The University of Edinburgh, in partnership with National Museums Scotland (NMS) and the AHRC, is offering a fully funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) studentship.

Value: Tuition fees and £15,609 stipend (pro-rata for part-time)
Eligibility: Home and international tuition fees will be covered. The project is fully funded for 45 months full-time study (3.75 years/ 3 years 9 months) or part-time equivalent with the potential to be extended for a further 3 months to enable the student to undertake further relevant professional development.


Qualification: PhD in History of Art

Location: Edinburgh

Fee Rate: Home and international tuition fees will be covered. Potential applicants should note the eligibility requirements for this studentship published by UKRI

Additional Benefits: NMS will contribute up to £1,000 per financial year (for a total of 3.75 years, pro-rata for part-time) to support the above research-related expenses of the student, usually in the form of travel and subsistence. Plus a CDP maintenance payment of £550/year. Further details can be found on the UKRI website.

Duration: The project is fully funded for 45 months full-time study (3.75 years/ 3 years 9 months) or part-time equivalent with the potential to be extended for a further 3 months to enable the student to undertake further relevant professional development.



Previous scholarship on the doctrinal and ecclesiastical impacts of the Scottish Reformation have concentrated on textual sources. This project offers instead the first sustained assessment of the related material culture, evaluating how early modern objects connected with religious belief present fresh insights into both public ritual and private observance.

This project asks: How can material culture present a more complex picture of religious life in post-Reformation Scotland? What can it reveal about the diverse practices of belief? How might it complicate traditional narratives of the long association of kirk, state and national identity? We are looking for someone with interests in early modern history and material culture, who wants to explore these questions.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, which is a centre of excellence for study and research in history of art, and National Museums Scotland, one of the UK’s leading museums and custodian of Scotland’s national historical collections. This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Catriona Murray (Lecturer, History of Art, University of Edinburgh) and Dr Anna Groundwater (Principal Curator, Renaissance and Early Modern History, National Museums Scotland). The student will be expected to spend time at both the University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK.


The Project

This doctoral project examines religious material culture produced and used in the centuries following the Scottish Protestant Reformation. Religious practice and doctrine were central in shaping the everyday lives of early modern society in Scotland as elsewhere in Europe. Using National Museums Scotland's collections of objects associated with the practice and performance of religious belief in Scotland, this project investigates the impact of the seismic changes of the Reformation on the material culture used in public ritual and private devotion, as well as in the official regulation of religion. It considers too such objects held in regional museums, and contained within Treasure Trove data, to evaluate how representative the national collection is of the complexities of religious practice in post-Reformation Scotland.  In doing so, it will review NMS’s interpretation of these collections, to consider their relevance within the religious diversity of today.

The historiography of post-Reformation Scotland has historically been dominated by a Presbyterian narrative - integral to understandings of early modern national identity - of Scotland as the kingdom of the ‘Elect’. Recent research challenges that narrative’s hegemony, and this project will nuance arguably overly-Protestant narratives within the NMS’s collections and displays. It will suggest new curatorial strategies for communicating a more heterogeneous picture of religious practice, in the redevelopment of the Scotland Galleries of the National Museum in Edinburgh. It will consider too how these narratives might encompass non-specialist understandings of Scotland’s religious past, and its current resonances:

Research questions include:

  • What do the materiality and performative functions of objects held by National Museums Scotland suggest of human interaction with religious material culture, and communal or private worship following the Reformation?
  • How might material culture alter prevalent narratives of post-Reformation Scotland to reflect a more diverse picture of religious conformity and conviction, and the role of the state?
  • How might concepts of materiality and performance be communicated to a non-specialist audience?
  • How might public engagement and participatory approaches gauge current understandings of the religious past, and its resonances in the diversity of belief today?


The Person

This is a multidisciplinary research area, and we are keen to receive applications from people with experience across the academic disciplines. For example, you might have studied the social and political history of early modern Britain or Europe, and might now want to consider how visual or material cultures reflect systems of belief. You might have studied history of art or architectural history and might now want to situate objects within their political, social and religious contexts. You might have worked in the cultural heritage sector, and might now want to develop a deeper understanding of curatorial practices, including interpretation and story-telling. You might have expertise in public history or museum studies. Candidates with relevant professional experience in the museums and galleries sector are welcome.

Regardless of previous specialism, the successful applicant for the studentship should (by September 2021) have a First or high Upper-Second class honours degree and, ideally, a Masters-level qualification, or comparable professional experience. We are looking for someone who has the tenacity to investigate the NMS collections systematically, who is motivated to drive their own research agenda forward in an independent way (with our guidance), and who has the analytical ability to develop new insights into the history of post-Reformation Scotland.

Part-time study options are available. Where the studentship is undertaken on a full-time basis the thesis must be submitted within 4 years.


Prior experience and key attributes


  • First or upper-second class Honours degree or equivalent in History, History of Art, Architectural History, Theology, Museum/Heritage Studies or another area relevant to the PhD
  • Demonstrable ability to work independently and to develop an independent research agenda
  • Strong writing skills and demonstrable ability to develop and communicate historical analysis
  • Willingness to engage with a broad range of audiences to disseminate the work
  • Willingness to travel to collections and archives in Scotland
  • Some experience of relevant research methods (but note that research training is a key part of the studentship)


  • Experience of archival research and other advanced historical/ art historical methodologies
  • Distinction (or equivalent) at Masters level in History, History of Art, Architectural History, Theology, Museum/Heritage Studies or another area relevant to the PhD OR professional experience within a cultural heritage setting
  • Knowledge of early modern Scottish and British history
  • Knowledge of visual and material culture theory

Applicants without a Masters qualification should include with their application a 1-page statement outlining the specifically relevant skills, experience and knowledge they have gained in the cultural heritage sector beyond undergraduate degree level, which could be considered equivalent to Masters study.

Applicants will need to meet the requirements of postgraduate studies at the university, and will also apply through the University of Edinburgh’s online application system.

Please note: All applicants must meet UKRI terms and conditions for funding.



How to Apply

Informal enquiries about the project are welcome and should be addressed in the first instance to Dr Catriona Murray ( and Dr Anna Groundwater (

To apply formally, you will need to apply for the PhD in History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, specifying that you are applying for this specific project.

Applications should be accompanied by:

a) A two-page CV, certified copies of degree certificates and transcripts and the details of two referees

b) A statement/proposal of no more than two pages describing:

  • Your particular interest in and understanding of this topic, and the way you might start to approach an investigation of it;
  • How your experience to date makes you suitable for this studentship, and what you would learn through this opportunity;
  • The impact you hope to make through working with us on this project.

IMPORTANT: please also send an email to the ECA Postgraduate Research Team: stating that you wish to be considered for the “The Elect and the Damned” AHRC PhD studentship, noting that you have made an online application.  This allows us to fast track your application on the online postgraduate application system.


For queries about the application process

Please contact

For further Information about the PhD, please contact Dr Catriona Murray ( and Dr Anna Groundwater (



  • Closing date for applications: Friday 4 June, 2021
  • Interviews are provisionally scheduled: week of 14 June, 2021
  • Interviews will be conducted on an online video meeting platform

Start date: September 2021