Keele University AHRC-Funded PhD Studentship 2023

AHRC-funded PhD Studentship at Keele University in collaboration with the V&A Wedgwood Collection (VAWC)

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded PhD in History, supervised collaboratively by Keele University and the V&A Wedgwood Collection (VAWC): From ‘ “Am I Not A Man and a Brother?” to “Ar’n’t I A Woman?”: Social Reform and Transatlantic Abolition (1787-1865)’.This is offered under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award programme. The student will be supervised by Dr Kristen Brill and Professor Alannah Tomkins (Keele), and Dr Oliver Cox (Head of Academic Partnerships, V&A) and Lucy Lead (Archivist, VAWC). This full-time studentship, which is funded for three years at standard AHRC rates, will begin on 1 September 2023. It is especially suitable for students with a background in eighteenth- or nineteenth-century American and/or British history, whether or not they have worked directly on the topic of the project.

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Keele
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £17,668 stipend per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 21st December 2022
Closes: 7th February 2023

The Project

Existing histories of the Wedgwood medallion have probed the immediate context of its creation, yet very few have explored the wider interconnections between the British abolition movement from the late eighteenth century and American social reform movements in the mid-nineteenth century. This project will investigate the multiple and overlapping ways in which material culture (as represented in the VAWC) could influence and galvanise both the iconography and rhetoric of reform. This is an important site of research as the medallion already has widespread recognition; this project will properly contextualize its history for the first time and examine how the medallion can be used as a fulcrum around which more complex narratives of emancipation might be told. In doing so, this research not only investigates key historical issues surrounding global social reform, but how this research can be used to publicly engage in contemporary debates of local social reform. This project will be shaped according to the successful candidate’s interests and expertise, but potential research questions to be addressed may include:

  • In what ways and to what effect did American social reform movements emulate the strategies and rhetoric of the British abolition movement?
  • To what extent were key individuals in American social reform movements who spent time in Britain (e.g. Frederick Douglass, William and Ellen Craft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott) inspired by Wedgwood’s legacy?
  • How have different reform movements, such as the American women’s rights movement, used the language and iconography of the Wedgwood medallion for different causes in the nineteenth century and beyond?
  • How can the records relating to workers at Wedgwood shed light on evolving attitudes to social reform, both in a British and transatlantic context?
  • How did disenfranchised groups in America without full rights of citizenship engage with transatlantic currents of ideas and iconography, as demonstrated by the anti-slavery medallion?
  • How can the contemporary local community of Stoke-on-Trent engage with the history of the medallion to explore emotive issues surrounding race and marginalization in new and innovative ways?

The successful applicant will work closely with VAWC staff and will benefit from enhanced access to the archives and collections stored at VAWC.

The Studentship

The studentship is awarded subject to AHRC eligibility criteria and covers tuition fees for all three years and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses. The national minimum doctoral stipend for 2023/24 has been set by Research Councils UK as £17,668 per annum for Collaborative Doctoral Students. For more information visit:

Students are also eligible to draw additional funding to support the cost of training, research trips, conferences, and other development opportunities that will benefit the student’s doctoral research and future career development.

How to Apply

Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in History or a related discipline, and will need to satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements including Masters-level advanced research training or equivalent.

In general, full studentships are available to students who are settled in the UK and have been ordinarily resident for a period of at least three years before the start of postgraduate studies. International applicants are eligible to apply for this studentship and Keele University will consider covering the cost of additional international fees.

The NWCDTP and Keele University particularly welcomes applications from students from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in Higher Education. In support of these commitments the University welcomes applications from welcomes applications Global Majority, Disabled, and Socioeconomically Unequal communities.

Keele University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN charter, and values equality and diversity across our workforce and study body. We strive to ensure that our workforce and study body is representative of broader society, and therefore, we would actively welcome applications from women for this role.

The University is committed to operating flexible working practices wherever possible.

For information or informal enquiries about the studentship, please contact Dr Kristen Brill ( Enquiries about the application process should be directed to (

Applicants should apply via the Keele University online application system (select ‘Apply for a PhD’ in the upper right hand corner of the page), and include the following:

  • a curriculum vitae (no more than 2 pages);
  • a sample of writing (3-5,000 words);
  • a letter (one page) outlining their interest in and qualification for the studentship;
  • transcripts of undergraduate and Masters qualifications;
  • two academic references, which the candidate should request the referee to send.

Applications must be received no later than 5pm on Tuesday 7th February 2023

Please note it is the responsibility of applicants to request references from their referees and ensure that they have been received by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences by this deadline. All documents should be submitted in either a MS Word or PDF format.

Interview date: Friday 24th February 2023. Interviews will be conducted online or in-person


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