University of Exeter/BT Archives: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship - British Telegraphic Work and Spaces, 1846-1950

Richard Noakes's picture
June 1, 2020
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
British History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Library and Information Science, Social History / Studies
British Telegraphic Work and Spaces, 1846-1950 PhD Studentship - History Ref: 3894

About the award

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship on British telegraphic work and spaces, 1846-1950 at the University of Exeter in partnership with BT Archives (London).  The studentship is awarded by the Science Museums and Archives Consortium under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme.  The project will commence in September 2020 and will be supervised by Prof Richard Noakes and Dr Sam Kinsley at Exeter and Ms Anne Archer and Mr James Elder at BT Archives, with further support from the Science Museum.

This project is a revisionist study of the largely forgotten operators of Britain's inland telegraph network from the foundation of the first private telegraph companies in 1846, through nationalisation of the service in 1870, to 1950 when the service was in sharp decline owing to competition from telephony.  It plugs a considerable gap in the historiography of British telecommunications – the need for a systematic and detailed understanding of telegraphic work and the spaces within which it was pursued. The project will yield new insights into such key developments as the entry of women into telegraphy and the foundation of telegraphic workers' unions.  The project involves the study of a wealth of largely unexplored primary source material, the bulk of which is held in BT Archives.  The systematic study of these materials will enable the Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) student to make a highly original contribution to historical scholarship and to help BT Archives in several important ways, including significantly enhancing the detail in its catalogue, producing website content and curating physical exhibitions.  The CDA's research will also help enhance the Science Museum's catalogue of telegraphic instruments.

A preliminary survey of BT Archives catalogue reveals an immense amount of material that can support this research.  It holds complete runs of periodicals dedicated to telegraphy and a wealth of unpublished documents relating to such issues as station organisation, employee recruitment, training, health and working conditions, and the experiences of female and male telegraphists. It is possible that the project will also uncover materials revealing the experiences of BAME and other under-represented telegraphists. The richness of the archival material that the student will be exploring means that there is much flexibility within the project for them to build on their own intellectual strengths and follow their own interests.

In addition to the 45 months spent on research, the CDA student will also spend 3 months on professional development opportunities at BT Archives. How and when this time is used will depend on the student's interests and goals and this will be agreed with them early in the project.  The time will be used to develop the student's professional archiving and cataloguing skills.

Further information about the funding scheme and the institutions involved in this project can be found at the following links:

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme

BT Archives

Postgraduate Research at the University of Exeter

Science Museum Group Collaborative Doctoral Awards

UKRI research training

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Professor Richard

UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate of £15,285 per year.  Award holders will also receive a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership maintenance of £600 per year and a partial London weighting of £1000 per year.  The partner institution, BT Archvies, will also provide the award holder with up to £1000 per year to support travel and other research expenses.

The duration of this studentship is 45 months (or part time equivalent) plus additional 3 months for professional development opportunities

Closing Date for applications is Monday 1st June 2020.



Entry requirements

We invite applications from candidates with a strong academic background in modern history, history of science and technology, historical geography or relevant field of humanities and social sciences.

Successful applicants should normally have a good first degree (at least 2.1, or international equivalent) in a relevant field of humanities, and have obtained, or are currently working towards a Masters degree at Merit level, or international equivalent, in modern history, history of science and technology and historical geography.

We encourage the widest range of potential students to apply for this award and strongly welcome applications from a wide range of backgrounds. 

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

Please note that the award is subject to the AHRC’s terms, to which applicants should refer before applying (see the Research Funding Guide at the top of this page on the AHRC website Note that overseas students are not eligible for AHRC awards (except under specific circumstances) and EU students need to assess whether they are eligible for fees and maintenance or fees only. Details of current maintenance and fee rates can be found on the ‘Funding for Research Training’ page on the AHRC website (

Please note that this studentship is only open to applicants who will start their studies in September 2020, not those who have already started.

Residency Entry Requirements:

1) UK/EU standard Research Council criteria e.g. ESPRC
This studentship is available to candidates resident in the UK/EU.

To meet the residency entry requirements for full funding (tuition fees and a maintenance allowance) you must have:

• Lived in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship
• No restrictions on how long you are able to stay in the UK
• If you are not a UK or EU national, the purpose of your residence in the UK must not be wholly or mainly for full-time education

If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs.

To be eligible for fees only funding you must be:
• Ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU

How to apply

Apply now

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter, a sample of recent work (to be uploaded in the research proposal section of the form) and details of two academic referees. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project.

You will also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most academic qualification.

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.

You must ensure that your referees email their references to by Monday 1st June 2020. Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references, you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the deadline. References should be submitted by your referees to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

Please quote reference 3894 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.
For general information about this studentship and the application process, please contact

Interviews will take place week commencing Monday 29th June 2020.

Depending on the situations regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the interview will take place either in person or via video-conferencing.


Application deadline:1st June 2020
Number of awards:1
Value:UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate of £15,285 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions (0044) 1392
Contact Info: 

Professor Richard Noakes, Department of Humanities, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn, Cornwall, UK, TR10 9FE.

Contact Email: