Postdoctoral Research Associate (History)

Updated: 4 days ago
Location: Durham, ENGLAND

Postdoctoral Research Associate (History) (
Job Number:
Department of History
Grade 7: - £37,099 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 36 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date
: 17-Jun-2024, 6:59:00 PM
Disclosure and Barring Service Requirement: Not Applicable. 

Working at Durham University  

A globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, a warm and friendly place to work, a unique and historic setting – Durham is a university like no other. 

As one of the UK’s leading universities, Durham is an incredible place to define your career. The University is located within a beautiful historic city, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and surrounded by stunning countryside. Our talented scholars and researchers from around the world are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.   

We believe that inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham enables Durham people to do outstanding things in the world. Being a part of Durham is about more than just the success of the University, it’s also about contributing to the success of the city, county and community. 

Our University Strategy is built on three pillars of research, education and wider student experience, but also on our keen sense of community and of inspiring others to achieve their potential.  

Our Purpose and Values  

We want our University to be a place where people can be free to be themselves, no matter what their identity or background. Together, we celebrate difference, value one another and are each responsible for creating an inclusive community that is respectful and fair for all. 

Find out more about the benefits of working at the University and what it is like to live and work in the Durham area on ourWhy Durham? information page.

The Role and Department  

Following recent expansion, Durham University History Department is now one of the largest centres in the UK for the study of History. We are consistently ranked amongst the top departments in the country by the Complete University Guide, the Times and Sunday Times, and the Guardian University Guide. We place research at the very heart of our varied undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, inducting our students into a community of historians from the outset. 

This post offers an exciting opportunity to make an important contribution to the development of the History department’s research while allowing you excellent opportunities to develop your career in an exciting and progressive institution. For more information, please visit our Department pages at .


The Role

The Department of History at Durham University seeks to appoint a talented researcher and scholar to the role of Postdoctoral Research Associate to work on the research project ‘Modelling the Black Death and Social Connectivity in Medieval England’, led by Dr Alex Brown and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Utilising the latest computer modelling developed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we will simulate the spread of the Black Death in England in order to test hypotheses about the spread of the disease and about the connectedness of medieval society. Using historical and archaeological sources, we will reconstruct the broad characteristics of the late medieval population on the eve of the Black Death, such as their location, age, sex, and occupation. This is the ‘static’ part of our model. We will then infer their ‘dynamic’ behavioural patterns, such as where they spent their time and whom they encountered in their daily lives. In order to achieve this, the successful candidate will conduct high-quality research of new archival material and will draw upon a wide range of secondary material in order to construct the necessary datasets that will feed into our computer model.   

The successful candidate will join an exciting interdisciplinary team of researchers and will work closely with Co-Investigators in Archaeology (Professors Christopher Gerrard and Rebecca Gowland and a postdoctoral research associate) and in Physics (Professor Frank Krauss and a postdoctoral research associate). The History postdoctoral research associate will be responsible for collating much of the underlying historical data, including drawing material from existing datasets derived from the lay subsidies and poll taxes, and constructing new datasets on, for example, the major communication networks of medieval England. You will collaborate with colleagues in Archaeology to establish variable mortality rates during the Black Death, and with colleagues in Physics to prepare these datasets for our computer simulation.  

We welcome applications from those with research interests in the broad field of medieval social and economic history and we are particularly eager to hear from applicants with expertise in either digital humanities, medical humanities or who have experience working with large datasets or mapping software such as GIS.


Key responsibilities:

  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications. 
  • To conduct research into the social structure and demography of late medieval society and to contribute to our computer model through the construction of a range of datasets on these topics.   
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences. 
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator and team of Co-Investigators. 
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.  
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator and team of Co-Investigators.  
  • To work with the Principal Investigator and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.  
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator and other colleagues in the research group and offering creative or innovative solutions.  
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration. 
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects. 
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate. 
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect. 
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline. 
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.      

This post is fixed term for 36 months. The post is funded by an external grant that commences on 19 September 2024 and ends on 18 September 2027.

The post-holder is employed to work on a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her/their own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols. 

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 19 September 2024.


Working at Durham  

A competitive salary is only one part of the many fantastic benefits you will receive if you join the University: you will also receive access to the following fantastic benefits:  

•    30 Days annual leave per year in addition to 8 public holidays and 4 customary days per year – a total of 42 days per year.   
•    The University closes between Christmas and New Year.  
•    We offer a generous pension scheme, As a new member of staff you will be automatically enrolled  into the University Superannuation Scheme (USS). 
•    No matter how you travel to work, we have you covered. We have parking across campus, a cycle to work scheme which helps you to buy a bike and discount with local bus and train companies. 
•    There is a genuine commitment to developing our colleagues professionally and personally. There is a comprehensive range of development courses, apprenticeships and access to qualifications and routes to develop your career in the University. All staff have dedicated annual time to concentrate on their personal development opportunities.  
•    Lots of support for health and wellbeing including discounted membership for our state of the art sport and gym facilities and access to a 24-7 Employee Assistance Programme. 
•    On site nursery is available and children’s clubs in the summer holidays. 
•    Family friendly policies, including maternity and adoption leave, which are among the most generous in the higher education sector (and likely above and beyond many employers). 
•    The opportunity to take part in staff volunteering activities to make a difference in the local community 
•    Discounts are available via our benefits portal including; money off at supermarkets, high street retailers, IT products such as Apple, the cinema and days out at various attractions.  
•    A salary sacrifice scheme is also available to help you take advantage of tax savings on benefits.  
•    If you are moving to Durham, we can help with removal costs and we have a dedicated team who can help you with the practicalities such as house hunting and schools.  If you need a visa, we cover most visa costs and offer an interest free loan scheme to pay for dependant visas. 

Durham University is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are a key component of the University’s Strategy and a central part of everything we do.  We also live by our Purpose and Values  and our Staff Code of Conduct.   At Durham we actively work towards providing an environment where our staff and students can study, work and live in a community which is supportive and inclusive. It’s important to us that all colleagues undertake activities that are aligned to both our values and commitment to EDI.  

We welcome and encourage applications from those who are currently under-represented in our work force, including people with disabilities and from racially minoritised ethnic groups.  

If you have taken a career break or periods of leave that may have impacted on the volume and recency of your research outputs and other activities, such as maternity, adoption or parental leave, you may wish to disclose this in your application. The selection committee will take this into account when evaluating your application.  

The University has been awarded the Disability Confident Employer status. If you are a candidate with a disability, we are committed to ensuring fair treatment throughout the recruitment process. We will make adjustments to support the interview process wherever it is reasonable to do so and, where successful, reasonable adjustments will be made to support people within their role.  

Contact Information 

Department contact for academic-related enquiries:  

Dr Alex Brown (Project Principal Investigator): [email protected]

Contact information for technical difficulties when submitting your application 

If you encounter technical difficulties when using the online application form, we prefer you send enquiries by email.  Please send your name along with a brief description of the problem you’re experiencing to [email protected]  

Alternatively, you may call 0191 334 6801 from the UK, or +44 191 334 6801 from outside the UK. This number operates during the hours of 09.00 and 17.00 Monday to Friday, UK time.  We will normally respond within one working day (Monday to Friday, excluding UK public holidays).   

University contact for general queries about the recruitment process 

Michele Groark, HR Administrator (Recruitment) [email protected]

How to Apply  

To progress to the assessment stage, candidates must evidence each of the essential criteria required for the role in the person specification below. It will be at the discretion of the recruiting panel as to whether they will also consider any desirable criteria, but we would urge candidates to provide evidence for all criteria.   

While some criteria will be considered at the shortlisting stage, other criteria may be considered later in the assessment process, such as questions at interview.   

Submitting your application  

We prefer to receive applications online.   We will update you about your application at various points throughout the selection process, via automated emails from our e-recruitment system. Please check your spam/junk folder periodically to make sure you have not missed any of our updates. 


What to Submit 

All applicants are asked to submit:  

  • A CV and cover letter which details your experience, skills, and achievements in meeting (or the potential to meet) the criteria set out below. 
  • Two of your most significant pieces of written work (these should be of article or chapter length and can include two chapters of a PhD thesis, for example, or work currently in reparation or under review).    
  • Personal research plan – (of no more than 1000 words). This should cover your publication plans, planned future research project(s) and related funding applications, and any other relevant information, over a period of the next five years.  
  • An EDI & values statement – (of no more than 500 words) which outlines work which you have been involved in which demonstrates your commitment to EDI and our values. I.e. Involvement in equality, diversity, and inclusion activities such as mentoring, volunteering, or organising conferences. 


Where possible we request that you provide accessible web links to your publications, which the hiring Department will use to access your work. Please note we are unable to access publications behind a paywall.   

In the event you are unable to provide accessible links to online hosting of your work, publications should be uploaded as PDFs as part of your application in our recruitment system. Please ensure that your PDFs are not larger than 2mb. Your work may be read by colleagues from across the Department

All application documents should be uploaded with your name and document type as PDF files.


Next Steps 

Short-listed candidates will be invited to the University, either virtually or in-person and will have the opportunity to meet key members of the Department.  The assessment for the post will normally include a presentation to staff and students in the Department followed by an interview and we anticipate that the assessments and interviews will take place over two days during July 2024.  

In the event that you are unable to attend in person on the date offered, it may not be possible to offer you an interview on an alternative date.  

Please note that in submitting your application Durham University will be processing your data. We would ask you to consider the relevant University Privacy Statement which provides information on the collation, storing and use of data.    

When appointing to this role the University must ensure that it meets any applicable immigration requirements, including salary thresholds which are applicable to some visas. 

Person Specification

Essential Criteria: 


1.    A good first degree and a PhD (or close to completion at the time of application) in medieval history or a related subject. 



2.    Experience in conducting high quality academic research.    

3.    Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.   

4.    Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national and international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.   

5.    Experience of archival research, including the study of a variety of late medieval documents, such as manorial records, taxation records, inquisitions, or maps.  



  6.    Demonstrable knowledge of Latin and Palaeography, and an understanding of using medieval historical records.    

7.    Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.   

8.    Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research, to work independently on own initiative and to meet strict deadlines.   

9.    Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.   


Desirable Criteria: 


10.  Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.   

11.  A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.   

12.  Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.   

13.  Ability to work with large datasets and to utilise mapping software such as GIS for spatial analysis and the geographical presentation of datasets.     

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