Project code



School of Area Studies History Politics and Literature

Start dates

October 2021

Closing date

4 May 2021

This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only. View our current projects here.

Applications are invited for a fees-only three year PhD to commence in October 2021.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Mathias Seiter, Dr Melanie Bassett and Professor Brad Beaven.

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK rate for three years and £2,000 for research costs/conference attendance. 

The work on this project will involve:

  • Researching naval heritage practices across three countries in Europe - the UK, Germany, and Austria. 
  • Developing and employing a wide range of research skills, from Oral History interviews to the study of museum spaces and displays. You’ll have access to Portsmouth’s enhanced doctoral training programme and to our well-established connections to naval heritage professionals.
  • Being part of the vibrant Port Towns and Urban Culture (PTUC) research group. You’ll benefit from the team’s wealth of knowledge and international networks while simultaneously showcasing cutting-edge research.
  • Working at the intersection of different disciplines – History, Museum Studies, and Heritage Studies. This will allow you to gain methodological and professional skills that are equally relevant to careers in academia and the heritage sector. 

Heritage institutions face unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. The fall in revenue and new virtual ways of experiencing heritage, ask questions about the relevance and shape of physical heritage spaces. It is therefore more important than ever for museums to build resilience by ensuring that they are relevant in a changing world. 

This exciting PhD project will allow you to both advance the scholarly understanding of museum practices across Europe and to support naval heritage institutions by developing strategies on how they can meet the challenges of the future.

Naval heritage is explicitly linked to histories of empire (or the loss of it), nationalism, and warfare. Naval history therefore plays an important reference point for the construction of national identities. At the same time, recent research has opened up new horizons for naval museums by stressing that BAME as well as LGBTQ histories are relevant to maritime settings. Heritage institutions have the opportunity to reach out to new audiences and to stay socially relevant.

By comparing naval museums, museum ships, as well as naval exhibitions in military museums, you’ll explore if and how themes such as nation, imperialism, war, race, or queer history are currently addressed by heritage institutions in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria. Using methodologies from History, Heritage and Museum Studies, you will be able to uncover the different historical narratives that museums construct and show how these histories are reflected in the design of heritage spaces and through the display of artefacts. The comparison of three unique naval histories will allow you to identify differences between national curatorial practices and to highlight the similarities which exist regardless of national context and locality. Your comprehensive study will enable you to develop practical guidelines for professionals working in naval museums at the final stage of the PhD project. 

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in History, Heritage Studies or Museum Studies or another related subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Willingness to familiarise yourself with analytical concepts and methodologies from academic fields which you might not have studied at Masters level but are appropriate to the project. A willingness to travel for research to heritage sites in the UK and Central Europe is essential. It is envisaged that field work abroad will take approx. 2-3 weeks.

German language proficiency to a level where complex texts can be understood and implicit meanings grasped is desirable.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Mathias Seiter ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SASH6120521 when applying.