• Time passes quickly but you do have enough of it!
• It does get better! Things will all fall into place eventually, and you can’t be expected to know everything at once.
• Done is always better than perfect.

Q: Hints and tips for applicants?
A: Consider both what you can bring to the CDA partners and what they can bring to you. It should be a complementary partnership.

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