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Voyagers All? The historic role of missionary societies in shaping children’s understanding of Britain’s place in the world. (WINGFIELDCU19cdpSMACNMM)

Project Description

Following the 2012 acquisition by the National Maritime Museum of an important collection from the Council for World Mission (formerly the London Missionary Society), and its partial display in the new Pacific Encounters gallery in 2018, this collaborative PhD project will explore how missionary societies shaped the ways in which British children understood their role in the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

From card games featuring missionary stations, to collecting boxes in the shape of African houses and missionary ships, to suitcases of ethnographic items that were circulated to Sunday schools, this collection includes many of the artefacts and images through which children’s perceptions of the wider world were framed. This under-researched cache of primary material at the NMM provides a unique opportunity for a PhD student to explore the relationships between missionary texts and the artefacts, objects and images used to engage youthful audiences.

Scope for Moulding Project
The successful PhD candidate will work with objects, texts and images from a number of collections to develop a picture of the different ways in which missionary societies engaged with children across the British Isles, and how this changed over time. The intention of this project is that it could be undertaken by students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds across the humanities, including Archaeology, Anthropology, History, Geography, History of Science, History of Art and Education. Depending on the background and experience of the successful student, we anticipate that particular strands of research may become more or less prominent.

For further information, see:

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:

Type of programme: PhD

Project start date: October 2019

Mode of study: Full time/ part time

Entry requirements: Acceptable first degree - History, Geography, History of Science, History of Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Education, Cultural Studies. The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1. Masters or equivalent experience in a professional setting.

As part of your application you will need to include: a research statement of up to 1000 words, explaining why you are interested in studying for this PhD topic, what you would bring to the research and how you think you would take the project forward; a sample of writing, up to 3000 words, describing an object from the National Maritime Museum’s collections, and the ways this expresses a view of another part of the world.

This studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) via a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Award between the National Maritime Museum and the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU), University of East Anglia. The studentship is funded for 3 years (full-time) and pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home/EU rate for PhD degrees as well as full maintenance for UK citizens and residents only. The value of the maintenance stipend is around £15,559. The successful candidate will also have access to the Student Development Fund which allows an extension of up to 6 months to undertake related placements and training.

Funding Notes

The National Maritime Museum will provide an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project worth up to £1,000 per year for three years, and the Sainsbury Research Unit will provide £2,000 in research support funds and £500 in conference support funds over the course of the studentship.


i) Brewer, Sandy. 2005. From darkest England to the hope of the world: Protestant pedagogy and the visual culture of the London Missionary Society. Material Religion 1 (1): 98–123.

ii) Kumar, Krishan. 2003. The making of English national identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

iii) Prochaska, F.K. 1978. Little vessels: children in the nineteenth-century English missionary movement. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 6 (2): 103–18.

iv) Thorne, Susan. 2006. Religion and empire at home. In Catherine Hall and Sonya O. Rose (eds.), At home with the empire: metropolitan culture and the imperial world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 143–65.

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