PhD Funding: PhD candidate in the ERC Consolidator project FEATHERS: Elizabeth I, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, deadline 7 September 2020

Leiden University

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) invites applications for a PhD candidate in the ERC Consolidator project FEATHERS: Elizabeth I


The PhD candidate will be working on a subproject within the ERC Consolidator research project FEATHERS,funded for 2020-2025 by the European Research Council (ERC), and directed by Nadine Akkerman (Reader in early modern English Literature at Leiden University).

Manuscript production was a collaborative or ‘socialised’ enterprise that often involved secretaries and scribes who physically wrote what the author dictated. FEATHERS will overhaul historical approaches and offer new ways to assess the partnership between employer and scribe thus expanding the notion of early modern authorship to include hitherto marginalised voices: of women, the poor, the illiterate and the lower-born – those who ‘wrote’ without physically writing.

To distinguish authorial and scribal voices it will analyse 3 distinct manuscript types: Letters, Legal documents, and Literary works. It will address 3 questions: who were these scribes; what was their role or function, and where did their influence end and their employer’s begin?

The project will concentrate on England 1558-1642, a time when the centres of power were stable enough to allow for relatively constant employment, making individual scribes and their influence easier to identify. The model we create will be applicable to multiple political periods and countries.


The Amanuensis & His Mistress: The Secretaries of Queen Elizabeth I, c.1558-1603 (PhD1) We are looking for a highly motivated, enterprising and enthusiastic PhD candidate to join the project team and write a thesis crucial for understanding the ways in which a secretary might interact and influence their female patron. When household accounts are absent or fragmentary, the only way to identify a secretary is by studying an entire body of correspondence. Most female correspondences comprise mere handfuls, but this is not true for the epistolary remains of queens or queen-consorts. Still, besides Elizabeth I and Elizabeth Stuart, no Tudor or Stuart queen’s letters have yet been annotated or even collected. This makes it all the more surprising that Queen Elizabeth I’s secretariat has received only piecemeal attention, excepting studies of her foreign language letters and secretaries/scribes (Bajetta; Andreani; Bajetta, Coatalen and Gibson). The English language scribes languish uninvestigated, let alone cross-referenced. Who were her personal secretaries/scribes and did they overlap with government functionaries? The PhD candidate is expected to conduct an analysis of c.2500 letters, namely the corpus of Elizabeth I, through computational authorship attribution (stylometrics), and the study of individual secretaries who worked under her, to reveal the queen’s authorship and, alongside another subproject working on her gender counterpart King James VI/I, help create a working definition of the early modern secretary.

Key responsibilities

  • Conducting research on Elizabeth I’s secretariat. An important part of this research will take place in UK archives;
  • Completing a PhD thesis (in English) within four years;
  • Publishing at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal; and at least one in a popular magazine;
  • Participating in fortnightly meetings of the project research group;
  • Presenting papers at conferences, both in the Netherlands and internationally;
  • Participating in the training programme of the LUCAS Institute, the Leiden Graduate School of Humanities and the National Research School in Cultural History (Huizinga Institute) and other relevant masterclasses, discussion groups, seminars, workshops, and events;
  • Participating in the PhD community and the intellectual life of the Institute;
  • Contributing to the organization of the events and activities within the project, including the project’s conference in year 3 of the project;
  • Subject to progress and demand, some teaching in the English department in the second and third years of the appointment.


  • A ResMA/MRes or MA in English Literature, History or Early Modern Studies, awarded by time of appointment, with a thesis on a 16th-century or 17th-century topic, and a grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale (or equivalent, such as distinction for UK scholars);
  • Well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate creative research questions, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • Willingness to work up 3-4 months in UK archives in year 1 and year 2 of the project, up to a total of 8 months for the duration of the project;
  • Native or near-native speaker of English;
  • Experience with archival research and palaeography;
  • Knowledge of gender studies, digital humanities, early modern diplomacy, and / or court studies will be a plus;
  • Independent thinker and team player;
  • Ability to finish the proposed PhD research in 4 years.


The PhD project has a duration of 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week). The starting date is on 1 February 2021. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2,395.- to € 3,061.- gross per month (pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

International candidates are especially encouraged to apply, but must be willing to relocate to the Netherlands for the duration of the project. Candidates are not expected to learn Dutch.

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Leiden University

The Faculty of Humanities is a unique international centre for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see the website.

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCAS is dedicated to ground-breaking research that explores the multifaceted relationships between the arts and society. For more information see he website.


Enquiries about the project and the position can be addressed to the Principal Investigator, Nadine Akkerman, e-mail Enquiries about the procedure and LUCAS can be sent to Information about LUCAS and links to staff expertise can be found at the website.

Find out more here.

Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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