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AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD in Archaeology: An interdisciplinary exploration of the social impact of foetal and perinatal mortality during the industrialisation of England

Project Description

Recent archaeological excavations of urban cemeteries have driven ambitious agendas to engage with the social, cultural and economic transitions of industrialisation. The lives of women and children have come under new scrutiny in the writing of inclusive and representative narratives of health, occupation and family life. This Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) project explores how urbanisation affected family dynamics by focusing on the many infants who did not survive the hardships of Industrial-period life. By focusing on the death rituals used to mediate loss and grief, a range of issues in the histories of family, reproduction and emotion can be examined through the lens of archaeologies of childhood.

Funerary and osteological assessments of burials of Industrial-period infants appear in numerous reports arising from commercial archaeological excavations, including a substantial number of reports by MOLA. This evidence has received limited synthetic study, and a wider contextual narrative needs to be constructed – a social and cultural understanding of foetal and perinatal death.

This project will evaluate the impact of industrialisation on responses to foetal and perinatal loss, illuminating the effect of urbanisation on the 18th-19th century English family. Potential research questions include:

-How were foetuses and perinates commemorated in urban cemeteries dating to the 18th-19th centuries compared to adults? To what extent did they appear in vaults, tombs, crypts and other different forms of burial?

-To what extent were the very young included/excluded from the burial community? How widespread were the spatial zoning of burials or ‘clandestine’ burials of infants in adult graves and what might these practices tell us about responses to death of young children?

-Did social status and religious affiliation affect the responses to foetal and infant loss in urban communities?

-To what extent is there evidence for non-burial treatments of foetal and perinatal remains, for example abandonment or anatomisation, and what are the implications for perceptions of the value of very young lives?

-These are potential research questions for the student to undertake; the successful applicant will be able to shape the PhD with the support of the student’s supervisors.

This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Lizzy Craig-Atkins (Archaeology, University of Sheffield) and Robert Hartle (MOLA), with support from Dr Chris Millard (History, University of Sheffield) and Diego Rodrigo-Maganto (MOLA) The student will be expected to spend time at both Sheffield and MOLA, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK.

AHRC CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (or part-time equivalent). The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.

The studentship covers (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,285 for 2020-2021), (ii) an allowance of £1000/year to enable collaboration with the partner organisation (as they are based in London), (iii) an additional allowance of £1000/year for expenses incurred in undertaking research, and (iv) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the project, including archaeology, anthropology and history. We endeavour to be inclusive and flexible regarding applicants with caring obligations, disabilities and other considerations.

Application is by covering letter, CV and online application form, and should be made through the University of Sheffield online application system- (

Please consult the general guidance on how to apply for an Archaeology PhD place in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield. Please note that two references must be submitted with the application, and take particular care to indicate in the application the broad areas of research that you are interested in and how you feel you could develop the project. All prospective students are strongly advised to first make informal contact with the supervisor, Dr Lizzy Craig-Atkins.

Funding Notes

Candidates must have a relevant connection with the UK to qualify for AHRC awards.

Non-EU candidates who have not been resident in the UK for the last 3 years, or who were resident for the purposes of education, are not eligible.

EU candidates are eligible for full awards if they have been resident in the UK, for education or other purposes, for at least 3 years prior to the start of their programme. EU candidates who have not resided in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of their programme will normally be eligible for a fees-only award

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