Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Start dates

October 2020

Application deadline

19 June 2020

Applications for this project have now closed. Please check out our History postgraduate research degrees page for available projects.

This PhD results from an international collaboration between the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures (PTUC) research group and Halmstad University’s Humanities Academy, which aims to enhance the understanding of port town and coastal communities by using digital humanities and engaging diverse audiences.

It builds on the study of British wrecking practices and coastal communities in the 18th and 19th centuries by lead supervisor, Dr Cathryn Pearce.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Cathryn Pearce (Portsmouth), Dr Jens Lerbom (Halmstad) and Dr Robert James (Portsmouth). 

Bursary recipients will receive an annual stipend (currently £15,009 p.a.), £2,000 for project costs/consumables and an additional sum for the costs for travelling and accommodation associated with a split-site programme.

By working on this project you’ll:

  • Employ innovative digital humanities techniques introduced by the University of Halmstad’s (UH) Digital Humanities Doctoral Training Programme to provide new insights into the social and cultural history of coastal societies through the study of wrecking practices
  • Benefit from the Port Town’s and Urban Culture team’s wealth of knowledge and international networks while simultaneously showcasing cutting-edge research into coastal communities
  • Acquire enhanced doctoral programme training from both institutions and will spend a minimum of one term each teaching at UoP and at UH, thus gaining research and teaching experience in different cultural settings

In Europe, the practice of ‘wrecking’ – whether pillaging wrecked ships or harvesting what has washed ashore – has been the subject of multiple forms of legal and social control. The history of wrecking has received increasing scholarly attention, focusing on two main themes: the truth or falsity of wrecking narratives and the legal and social relationship between commoners and manorial lords in wrecking and salvage practices.

The multi-cultural nature of your PhD will allow you to advance these studies both spatially and temporally. By adopting the tools of digital humanities and a coastal history framework, you will engage in a comparative analysis by integrating qualitative data (e.g. legal records, manorial court records, local newspapers, folklore, and contemporary literature) with a visual topography of the coastal area. 

By mapping coastal settlements and their relationships to shifting legal boundaries and jurisdictions, shipping lanes, sites of shipwrecks, and moral geographies, the entangled practices of wrecking, and the particularities of place, space and coastal connections will be uncovered. You will be able to determine the significance of wrecking to coastal, national and adjacent pluriactive communities in the mid-18th to 19th-century North Sea region of eastern England and western Sweden, and to demonstrate how cultural practices, identity and interconnectivity have manifested themselves across watery borderlands. 

Your PhD project will enhance the strong links established between Halmstad and Portsmouth by adding to a vibrant culture of research exchange. You would be expected to publish short research blogs on the PTUC website and showcase your research at international conferences during your funding, as well as contributing to an emerging research milieu in Halmstad.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in History or an appropriate 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.

You must be prepared to live and work in both Halmstad and Portsmouth. You must be willing to teach up to four hours a week during term time, there will be teaching opportunities in both Portsmouth and Halmstad. Understanding of the Swedish language would be desirable (there is an opportunity to join a Swedish for beginners class).

How to apply

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

When you are ready to apply, you can submit you application via the ‘Apply now’ link on our History Postgraduate Research Degrees webpage.

Please 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.

Please note, to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SASH5480620 when applying.