Postdoctoral Research Associate, Capuchin Fellow in the History of Catholicism

Durham, United Kingdom
29 Sep 2020
End of advertisement period
29 Oct 2020
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Theology and Religion

Grade 7: - £33,797
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 36 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 29-Oct-2020, 7:59:00 AM

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Founded in 1832, Durham’s Department of Theology and Religion was recently ranked fourth in the world in the QS World University Subject rankings. We also came top in the country in the last two UK assessments of research (2008 and 2014). We are home to more than 30 academic staff, and a community of over 100 doctoral students.

Teaching and research within the Department is focused on three key areas: Biblical studies, Christian Theology, and the Study of Religion.

 Biblical studies covers the New Testament, the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible and ancient Judaism, and includes both close engagement with the biblical texts and broader considerations of their historical, cultural and theological contexts and interpretation. We are one of the few universities to offer the full range of biblical and ancient languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Middle Egyptian).

 Christian theology covers ethical, philosophical and systematic theology, as well as historical theology and church history. We work within a range of Christian traditions – Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Studies are particular strengths – but we aren’t confined to any of them: our approach is to let each tradition be itself, but also to bring them all into dialogue.

The study of religion looks at the anthropological, and sociological aspects of religion in the analysis of mainstream traditions and alternative religious movements, and on the practical study of contemporary religion. Specialist staff interests include Mormonism; death, dying and disposal; shamanism; religion and emotion; religion/faith and globalization; contemporary and post-evangelicalism; religion and generational change; pilgrimage; sacred space; myth analysis; and South Asian Christianities.

 The department enjoys many cross-departmental and interdisciplinary links around the University, including with the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, as well as a strong, collaborative relationship with the theological institutions based in and around Durham (e.g. Cranmer Hall).

 With its home in Abbey House, right next to Durham Cathedral, a UNESCO world Heritage site, it is a beautiful and immensely exciting place to study and to research in Theology and Religion.

The department is also home to a number of research centres, including the Centre for Catholic Studies (https://www.dur.ac.uk/theology.religion/ccs/). The CCS, established in October 2007, is a unique body: a major research and teaching centre explicitly focussed on the study of Catholic Theology and Catholic Studies more widely (including the empirical study of Catholicism, the history of Catholicism, and the cultural impact of Catholicism). One of the core research project areas for the CCS relates to the History of Catholicism, which is engaged with a number of partners across a range of projects, including the biennial Early Modern British and Irish Catholicism conference.

The Role

The Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, in partnership with the Capuchin Franciscans of Great Britain, invites applications for a 36-month Fellowship in the History of Catholicism (c.1525–present day).

This fixed-term Fellowship has been made possible by a contribution from the Capuchin Franciscans of Great Britain. Founded in the sixteenth century, the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchin, after initial controversies, quickly became a vital part of the global Catholic Reformation. Within this context, the first men from Britain entered the new order and soon returned to their homelands or worked within the international programme of Catholic reform; it is known that from the accession of Elizabeth I to 1800, at least 70 men entered the Order. Following Catholic emancipation in 1829 and the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in 1850, the Capuchin province was established in England, subsequently seeing the Franciscan presence revived in Oxford at Greyfriars in the early twentieth century, and the creation of international missions. The province now covers England, Scotland and Wales, grouped as Great Britain.

There is currently no modern piece of historical research into the Capuchins on the western peripheries of Europe that takes account of historiographical shifts in the last half century. For example, scholars little appreciate the long relationship between the Capuchins and Britain, which dates from the early modern period rather than being a product of the nineteenth century’s Catholic ‘second spring’ following emancipation. The successful candidate will have access to the Capuchins’ own archive in Erith, and the holder will be expected to supplement this research with trips to relevant archives within the UK in order to provide the widest possible context.

The Capuchin Fellowship will allow the holder to research the largely unexplored history of the relationship between the Capuchins and Great Britain, to develop how the Capuchin experience in Britain dates from the early modern period, to link the history of the Order to the wider national and international context, and to highlight the significance of the Capuchin British experience for the study of the history of post-Reformation Catholicism. It will include not only research into the province after its formation in the nineteenth century, but also into individuals from Britain who entered the global Capuchin order during the early modern period. There are a number of potential routes that researchers could explore, such as the British Capuchins as part of global Catholicism, the history of Catholic social thought and practice, missionary activities, or the interaction between Britain and mainland Europe.

This is an opportunity for a first-rank researcher. Applications will be considered from candidates whose background lies across a range of disciplines. The Capuchin Fellow will conduct research with the aim of producing at least two pieces of scholarly output of the highest quality which can be submitted for publication by the end of the term of the Fellowship. The principle output will be a history of the relationship between the Capuchins and Great Britain that not only tells their story but situates it in the broadest possible context.

The appointee will be fully involved in Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS), working in close collaboration with the other CCS staff members, associates, and postgraduate community. In addition to the primary research responsibilities of this post, the appointed postholder may be asked to take on administrative duties within the Centre equivalent to 0.1-0.2 FTE, including possibly at some stage taking on the role of Assistant Director of the CCS.

As part of the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, the appointee will be directly responsible to the Head of Department of Theology and Religion, but will work under the immediate direction of Dr James Kelly, who is PI for this project, and with the CCS Director.

Responsibilities :

  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To publish a book-length history of the Capuchins and their relationship with Great Britain that places this relationship in the widest possible context.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • To help support and develop the life of the Centre for Catholic Studies.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.

This post is fixed term for 36 months; the funding is available from 1 January 2021 for this fixed period only; the project is time limited and will end on 31 December 2023.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Candidates will have recently completed or be concluding their PhD and while they may have limited direct experience of the requirements for the post, they must outline their experience, skills and achievements to date which demonstrate that they meet or that they have the potential to achieve the essential criteria.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1 January 2021.

 How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Dr James Kelly (james.kelly3@durham.ac.uk ). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;
  • A 1000-1500-word proposal for the scholarly research that will be undertaken into the relationship between the Capuchins and Great Britain.

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include a research presentation and interview. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment as soon as possible following the closing date.

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in an appropriate subject.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in an appropriate subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience in undertaking high quality archival research.


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Research excellence in some aspects of the history of Catholicism and spirituality.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of overseeing students with respect to the development of their practical/research skills e.g. acting as a demonstrator; supervising student projects/practicals.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.