PhD Studentship: Collecting the Counter-Revolution: Refugees, Religion and Anglo-French Politics in the library of Richard Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816)

Durham University and the Fitzwilliam Museum are pleased to announce a fully-funded Collaborative doctoral studentship, from October 2024,under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

Are you interested in the ways that people, books, images and ideas migrate across cultures, especially at times of conflict? Through immersion in an outstanding collection of rare books, prints and illuminated manuscripts, the PhD student we are looking for will  investigate the impact of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars on British society, culture, and collecting, and contribute to mapping out a new future for the Fitzwilliam Museum library.

The collecting activity of Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816) took place against the backdrop of extraordinary turmoil, violence and political debate. The library assembled by him bears witness to his deep engagement with the events of the French Revolution, as expressed through his own anonymously published writings, his efforts to acquire books from endangered religious institutions on the continent, and his close relationship with French émigré networks in London. Using a combination of material and textual evidence, the project will reconsider Lord Fitzwilliam’s relationship to the political fall-out of the French Revolution, and his participation in cross-Channel networks of ideas, as well as cast new light on Fitzwilliam’s personal attitudes towards Catholicism, at a moment when its toleration in Britain as a potentially subversive minority faith was hotly contested.

Preserved intact since his death in 1816, the Museum’s Founder’s Library offers a fascinating lens onto the revolutionary period, although it has been hidden from visitors and undervalued by scholars. By investigating the library holistically (moving beyond studying its constituent parts – printed books, manuscripts, prints), this project aims to highlight processes of cultural transfer and collaboration between Lord Fitzwilliam and French refugees in London. Centred on the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the project nonetheless addresses issues with strong contemporary relevance about violence and migration, the scattering and re-gathering of cultural property across borders, and the role of collections in the formation of identities.

This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Tom Stammers and Dr Suzanne Reynolds and the student will undertake research at both the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Department of History at Durham University, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP-funded students across the UK.

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Funding for this studentship will be for four years duration with the expectation that this will include development activities, as applicable to meet the student’s needs.

The studentship can be studied either full or part-time.

The studentship is open to both Home and International applicants.

Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting, such as a library or museum. Suitable disciplines are flexible, but might include History, Art History, French, English Literature, Politics, Philosophy, Theology, Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage. Many of the primary sources are in French and so reading knowledge of French is essential.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the museums, galleries, archives, library and heritage sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.

As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both Durham University and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

All applications will need to be made through the Durham Application Portal (opens in a new page). Please apply for the V1A001 History PhD programme and then state that you wish to be considered for the CC-EE CDP Studentship when the form asks you to indicate how you intend to fund your studies. (Please select ‘other’ from the drop-down menu and insert CC-EE CDP Studentship in the text box.)

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.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the supervisory team with informal enquiries about the studentship:

  • Dr Tom Stammers, Associate Professor of Modern European Cultural History, Durham University –
  • Dr Suzanne Reynolds, Senior Curator Manuscripts and Rare Books, Fitzwilliam Museum –

Please contact the Durham University History Department, if you have any questions or concerns about application or interview process:

Further details (opens in a new page)

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