Funded PhD Studentship on Indyref 2014



Application deadline: 8 May 2017

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities is pleased to invite applications for this fully-funded AHRC PhD Studentship (fees and subsistence at current AHRC UK/EU rates). The studentship includes a 6-month placement at the National Library of Scotland.

The Studentship: 

The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence was clearly a major historic event. How will it enter the historical archive, and the stories told by future researchers and citizens about the meaning of ‘indyref’ 2014?

This PhD project will explore a series of questions and challenges related to the National Library of Scotland’s ‘Collecting the Referendum’ project, an ambitious two-year project to collect the documentary record of this event in a wide range of formats: print and digital, social media and websites, archives and moving image.

These questions include: 

  • To what extent, and via what practices, was the indyref ‘remembered’ even as it was being experienced? (That is, how did campaigners and commentators try to position 2014 within stories looking back on it from the future?)
  • How was the indyref collected (and made collectible) in the midst of the campaign?
  • How did its self-conscious ‘historic’ quality affect the way indyref 2014 was documented and recorded?
  • How will future researchers interpret records and narratives of 2014 which exhibit this self-conscious ‘historic’ quality, i.e. which seem to ‘memorialise’ indyref in advance?

The student’s doctoral work will investigate both the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of indyref collecting. It will examine how archives of the 2014 referendum are constructed and used (both physical and digital), and the various factors that shape how the makers and users of such collections view the narrative possibilities and complexities presented by their materials.

While the student will have freedom to shape the exact parameters of the project, it is likely to involve research into recent Scottish political history, archive studies and digital collecting. Some awareness of relevant cultural and narrative theory, and digital humanities research methods, is preferred but not required.

The PhD student will be jointly supervised by Dr Scott Hames at the University of Stirling and Dr Amy Todman at the National Library of Scotland, with input from a wider supervisory team including Dr Peter Lynch (Stirling; expert on Scottish politics and referendums) and Eilidh MacGlone (NLS web archivist). Collaboration with the Scottish Political Archive, based at the University of Stirling, is an additional dimension of the project, supported by our archivist Sarah Bromage.

At Stirling, the student will join a lively community of PhD students linked to the Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies. At the National Library of Scotland, he or she will have the opportunity to work closely with curators and web archivists, and gain valuable research and technical skills.

How to Apply: Applicants should have a good undergraduate qualification and a relevant Master’s degree in any related field of expertise. Experience of the following areas of study is particularly welcome: history, archive studies, politics, cultural theory, digital humanities, cultural studies, Scottish studies. You will have some experience of relevant research methods (but note that research training is a key part of the studentship).

NB the AHRC rules governing this scheme note that if a student does not have experience of formal postgraduate study, they may be eligible for a studentship only if they can demonstrate evidence of sustained experience beyond undergraduate degree level that is specifically relevant to their proposed research topic, and could be considered equivalent to Master’s studyApplicants in this category (i.e. without a Master’s qualification) should include with their application a 1-page statement outlining the ‘specifically relevant’ skills, experience and knowledge they have gained ‘beyond undergraduate degree level’, that ‘could be considered equivalent to Master’s study’.

For further details on eligibility criteria, including UK residency, applicants should check the AHRC website (

The application: Applicants should submit:

  • a summary curriculum vitae (max 2 pages)
  • an example of recent academic writing (e.g., MSc/MLitt chapter or undergraduate dissertation)
  • a short statement (1 page) outlining your qualification for the studentship, and initial thoughts on how you’d approach the project
  • the names and contact details of two academic referees

Submit your application via email to Dr Scott Hames ( and Dr Amy Todman ( Applications will close 8 May 2017 at 4pm. Please ensure your referees are able to provide (on request, via email) an academic reference by 19 May, 5pm.

As noted above, applicants without a Master’s qualification should submit an additional 1-page statement outlining their ‘specifically relevant’ skills, experience and knowledge that could be considered equivalent to Master’s study.

Interviews will be held on Tuesday 23 May at the University of Stirling.

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Scott Hames ( and Dr Amy Todman ( for ‘further particulars’ of the project, or with informal queries.

Finding Belgian Refugees through the digital archive

Wednesday 22 March saw the launch of the first in a series of workshops, run as part of a new project ‘Uncovering civilian war trauma among female Belgian refugees in Scotland during the First World War’. Delivering her lecture ‘Finding Belgian Refugees through the digital archive: developing and using First World War digital collections’, Professor Lorna Hughes, Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow, provided a fascinating insight into the world of archival digitisation. Using examples from her own research into Belgian refugees in Wales during the First World War, Professor Hughes showed us how close engagement with an ever-growing collection of digital archives could ‘give voice to those on the margins of the past’, in this case the Llanfair Belgians.







To an audience of historians, researchers and archivists, Professor Hughes told the story of the Lienknechts and the Gubels, Belgian refugees who arrived in the village of Llanfair in 1915. Describing some of the techniques employed to unearth their story, for example searching digested newspaper collections to identify data clusters, Professor Hughes enhanced what we can learn about refugees from, at times, impersonal official documents with local, individual responses to the arrival of Belgians during the First World War. From letters detailing the creation of the Llanfair Belgian Refugees Committee to ‘Thank You’ cards from those refugees for the people of Llanfair’s ‘great kindness’, it became clear that, by going beyond official documents, the story of wartime refugees in Britain can be much-enhanced.

Following Professor Hughes’ lecture, and continuing the theme of digitisation of Belgian refugee archives, workshop participants were invited to look at a selection of collections held at the Mitchell Library relating to Belgian refugees in Glasgow. Dr Irene O’Brien, Glasgow City Archivist and Andrew Gilbert, Assistant Archivist, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board Archives, produced a range of materials which joint project coordinator Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson had identified as illustrating linked records which may benefit from a digitisation project. These included the Glasgow Corporation Belgian Refugees’ Register 1914-15, Poor Law Registers and asylum admission registers 1914-18 to demonstrate the variety of sources that can be used when researching the story of Belgian refugees in Glasgow and the surrounding areas, and in particular when exploring indications of war trauma on the Belgians living in Scotland.

Illustrating the richness of the material, our attention was brought to the stories of Angeli Vrebos and John Witineur, seen in the accompanying photograph, two Belgian refugees admitted to Gartloch Asylum during the First World War. Described in the records as ‘foolish, troublesome and demented’ and ‘dull, stubborn and sensitive’ respectively, the hardship and trauma that dominated the stories of Vrebos and Witineur is etched on their faces and captured by the photographs taken upon their admittance to the asylum.

Overall, the afternoon was a fantastic introduction to the story of Belgian refugees in Scotland during the First World War and, we hope, successfully whetted the appetite of the attendees for future events, the next of which will take place on Wednesday 19 April, 2-4pm, at the University of Stirling, Division of History and Politics, Pathfoot Building, room C1/2. Joining us from the University of Kent, where she is currently Leverhulme Visiting Professor, Professor Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Pennsylvania State University, will speak on ‘The sudden experience of defencelessness: civilians facing invasion, Belgium, 1914’. A buffet lunch, served from 12.30, will precede this event. This event is free but, for catering purposes, we ask that you please register by sending an email to by 10 April 2017.

Launch of exciting new collaborative network!

Uncovering civilian war trauma among female Belgian refugees in Scotland during the First World War

We are pleased to announce the launch of a series of workshops, run as part of a new project ‘Uncovering civilian war trauma among female Belgian refugees in Scotland during the First World War’. An exciting collaborative venture funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the project intends to stimulate research on the timely subject of civilian war trauma via a case study of female Belgian refugees in Scotland during the years 1914 to 1918. Preliminary research shows that among Scotland’s c. 20,000 wartime Belgian refugees were dozens who applied for poor law assistance. Early analysis of these cases indicated 40% of female and 25% of male Belgian refugee applicants were diagnosed as suffering ‘insanity’, yet they presented with symptoms of trauma. Four events, held throughout the year at locations in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, will further examine these findings and offer attendees an insight into a range of topics including the settlement and treatment of Belgian refugees in Scotland and the notion of ‘shell-shock’ in First World War Britain.

The first of these four workshops, ‘Finding Belgian Refugees through the digital archive: developing and using First World War digital collections’, includes a lecture from Professor Lorna Hughes, Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow, and will take place on Wednesday 22 March 2017, 2-5pm, at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Lunch is provided from 1pm. Attendees will also be given the opportunity to view a range of resources on Belgian refugees held at Glasgow City archives.

This event is free but we would be grateful if you could indicate your intention to attend by emailing

We look forward to welcoming you to our inaugural event!