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Occupational health and welfare in the Victorian and Edwardian Post Office: comparative perspectives

Department of Geography

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Prof David Green , Dr Kathleen McIlvenna No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Addressing Health ( is a three-year Wellcome funded project involving four universities (King’s College London, University of Derby, Kingston University, UCL). The Postal Museum is also a partner in the research. The aim of the project is to explore the temporal and spatial patterns of morbidity and mortality in the service sector during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, using the Post Office as a case study.

The PhD project
This is one of two full-time studentships linked to Addressing Health. It focusses specifically on developing a clearer understanding of the policies relating to medical provision and the responses by the Post Office workforce. It will identify the key aspects of that policy and how those changed over time, linking it both to medical knowledge and practice and to the way it was implemented by the Post Office. The research will adopt a comparative approach, comparing the Post Office with similar organisations, such as the Metropolitan Police, Civil Service, railway companies and the Bank of England. The research will question the reasons why organisations provided free medical care, the effectiveness of that provision in relation to employees and the employer, and evaluate the relationships between that provision and the granting of pensions to workers who were forced to retire because of ill health. The research will also explore how workers responded to the provision of medical care and sick pay.

The main evidence is the correspondence between the Post Office and the Treasury, contained in archives at The Postal Museum in London. Workers’ responses are found in trade union records mainly kept at the Modern Records Centre (University of Warwick). Research into other organisations might involve travel to archives elsewhere in London and further afield.

The PhD student will be a full member of the Addressing Health research team and will attend team meetings on a regular basis. They will collaborate closely with other members of the team and volunteers at The Postal Museum. They will be expected to write short blogs for the project website and to present their work at national and international conferences. They will also be involved in co-writing book chapters or articles for publication in peer reviewed journals as well as developing sole authored work. They will be assisted in this by members of the project team.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Prof. David Green and Dr Kathleen McIlvenna. They will be affiliated to the Department of Geography, King’s College London.

Eligibility criteria
• Open to residents of the European Union and the United Kingdom
• A first class or 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent overseas qualification) and a Master’s degree in a relevant social sciences or humanities discipline (e.g. history, medical history, historical geography, sociology, with at least a high Merit and showing evidence of capacity to work at Distinction level
• A proven ability to conduct independent research
• Experience of working with historical archives is desirable
• Previous experience of medical history would be an advantage
• A record of working well in teams and a commitment to working collaboratively with colleagues inside and outside of the university
• Applicants must be prepared to travel as the research will involve data collection in different parts of England.
IELTS 7.0 or above overall with a minimum of 6.5 in each skill (or equivalent), OR a previous academic record that shows you can study and be examined in the English language

Application Details
• A covering letter stating why you consider you are suitable for the position (maximum 2 pages A4). This should indicate how your knowledge and experience relate to the broad area to be addressed in the PhD.
• An extended piece of independently produced academic work (e.g. a master’s essay or dissertation or a published or unpublished research paper) that you feel best demonstrates the quality of your academic writing.
• An academic CV.
• Copies of your degree certificates and transcripts or record of progress (if applicable)
• A copy of your English language qualification (if applicable).
• Contact details of two appropriate referees. At least one of these should be from a tutor who has knowledge of your academic ability from your most recent study/programme.

Deadline for application is 16 March 2020; interviews will take place on 31 March 2020

Enquiries and applications should be sent to Prof David R. Green at [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The PhD is a fully funded studentship by the Wellcome over 36 months, subject to the normal rules of progression. Fees plus a stipend equivalent to £22,278 per annum.


David R Green Douglas H L Brown Kathleen McIlvenna, 'Addressing Ill Health: Sickness and Retirement in the Victorian Post Office', Social History of Medicine,
Published: 15 November 2018

Kathleen McIlvenna Douglas Brown David R Green, "‘The Natural Foundation of Perfect Efficiency’: Medical Services and the Victorian Post Office",
Social History of Medicine,
Published: 23 January 2019

David Green, Douglas Brown, Kathleen McIlvenna & Nicola Shelton (2019): ‘The Postman Wears Out Fast’: Retiring Sick in London’s Victorian Post Office, The London Journal,
Published online 26 September 2019

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