AHRC PhD Studentship Colonial cultures and encounters of the First World War



Colonial cultures and encounters of the First World War

AHRC PhD Studentship in collaboration with Imperial War Museums (IWM) and King’s College London







Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded PhD at Kings College London on the representation and/or experience of colonial troops during the First World War. This is offered under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership programme. The partner institutions are Kings College London’s Department of English and IWM.


The project will be supervised by Dr Santanu Das (King’s College London) and Suzanne Bardgett, Head of Research, IWM. The studentship, which is funded for three years full-time equivalent, will begin in September 2013. The project will contribute to the international collaborative research project Cultural Exchange in a time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents during the First World War, funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area). This three-year project will be led by Dr Santanu Das, with Principal Investigators and Associate Partners from across Europe and will include seminars and workshops in Ypres, Poznan, Utrecht and Berlin and an exhibition and a major international conference at London, to which IWM will be contributing.


The Studentship

The project will investigate the representation and/or experience of colonial soldiers and labourers, drawing in particular on the rich visual and material collections – particularly posters, artefacts, photographs, film and documents – held in the archives of IWM.

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Over four million non-white men, including combatants and non-combatants, were mobilised during the First World War. Between 1914 and 1918, hundreds of thousands of Asian, African and Caribbean troops, labourers and workers came to Europe, in addition to soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Europe would never be the same again not just in terms of the war’s wreckage but in terms of people, ethnicities and cultures encountered, manipulated, studied, befriended – in battlefields, billets, towns, villages, hospitals, prisoner-of-war camps. For many of these men, it was their first encounter with Europe and its people, as well as with the horrors of industrial warfare. How were such moments and processes captured, remembered and represented by either side? What were the dominant discourses in Europe through which these colonial troops were viewed and how did they change over the war years? This project will investigate visual and material artefacts, alongside surviving documents, to recover and understand more fully the experiences of these men, the dominant discourses and structures of power surrounding them as well as the fresh zones of contact made possible by the war.


This project aims to be interdisciplinary, and it is hoped that there will be a strong comparative and transnational dimension. The student will have access to a diversity of sources across the various collections in IWM’s archives – from personal testimonies (letters, diaries, interviews) written by white British officers to visual material (photographs, posters, propagandist films) to incidental, ephemeral pieces of evidence such as songs, newspaper cuttings and souvenirs.

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The student will be expected to contribute to the improvement of IWM’s catalogue relating to this material and to compile finding aids which can assist researchers. There may also be the opportunity to work with learning teams at IWM in providing sessions or online resources for community use.


In recent years, there has been a very substantial growth of academic and community interest in the colonial dimensions of the First World War. The studentship is intended to build on the work of the AHRC-supported Whose Remembrance? project which examined the state of research in this field and which highlighted several strongly emerging strands of research effort as well as the value of these histories to communities in the UK for whom it is part of their heritage.


How to Apply

Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in history, English, cultural studies or another relevant discipline, and will need to satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements including Masters-level advanced research training or equivalent.
Applicants should submit via email a two-page curriculum vitae, a brief letter outlining their qualification for the studentship, and the names and contact details of two academic referees to Dr Santanu Das, Department of English, Kings College London ([email protected]) no later than Friday 23 August 2013 and Suzanne Bardgett, Head of Research, Imperial War Museums ([email protected])


Interviews are scheduled to be held in London on Monday 2 September 2013. For further information concerning the project, please contact Dr Santanu Das or Suzanne Bardgett before 16 August 2013.

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