University of Exeter International PhD Studentships in Recycling and Reinvention in Reformation England, UK

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Application Deadline: June 6, 2022.

Research Project Summary:

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship on Recycling and reinvention in Reformation England: Medieval religious textiles in Tudor homes and families, c. 1540 – c. 1603 at the University of Exeter in partnership with the National Trust.  The studentship is offered by the REACH consortium under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme.

Project Description:

The National Trust and the University of Exeter are pleased to announce a unique opportunity to secure a fully-funded doctoral studentship to support research on the cultural transformations of Reformation England.

This is an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentship offered by the REACH consortium of which National Trust is a partner. REACH – Revisiting and enhancing approaches to collections and heritage – is a collaboration of leading Independent Research Organisations in the arts and cultural heritage sectors: Royal Museums Greenwich, National Portrait Gallery, Historic Royal Palaces, British Film Institute and National Trust.

Recycling and reinvention in Reformation England is a PhD study co-created by Emma Slocombe (National Trust) and James Clark (Exeter) as part of an established, funded project tracing the preservation, transmission and re-use of medieval church textiles and other religious art forms in the wake of the Tudor reformations.

The Project:

Past studies of medieval religious artworks have concentrated on patronage, the process of manufacture and the original context and use, while those concerned with the Tudor period have often been confined either to iconoclastic destruction or the Counter-Reformation reaction. This project aims to connect the artworks that survive with the wider material environment and social experience of the mid-Tudor and Elizabethan periods. It seeks to bridge a long-standing gap in knowledge of the dispersal, preservation and domestic reuse of medieval artforms after the closure of hundreds of churches and the extinction of chantries and the subsequent official sanction of traditional rituals of parish worship.

The point-of-entry into the project will be the collection of medieval textiles formed by Bess of Hardwick at Hardwick Hall; over the course of the project it is anticipated that the research will extend to other surviving artworks held by the National Trust at other sites and those also in the collections of other museums both within and beyond the REACH Consortium. Throughout, there will be a close engagement with the archival records – surviving in national and local archives and libraries – that document the dispersal, sale and onward transmission of preserved medieval artworks and their placement in households and domestic interiors.

The student will have the opportunity to develop individual areas of interest within the general enquiry. These may relate to medieval and Tudor textiles or to other artforms transmitted and transformed in the process of Reformations or to the social and cultural contexts in which this response to religious change occurred. This is a research development opportunity equally for those with a background in cultural and social history, history of art and visual culture and other aspects of materiality.

The student will be expected to engage with the work of the National Trust curatorial team at Hardwick Hall, where they will have (supervised) access to the medieval textile collection. Over the course of the project they are likely to access material in other Trust collections as well as those held elsewhere depending on the developing direction of their project.

The Partnership:

The project has been devised by Emma Slocombe, Senior National Curator at the National Trust, whose specialism is historic house textiles and interiors, and James Clark, Professor of History at the University of Exeter, whose specialism is the Pre-Reformation Church in England and the cultural consequences of the Henrician Reformation. The project benefits from the Trust’s continuing conservation, research and interpretation of the recycled medieval textiles at Hardwick Hall and the studentship awardee will have the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills alongside the Trust’s own team.

AHRC CDP Programme 3:

The aim of the programme is to foster collaboration between universities and non-academic contexts of research, skills development and training, impact and public engagement. Collaborative Doctoral Awards offer an enhanced programmes of doctoral study bringing career development opportunities beyond the standard academic route. CDP students become part of UK-wide cohort of with access to CDP Cohort Development events.


UK rate tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate of £16,062 per year.  The University of Exeter will fund the difference between the UK and EU/International fees.
Award holders will also receive a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership maintenance payment of £550 per year.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact Professor James Clark or Emma Slocombe.

Entry requirements:

You should have at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or international equivalent, in history, history of art & visual culture or a programme in which these disciplines were a major component; and have obtained, or be currently working towards, a Master’s degree at Merit level or international equivalent, providing research preparation in themes directly relevant to this project.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency.

We encourage the widest range of potential students to study for this CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area.

All applicants must meet UKRI terms and conditions for funding.

This studentship, including full tuition fees and maintenance allowance, is available to UK, EU and International candidates.

Details and application here

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