Gepubliceerd op 11-06-2022

VU: PhD Agricultural History

Do you (almost) have a (Research) Master’s degree in History or a related area? Are you interested in historical research that aims to support sustainable transformation of agriculture? Then apply for this exciting PhD position at the Athena Institute of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

FTE: 0.8 – 1

Job description

The historical research you will conduct in this PhD project will engage with a contemporary problem. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the Dutch food- and agriculture system is in need of transformation in order to address a growing number of challenges. Among these are the nitrogen crisis, carbon dioxide emissions, falling groundwater levels, animal welfare, the use of pesticides, a lack of affordable healthy food, and rising levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases.

Both academic and societal engagement to instigate this transformation has been growing, which has led to a plethora of approaches including technological innovation, shifts in the way the system is governed, the creation of new rules and regulations, and campaigns focused on consumer behaviour. However, few of these approaches have been informed by an understanding  of the historical dimensions of today’s Dutch food- and agriculture system. A deeper understanding of how the system ‘came about’ will help identify possible solutions to today’s problems. And perhaps more importantly, we also know that the way in which the past is experienced and discussed in the present-day also influences our ideas about the kinds of futures we aim to work towards and the solutions we develop to realize those futures. In other words: new historical research, creating new understandings of the past, may reshape our futures.

Your duties
Empirically, the PhD candidate will study the role of various (scientific and non-scientific) forms of knowledge production in the emergence and shaping of the Dutch post-war agricultural and food production system. Furthermore, among the project’s goals is to reflect on the ways in which historical research can contribute to current transformations in society and, reversely, to reflect on how direct interaction with actors involved in such transformations can feed back into the methods and demarcations of historical research. Therefore, as a PhD candidate, you will team up with other PhDs engaged in contemporary projects on the transformation of the Dutch food- and agriculture system.

Next to your research, resulting in a PhD thesis, you will be teaching in courses offered by the Athena Institute. Research and teaching will be entwined with innovative Community Service Learning initiatives, which are central to the VU in general and the Athena Institute in particular. Your work will be supported with committed supervision and additional training in methods with which you are not yet familiar


  • a Master’s or Research Master’s degree in History (of Science/Knowledge), or one that can be expected to be obtained in this academic year. We will also consider outstanding candidates with degrees in related fields
  • motivation and ability to work as part of a research team and to interact with researchers from other disciplines
  • experience with historical research methods, and an interest in methodological innovation
  • a strong interest in learning to use participatory research methods
  • ability to study sources in Dutch and communicate in Dutch
  • excellent spoken and written English as well as strong academic writing skills

What are we offering

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2.443 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,111 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.
The PhD projects should start between September 1st 2022 and October 2022, please take this into account when applying for the position.
The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • possibility to save holiday hours, for sabbatical leave,
  • child daycare facilities available on campus

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive 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. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
The position is offered within the Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. The institute’s mission is to study and design interfaces between science and society to contribute both to a deeper understanding of innovation processes as well as a responsible implementation of research and innovation in society. Athena’s research program amongst other focuses on analysing complex global health challenges, designing interventions and conducting participatory monitoring and evaluation research. The section presently has a position vacant for a Postdoc/Lecturer.
For more information about the Athena Institute visit our website.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button on this page and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until June 29, 2022,

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof.dr. F.H. van Lunteren
Position: Professor of history and science
E-mail: f.h.van.lunteren@vu.nl

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.