Doctoral studentship, Colonial Childhoods, University of Hull

Funded PhD Studentship: Producing the Geographies of Childhood in Colonial Africa: Children’s Lives in Twentieth-Century Nyasaland

University of Hull , U. K.

Orthodox histories of European imperialism in Africa often celebrate formal institutions, high politics and the roles of ‘Great White Men’ in the constitution of colonial territory and society. Key figures such as Rhodes and Livingstone were significant, but they are not the whole story and these approaches neglect other marginalised social groups who also constituted the European presence in Africa. Feminist critiques have retrieved some women’s experiences in Africa as explorers, travel writers, colonial officer’s wives, teachers, nurses and missionaries.

These accounts have enriched understandings of everyday life in the colonies and offer alternative perspectives on issues of race, gender and authority. However, European colonial children remain a group routinely, and almost entirely, overlooked. This doctoral studentship will uncover and retell the stories of European children in Nyasaland whose colonial childhoods were distinct and deserve academic attention.

Children were a highly significant and distinctive presence within European colonial society. Their lives were framed by the racial hierarchies that striated colonial society: being white meant they were instantly privileged, although gender and class also inflected their status and opportunities. Likewise, illness and stark levels of child mortality also marked their lives. Many died in the colonies which shaped how families understood their ‘colonial service’ abroad. Distance also shaped these lives – with many children leading dislocated lives: being born and raised abroad and always distant from ‘home’.

This study is informed by historical children’s geographies and will develop work on the geographies of European colonial children by retrieving and retelling the stories of European children in Nyasaland 1889-1964. The studentship will examine colonial children’s life worlds and uncover their voices through autobiographies and memoirs, diaries, letters and photographs. Through archival work (in Britain and Malawi – funds available) and interviews with former colonial children this study will address research questions such as: How were the historical geographies of European settlement in Africa experienced differently by generational groups (parents and children)? How did colonial hierarchies of age and generation intersect with gender, class and racial hierarchies? What do the micro-historical geographies of families from the period of Empire look like?

In order to qualify for this scholarship you will require at least a 2.1, but preferably a Masters degree, in a relevant subject.

Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship will include fees at the‘home/EU’ student rate and maintenance (£13,726 in 2014/15) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress. Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.

PhD students at the University of Hull follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.

Closing date: 3rd February 2014.

Application Form and details at

Interested applicants are encouraged to direct informal enquiries to: Dr Elsbeth Robson , Dr Rosemary Wall , Prof David Atkinson