AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD studentship: Private reflections and public pronouncements: Caribbean slavery in the Scottish consciousness, 1750-1834

That the Blog is interested in slavery is well known. The following advertisement should be of great interest.

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD studentship: Private reflections and public pronouncements: Caribbean slavery in the Scottish consciousness, 1750-1834

Application deadline: Tuesday 8 May 2018

The University of Aberdeen, in partnership with the National Library of Scotland, is seeking to appoint a suitably qualified applicant for a full-time collaborative PhD studentship to undertake a study of the slave trade and slavery collections in the National Library of Scotland. The studentship will commence on 1 October 2018 and will last for three years. Additional Student Development Funding (equivalent to an additional 6 months funding) will also be available to allow time for further training and skills development opportunities that are agreed as part of the PhD programme.

This is an exciting opportunity to pursue an original doctoral research project within the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen, whilst working closely with National Library of Scotland expertise and collections. In addition to producing an original PhD dissertation based on the National Library of Scotland collections, the project will include a six-month placement at the National Library of Scotland involving training in archival description and cataloguing of hidden collections, web content skills, and selection of sources for the Library website. There will also be opportunities to deliver public talks at the Library on research findings.

The studentship

In Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past (2015) Professor Sir Tom Devine highlighted the collective amnesia in Scotland with regard to Scottish engagement in the slave trade and the extent to which Scots benefitted from participation in it. This studentship will directly address that amnesia by charting contemporary Scottish attitudes to slavery. The doctoral research project will examine the extent to which Scotland attempted to distance itself from its participation and engagement with Caribbean slavery through the period of enlightenment up to the abolition of slavery in 1834. Research will focus on the National Library of Scotland’s extensive archival holdings and printed collections relating to the slave trade, and its peerless collection of Scottish newspapers.

The project will explore three key areas:

• Distancing strategies in Scottish literature: Much of Scottish literary output (1750-1834) acknowledges the wealth and the opportunities for Scots created by slavery but fails to engage with the practical realities of it. This is a feature in the work of Smollett, Mackenzie, Galt, and Scott. The student will investigate the papers of Scottish authors held at the Library to evaluate the ways in which slavery is obfuscated and evaded in Scottish literary discourse.
• Private responses to slavery: The Library possesses large collections of estate and family papers, for example: Melville, Chisholme, and the Liston papers, that detail the operational considerations of maintaining plantations. The collections also contain many journals and literary works of those who travelled to the Caribbean that address the institution of slavery. Many of these sources, which often reveal intricate and conflicting familial responses to slavery, remain under-researched and unpublished. The student will investigate these sources to provide analysis on how the families involved in profiting from slavery in Scotland viewed slavery and the extent to which they justified their engagement with it.
• Public responses to slavery: The Library has the most comprehensive collection of Scottish newspapers in the world, in addition to the printed works of Scots who wrote about their experiences in the Caribbean. Periodicals such as Blackwood’s Magazine included articles on slavery, and this is augmented by the Blackwood Papers giving additional context. The student will review these sources, searching for literary works on slavery such as poems and short stories, in addition to articles on the Caribbean to assess public attitudes to slavery as they were transmitted via print culture.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to adapt the topic in consultation with their supervisory team as the research develops.


The student will be supervised by Dr Catherine Jones and Professor Patience Schell at the University of Aberdeen, and by Dr Ralph McLean and Mr Robert Betteridge at the National Library of Scotland. The successful candidate will join an established and supportive research community in the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen, where they will receive training in such areas as research methodology, bibliographical searches and academic writing. The student will additionally benefit from working in partnership with staff at the National Library of Scotland. The student will be encouraged to attend and contribute to national and international conferences as appropriate during the course of their study.


Applicants must:

• Have a first or upper second class honours degree or equivalent in English, History, or a related subject.

• Be a resident of the UK or the European Economic Area (EEA).

There are residence requirements for research council funding for postgraduate research. These are based on the Education (Fees and Awards) (England) Regulations 2007 and subsequent amendments. Normally to be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

To be eligible for a fees only award:
Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award. To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU; in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK.

The UK Government confirmed on 21 April 2017 that Research Council studentships (including AHRC studentships awarded through the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities) remain open to EU students starting courses in academic year 2018 to 2019, and that the funding support will cover the duration of their course, even if the UK leaves the EU.

Funding details

This award is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] through the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium. Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the studentship will cover Home/EU tuition fees. For those settled in the UK, it also covers a stipend towards living expenses. The value for the stipend in 2018/19 is £14,777 per annum plus a £550 additional stipend payment. In addition, the National Library of Scotland will provide up to £1000 per year to contribute towards travel and related research costs.

How to apply

Applications must be made through SRAS (Student Recruitment & Support) via the University of Aberdeen’s Postgraduate Applicant Portal:
Applicants should ensure they include all documentation required e.g. two academic references, degree certificate(s), degree transcript(s) and English language test results. The University cannot guarantee that incomplete applications will be considered. Applicants should note in their personal statement that they wish to be considered for the CDP Private reflections and public pronouncements: Caribbean slavery in the Scottish consciousness, 1750-1834.

Closing date for applications: Tuesday 8 May 2018

Interviews are provisionally scheduled for June 2018. Interviews will take place in Edinburgh, though there is provision for them to be undertaken by Skype. Only short-listed candidates will be invited to interview.

Start date: 1 October 2018

Further information

Informal enquires about the project’s scope can be made by contacting Dr Catherine Jones c.a.jones@abdn.ac.uk or Dr Ralph McLean r.mclean@nls.uk

For information on the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture visit: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/

For information on the National Library of Scotland visit: https://www.nls.uk