Gepubliceerd op 04-10-2022

PhD Candidates Church and Slavery project

The PThU and VU are looking for two PhD candidates for the NWO-project ‘Church and Slavery in the Dutch Empire: History, Theology and Heritage’.

Job description

Description of the Research Project

This NWO-funded research project studies the role of the Reformed Church in the Dutch colonial past. The project looks at the theological and exegetical arguments put forward by church and academic theologians to defend or criticize slavery, and at the concrete financial, social and administrative role of the church in slavery and slave trade (missionary, pastoral, the church as slave owner, investor, gatekeeper). Multiple perspectives are included (enslaved people, former slaves, indigenous people, mixed groups and white colonizers) and attention is paid to the legacy of slavery in today’s churches and society.

The research project is a collaboration between the PThU and the VU, with the University of Curaçao and NiNsee (the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy) as partners.

PhD Candidate 1 (VU)

Your PhD project is entitled ‘Slavery, Church and Co-Existence in the Dutch Colonial Empire till the 19th century’. You will focus on the prescriptive, mediating and controlling role of the local church in the actual co-existence of the various communities, within the boundaries set by the magistrate or the trading companies, during the heyday of enslavement and slave trade until the early 19th century. After a period of general data collection in East and West, you will focus on a part of the former Dutch colonial empire (e.g., Indonesia or Sri Lanka). In your archival studies your read and analyze the (white) sources against the grain with a multi-faceted approach to be able to detect and include counter-voices and the voice of enslaved and free blacks and indigenous people (decolonizing the archives).

PhD Candidate 2 (PThU)

Your PhD project is entitled ‘The Reformed Church in the Dutch Colonial Empire since approximately 1830: Impact and Response’. You will focus on the role of the church in the period immediately before and after the abolition of slavery (1860-1863). After a period of general data collection in East and West, you will focus on a case study in the western part of the former Dutch colonial empire (e.g., Surinam or Curaçao). In addition to archival research, you will conduct anthropological fieldwork on oral history in its various manifestations (songs, family stories) and on material heritage, so that the perspective of (formerly) enslaved people, Asian contract laborers and indigenous people is also reflected in the research. In your analysis, you will make use of concepts such as race, religion, colour, class and gender.

What do we expect from you?

  • To submit a PhD thesis on the abovementioned topic within the period of appointment
  • To complete and submit at least two articles for an international, peer-reviewed journal within the period of appointment, as well as to contribute to the project’s edited volume(s)
  • To participate in seminars and conferences organized in the framework of the project
  • To participate in the PhD training programs of one of the universities and a national research school

There are other vacancies within this project. Please check our website: https://www.pthu.nl/en/about-us/vacancies/vacancies-church-and-slavery-project/


  • A relevant master’s degree in Theology/Religious Studies, History, Anthropology, Humanities or Social Sciences
  • A promising academic profile and affinity with topics such as Slavery, Colonialism and Religion/Church History as apparent from activities within and/or outside the context of your studies
  • Experience in working with early-modern sources in Dutch and/or anthropological fieldwork experience
  • Knowledge of a local language (e.g., Papiamento, Sranan Tongo, Bahasa Indonesia) is not required, but is considered an advantage
  • Motivation and ability to work as part of a research team, in particular with the other PhD Candidate in data collecting
  • Excellent spoken and written English as well as strong academic writing skills

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year + extension with 3 years extension after positive result of the assessment of progress.

We offer a large and inspiring team of scholars from various backgrounds and disciplines, ranging from biblical studies and church and colonial history to anthropology and gender studies, as well as a research project that covers both a long period of European and colonial history and societies in several continents.

The research project will have a vast scientific impact by expanding scholarly knowledge on the role of the churches and also by transforming that knowledge by the project’s scope, volume and its incorporation of the black and/or indigenous perspective. The project will also have a great impact on church and society, by contributing to the development of a new narrative of the Dutch past, in which our assumptions on the relations between toleration, racism, trade, slavery and Protestantism will be tested and revised.

We offer our PhD Candidates the following

  • An employment contract of 1,0 fte (full time equivalent; 0,8 fte is possible as well) for one year (workweek of 38 hours). After a positive result of the assessment of progress an extension of 3 years will be offered.
  • Your salary will be according to the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. This starts from a gross salary of € 2.541 per month in the first year of employment to a maximum gross salary of € 3.247 per month.
  • You will have a specific budget for conference and symposia participation as well as for any other competence training activities.

Within the research project, we greatly value diversity and therefore welcome applications from groups who are currently underrepresented in our institutions.


PhD Candidate 1 will be employed by the Faculty of Humanities at the VU, PhD Candidate 2 will be employed by the PThU.

The Protestant Theological University (PThU) is connected with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. It trains students to be the future ministers of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands as well as general theological experts, and provides post-academic training for ministers and chaplains.  With its nationally and internationally highly qualified research, the PThU seeks answers to the current and timeless questions that church, academy and society pose to us.

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) has as its ambition to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. The VU strives to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge.

Additional information

Would you like to learn more about the application procedure or the content of these vacancies?

Contact one of the following project leaders and/or supervisors:

For the full description of the research project, please visit the Church and Slavery project website.

The project is envisioned to start on 1 January 2023.

Are you interested to apply for this job?

Would you like to apply? Before 20 October 2022, please send us your motivation letter, curriculum vitae (with two references) and a master thesis or a writing sample of approximately 15 pages.

Job interviews will be held in the first week of November in Amsterdam or online.

There are other vacancies within this project. Please check our website.


Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.