Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD Position – Georgian Paper Traces, University of York & The National Trust

Georgian Paper Traces: Women’s Stories, Ephemeral Texts and Hidden Objects

Funded PhD Studentship with the National Trust and the University of York

This project develops a new academic partnership between the National Trust and the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature. The research project will explore the hidden histories of Georgian women at country houses in Northern England, connecting them to the culture of the period. The funding supports interdisciplinary research into ephemeral textual sources, hidden objects and literary accounts of the circulation of small things. The studentship will illuminate a world of lost women’s stories, opening up new perspectives on women’s cultural and literary engagement, across classes, with portable goods and material literacy.
Over the last decade, the National Trust (NT) has made substantial efforts to recover the roles of women at their properties. Such efforts have relied primarily on selective examination of official archives, and histories of collecting. This project, however, will uncover women’s experiences in the Georgian period via lost, small things: the material and textual fragments that lurk within archives and in the pages of books.

Several research questions animate ‘Paper Traces’:

  • What kinds of innovative material and literary histories can be written from ephemeral objects?
  • How can material culture reconstruct the lost labour of women associated with the country house?
  • What roles do small things play in the country house’s histories and legacies?
  • How might print culture and literary history elucidate the individual narratives of women at NT properties?
  • How might extant objects at heritage sites intersect with the treatment of objects, letters, and papers in Georgian literature?

This CDA will provide an exciting opportunity to draw on the collections and National Trust expertise associated with remarkable Georgian properties in the region, including Beningbrough, Dunham Massey, Lyme, Nostell and Tatton. Many of these have extant, and underexplored, archives on site, as well as substantial collections in local record offices and libraries, which include diaries, letters, account books, ephemera as well as material artefacts. During the PhD, a programme of placements at National Trust properties will provide the student with training and experience of working with the onsite house and collections teams. The student will have opportunities to contribute to new interpretations and National Trust exhibitions and to gain valuable training in public engagement.

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The student will be jointly supervised by Dr Chloe Wigston Smith (University of York), Dr Ben Wilcock (National Trust) and Dr Hannah Greig (University of York). The student will also benefit from the support and expertise of regional National Trust curators Katie Taylor, Matthew Constantine, Simon McCormack and Caroline Schofield, and the interdisciplinary research environment of University of York’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies.

Financial support and eligibility
Full-time AHRC Competition Studentships for doctoral research are 3 years in duration (or 6 years part time). Awards are subject to satisfactory academic progress. Awards must be taken up in October 2019. No deferrals are possible. Awards will comprise UK/EU fees at Research Council rates and, for eligible students, a maintenance grant (£14,777 in 2017/8).

Applicants should have a strong academic record, including a Distinction (or equivalent) at Masters level in a relevant discipline

Please note that all applicants should meet the AHRC’s academic criteria and residency requirements (

To apply see:

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