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The public understanding of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland 1968-1997 through history programming on the BBC: creating and accepting conflicting histories, creating and accepting shared facts

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 03, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

University of Westminster is pleased to offer an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship with the Westminster Communications and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) and Imperial War Museums (IWM) with the collaboration of the BBC.

The successful student will help prepare and develop the IWM collection and make it ready for a variety of public outputs.
The Communications and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) at the University of Westminster and Imperial War Museums (IWM) welcome applications for a PhD studentship to be funded (subject to approval) by TECHNE under its Doctoral Training Partnership Scheme, to begin in September 2020. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed, and one selected to be included in the second-stage TECHNE application process in February 2020.

CAMRI is a world-leading centre in the study of media and communication and renowned for its critical and international research since 1975.

IWM is a leading authority on conflict and its impact, focusing on Britain, its former Empire and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present day. IWM has a strong record of collaborative PhD studentships under AHRC, CDA and CDP schemes, with 13 completed PhDs and 14 in progress.

This is a remarkable opportunity to be part of preparing and feeding into IWM’s plans for future public programme outputs on Northern Ireland and late twentieth-century history more broadly. The student would join IWM as the Museum prepares a new collecting and exhibiting strategy, prepares for the next phase of exhibition refreshment and redevelopment work at all branches, and develops ways of representing 20th Century conflicts. The student would be at the heart of these efforts to improve the public understanding of this period.

The Proposal

IWM is exploring the intellectual basis for, and collecting material to dramatically improve, the scope and scale of its collections relating to the conflict known as the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1968-1997), with several exciting opportunities being considered for how IWM can make these collections and stories accessible to a global audience. The television footage and issues faced by broadcasters will be a key aspect of the material that needs to be researched, understood, collected and curated. The PhD student will find the material, have privileged access to the BBC, research the context and broadcasting production and editorial process, and use this to inform IWM’s public programme plans: they will research BBC programming that explained the history of Northern Ireland to young people, the Northern Irish public and to UK national and international audiences. The student will work on the BBC’s conception and delivery of programmes for different publics on Northern Irish (and Irish) history during the Troubles.

The PhD student would concentrate on the attempts to explain Northern Irish History both within Northern Ireland but also outside to the rest of the UK and beyond. It would concentrate on these main strands of work:
The BBC Northern Ireland Education Department work on history
Ireland: A Television History (1980-81, 13-parts) made by Robert Kee
Provos, Loyalists and Brits (1987) made by Peter Taylor

Making any of these programmes was editorially sensitive. At a time when the BBC was under great pressure from successive UK governments and challenged locally, the issues arising frequently went right to the top of the institution. Understanding the editorial and commissioning processes and the choices about programme content is important. The object of the study would be to explore the arguments and choices involved in the making of these programmes and to find new ways of shaping the IWM’s collection, storytelling ability and public programme outputs related to broadcasting resources.

The Supervisors

Professor Jean Seaton (University of Westminster) (BBC Historian)
Carl Warner (IWM) Head Curator

Candidates must comply with the eligibility criteria and other terms and conditions as described on the AHRC’s web page:

Please note that the studentships are not available to applicants who already have a PhD or who are currently enrolled on a doctoral programme at Westminster or elsewhere.

For informal discussions an application should contact:
Professor Jean Seaton,
Suzanne Bardgett,

Application procedure

For full information on the proposal, eligibility and application:

The closing date for applications is 5pm Friday 3rd January 2020.
Interviews will be held Monday 3rd February 2020

Funding Notes

The studentship will last for 3.5 or 4 years full-time. A maintenance grant of £17,338p.a. will be paid by the AHRC to the award-holder, subject to eligibility criteria and application approval (part-time award holders will be funded at 50% for 7 or 8 years). A stipend of £550 per year (full-time) is available to support additional engagement.

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