PhD studentship: Reconstructing BSE: The Phillips Report, apportionment of blame, and state-individual relations in the making of a modern crisis with University of Leeds and The National Archives

Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the University of Leeds and The National Archives 

Supervisors: Dr James Stark, Dr Dan Gilfoyle, and Professor Graeme Gooday

This project will focus on the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Phillips) Inquiry, announced in Parliament on 22 December 1997, to establish and review the history of the emergence and identification of BSE and new variant Creuztfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD) in the United Kingdom. Led by Lord Phillips, the inquiry gathered huge swathes of evidence, including historical publications, oral testimony, written witness statements, and legislation, with contributions from across government, scientific organisations and others. The Inquiry shone a light into the deepest recesses of government operations, demonstrating the extent to which, as The Guardian reported in October 2000, the government was ‘accused of failing the public’. As well as records of the Chief Veterinary Office and other papers related to the Phillips Inquiry and its published evidence – recently transferred to The National Archives – the project will draw on press coverage and new oral histories to reconstruct for the first time the key events, decisions, and impacts of the BSE crisis.

To make an application, please submit the following to Dr James Stark ( by 30th August 2019.  

  • Curriculum vitae (no more than 2 sides of A4)
  • Sample of writing (indicative maximum of 3,000 words)
  • Names and contact details of two academic (or relevant professional) referees
  • A covering letter including a 500-word research proposal based on the outlines above.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion are key components of the ethos of the School and University, and we welcome applications from all interested students, regardless of background. The funding body – the AHRC – require that all applicants have either a Master’s degree or equivalent professional experience. In the case of these studentships, relevant professional experience might include archival, curatorial or engagement work, or policy experience.

  • British nationals who have lived in the UK and Islands all their lives are eligible.
  • Also eligible are non-British nationals who have settled status AND have been resident in the UK for 3 years immediately prior to the date of the start of the course.
  • EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands for three years immediately prior to the date of start of the course are eligible.
  • EEA and Swiss nationals (EEA migrant workers) should refer to the full RCUK guidelines to check eligibility and may be eligible for a fees-only award.

Where you’ll be based

Each PhD studentship will be based jointly at the University of Leeds in the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science and The National Archives. The Leeds HPS Centre has a very active graduate programme, including currently around 30 HPS research students, ten of whom are Collaborative Doctoral Awards holders. The wider School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, within which HPS is located, has strong affiliations with the interdisciplinary Centre for Medical Humanities and the School of History and offers a stimulating environment for postgraduate research.

You’ll become part of a vibrant cohort of collaborative doctoral researchers as part of the Thames Consortium or British Library and benefit from staff-level access to collections, resources and training programmes. You’ll also benefit from the dedicated programme of professional development and networking events delivered by the British Library and National Archives in tandem with the other museums, galleries and heritage organisations affiliated with the AHRC CDP scheme.

Funding, support, mode of study

Home-EU fees will be paid as part of the scholarship along with a maintenance grant at the same level as UK Research Councils (£15,009 in 2019/20 or part-time equivalent), as well as an extra £550 per annum that is awarded by the AHRC for its collaborative doctoral students and additional financial support from the project partners. The studentship is available for full-time study (or part-time equivalent), and you must be able to commence your studies on 1 October 2019. The studentship includes an additional six months of funding from the AHRC’s Student Development Fund, which can (subject to agreement) be used to support appropriate training or a placement based on your individual training needs. Additional financial support will be provided by the project partners, consisting of up to £1,000 a year for 3 years in the case of The National Archives. There will be extensive opportunities for training and professional development within the University, partner organisations, and as part of a larger community of students who are supported by Collaborative Doctoral Awards.

For more information and to apply

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