The Department of History at the University of York is delighted to invite applications for a three-year PhD studentship to work on the history of Japan as a major producer of the natural insecticide, pyrethrum. This studentship forms part of the Wellcome Trust funded project “The Chemical Empire: A New History of Synthetic Insecticides in Britain and its Colonies, c 1920-1970”, led by Dr Sabine Clarke in the Department of History. This project will transform our understanding of the use of insecticides in the past by exploring the neglected experience of insecticide use in Britain and its colonies. It will play close attention to the interplay of cultural, political, economic, technical and business factors important in a range of contexts that have not been previously explored or sufficiently distinguished in order to produce a new history of synthetics insecticides in the twentieth century.
The PhD Project:
Pyrethrum is a naturally occurring insecticide that can be extracted from chrysanthemum flowers. Japan established a pyrethrum industry at the end of the 19th century and Japanese scientists were responsible for innovations in insect control such as mosquito coils. By the start of the Second World War, Japan was the major supplier of pyrethrum to Britain and the US. This project will investigate aspects of the rise of the pyrethrum industry in Japan such as its international significance, and its relationship with the new synthetic insecticides that emerged after 1940. The project would suit a candidate with an interest in fields such as the history of science, technology and medicine, environmental history and/or economic and business history. Candidates will need a good reading knowledge of Japanese.