PhD Position “The Dark Middle Ages: Language of Vice in Histories of Science, 1700-1900”
As per September 1, 2019, the Leiden University Institute for History will be appointing a PhD candidate within the NWO-funded VICI project Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History, supervised by Professor Herman Paul (https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/staffmembers/herman-paul).
Emblematic stories about scholarly vice such as codified in William Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) found their way into countless 19th- and 20th-century histories of science. This is true not only for Whewell’s image of the dark Middle Ages – the “barren period, which intervened between the scientific activity of ancient Greece, and that of modern Europe” – but also for anecdotes such as Vergilius of Salzburg being censured by Pope Zachary and Galileo being condemned by the Inquisition. Whewell in turn borrowed these story elements from Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, just as his “emplotment” of the history of science as a gradual triumph of virtue over vice was indebted, more generally, to 18th-century histories of science, dictionaries of arts and science, and historia literaria. In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this sub-project examines to what extent anecdotes, commonplaces, and stereotypical images contributed to the long-term persistence of early modern vices such as dogmatism.
- Conducting research on “The Dark Middle Ages: Language of Vice in Histories of Science, 1700-1900” (see project description below);
- Writing an English-language PhD thesis within four years;
- Writing two (single- or co-authored) articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
- Presenting draft articles or thesis chapters at conferences or workshops;
- Co-organizing one of the workshops envisioned within the project;
- Contributing actively to the project as a whole (e.g., serving as a peer reviewer for other team members, contributing to the project website).
- If possible: contributing to undergraduate teaching
- MA degree in History or a related field;
- Fluency in English and good passive command of German and French;
- Demonstrable interest in the history of the humanities and/or the history of science (familiarity with Enlightenment historiography is an advantage);
- Experience in working with 18th- or 19th-century source material;
- Excellent writing skills;
- Ability to work both independently and as part of the team;
- Ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment.
Conditions of employment
We offer a full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary range from € 2,325.- to € 2,972.- gross per month (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).
Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. Additional budget allows for research visits abroad and attendance of international conferences. More at http://www.workingat.leiden.edu/.
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The overall project, Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History, revolves around a simple question: Why do scholars still evaluate each other’s work in terms that are often centuries old? Although modern science differs considerably from early modern learning, 17th-century terms like “dogmatism,” “prejudice,” and “speculation” are still being used, even if their meanings have changed over time. The project tries to explain the persistence of this cultural repertoire by zooming in on (1) interaction between idioms (cultural repertoires) available to scholars at certain points in time, (2) mechanisms that help transmit repertoires across time and place, and (3) rhetorical purposes for which repertoires can be used.
Drawing on a wide array of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century sources from across the academic spectrum, the project tests three hypotheses: (1) early modern language of vice persisted in productive interaction with modern notions of “bias,” “subjectivity,” and “conflicts of interest”; (2) commonplaces, anecdotes, and stereotypes (“dark Middle Ages”) were major mechanisms of transmission; and (3) language of vice was attractive, not despite, but because of its time-honored origins.
By doing so, the project hopes to enrich our understanding of continuity and discontinuity between early modern learning and modern science. It hopes to build bridges between fields (in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences) that are too often studied in isolation from each other. Finally, in the realm of knowledge utilization, it wants to encourage scholars to reflect on contemporary scholarly virtues and vices.
Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.
A more extensive project description is available upon request from Professor Herman Paul, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.