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Charity, Piety and Commerce: Liverpool’s Bluecoat School and pragmatic politeness in the first half of the 18th century

  • Funded PhD Programme (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Programme (Students Worldwide)

Profile Description


AHRC-funded NWCDTP Collaborative Doctoral Award Studentship 2019

Charity, Piety and Commerce:
Liverpool's Bluecoat School and pragmatic politeness in the first half of the 18th century

The University of Liverpool and Bluecoat: Liverpool's Centre for the Contemporary Arts invite applications from suitably qualified candidates for a fully-funded AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD Studentship starting in October 2019.

Bluecoat — dedicated in 1717 as the Blue Coat Charity School and, transformed in the early 20C into the UK's first arts centre — is one of the few surviving buildings dating to Liverpool's early 18th century commercial expansion and reflects the town's growing self-confidence and the civic-mindedness of its mercantile elite.

In the first half of the 18th century, Liverpool more than tripled in size (5,145–18,400); by 1754, Liverpool had overtaken Bristol as the key provincial centre for the slave trade. It offered well-off residents all the trappings of polite society and, moreover, this polite society was accompanied by a humanitarian impulse that merged charity with piety. The Blue Coat School, which sought to alleviate distress by providing practical education and training for poor or orphaned children, was an early example of pragmatic politeness.

The successful candidate will draw upon, among other sources, the records of the Blue Coat School, the papers of influential donors, and church and Corporation sources to revisit the history of the building in the first half of the 18th century and situate it in emergent urban networks of charity, piety and commerce, thus effectively creating a topography of the early 18th century town.

This may include, but will not necessarily be limited to, considerations of the following:
• the extent to which Liverpool's early 18th century commercial network extended into the charitable arena
• the extent, importance and operation of personal, professional, social, religious and political ‘connexions', including those of patronage and clientage
• considerations of the place of pragmatic politeness in the development of the Blue Coat School and, more widely, of early 18C Liverpool itself
• considerations of space and place and material culture in early 18th century Liverpool, particularly with regard to the Blue Coat School building, the founding Anglican church and the Old Dock

The project will be supervised by Professor Elaine Chalus (History) and Professor Mark Towsey (History) at the University of Liverpool, and by Bryan Biggs (Bluecoat).

The successful candidate will be based in the Department of History, part of the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, and will benefit from membership of the University of Liverpool's flourishing interdisciplinary Eighteenth-Century Worlds Research Centre. They will have enhanced access to the Bluecoat building, its archives and records for the successful completion of the project. They will work with the Bluecoat team to develop their professional experience and heritage-related skills, including records management, the development and delivery of online historical material, and training and experience in communicating research to public as well as academic audiences. It is expected that the research produced as part of this project will be instrumental in improving public awareness of the history of Bluecoat and of early 18C Liverpool, both online, through blogs, vlogs or other forms of digital history, and through direct engagement with the public (e.g., talks, workshops, events).

The successful candidate will have either a first class or a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, and will either have completed or be close to completing a Masters degree by September 2019. For this studentship, a background in history or historical geography would be particularly appropriate.

For further details, interested parties are strongly encouraged to contact Professor Elaine Chalus () before application.

Applications should be emailed directly to and should consist of a CV (including degree transcripts) and a personal statement outlining how you would intend to shape the project to your specific interests and how your experiences/qualifications to date make you suitable for this project.

The deadline for applications is Friday, 15 February 2019. Interviews will be held in Liverpool in the week beginning 4 March 2019.

Stipend: Tuition fees + £14,777 (RCUK rate for 2018-19) + access to additional funds from the NWCDTP relating to research expenses and training costs including the Research Training Support Grant, the Student Development Fund and the Cohort Development Fund.

Residential eligibility:
Candidates for awards must have a relevant connection with the United Kingdom. A relevant connection may be established if, at the start of the course:
• The student has been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period preceding the date of application for an award, and
• Has not been resident in the UK, during any part of that 3-year period wholly or mainly for the purposes of full-time education (EU students – see below) and
• Has settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971 (i.e. is not subject to any restriction on the period for which he/she may stay).

Candidates who meet all three of the above criteria may apply for a full award. A relevant connection may be established for an EU student if the student has been resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period preceding the start of the course, even if for purposes of full-time education. EU students in this situation may apply for a full award. EU Students who have not been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last three years may apply for a fees only award. Non-EU students who have not been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last three years are not eligible to apply.


Funding Notes

Some or all of the PhD opportunities in this programme have funding attached. Applications for this programme are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full programme details for further information.

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