The late Scottish Enlightenment in global perspective, 1770-1815

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at the Open University in partnership with the University of Edinburgh Library. This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2022 on a full or part-time basis. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on our Studentships page.

Closing date: midday (UK time) 11 January 2022

Project overview

This CDA will encourage a decentralized approach to the late Scottish Enlightenment, emphasising its many cultural and intellectual links with France, Switzerland, Germany, America and the Caribbean amongst others, as well as the global reach of Scottish ideas beyond Britain. It will do so by focusing on intellectual and social international networks at the University of Edinburgh, by then the leading centre of Scottish Enlightenment thought.

The successful applicant will draw on the holdings of Edinburgh University Library through its Centre for Research Collections (CRC), which include an unparalleled collection of Scottish Enlightenment printed sources. The CRC also holds rich archival materials, which have not been fully explored, including the Edinburgh University archives and the papers of major Enlightenment figures associated with the University – notably the lectures and correspondence of Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), the library of Adam Smith (1723-1790), the Walter Scott collection, and the library, lecture notes and letters of Dugald Stewart (1753-1828).

The successful applicant will engage with the emerging literature on global intellectual history to explore themes, which could include:

  • Social and intellectual networks at the University of Edinburgh
  • Impact of international ideas on the Scottish Enlightenment, including curriculum and institutional reform
  • Reception of Scottish Enlightenment ideas outside of Britain
  • Scottish theories of international relations and Empire

Applications looking to explore any of the above themes in relation to Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) would be particularly timely. A Professor at Edinburgh for twenty-five years, Stewart was a widely respected philosopher, historian and political economist whose teachings influenced a generation of writers and politicians in Britain, Europe and America. The CRC holds an unrivalled collection of Stewart materials, and the forthcoming publication of his Collected Works by Edinburgh University Press (c. 2025) is expected to re-invigorate scholarly interest in his work.

The project would provide significant opportunity for professional development and public engagement: depending on the focus of the successful project, the doctoral student will curate an online or physical exhibition at Edinburgh University Library, develop online educational resources, or support public engagement activities linked to the publication of Stewart’s Collected Works. The applicant would receive full support and relevant training from the CRC and the OU to ensure the success of these activities.


The successful applicant would be co-supervised by two academics from the Open University (OU) and one co-supervisor at the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh Library. The applicant would benefit from the extensive programme of research training events provided by the OU and the highly successful model of co-supervision offered by the university. While the applicant would complete a PhD in History, her/his academic background could come from any related discipline, including but not limited to political science, philosophy, literature, and religious studies. Depending on the topic chosen by the applicant, the second OU supervisor may be drawn from another relevant discipline to fully support an interdisciplinary project.

The lead supervisor for the project will be Dr Anna Plassart, Senior Lecturer in History at the Open University, whose research expertise is the Scottish Enlightenment in its international context. Dr Plassart is also an Editor for Stewart’s forthcoming Collected Works. (See Dr Plassart's profile on the OU's website.)

The University of Edinburgh Library supervisor will be Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian. More information on the Library’s Centre for Research Collections can be found via this link to the University of Edinburgh Library's website.

How to apply

We invite applications from candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities. A Master’s degree in History or a related discipline is preferred but not essential. Applicants should meet the eligibility criteria for Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC studentships.

Please visit the OU pages on ‘How to apply for a PhD in History’ for guidance on what your proposal should consist of, how to put one together and how to submit it. The Faculty’s FAQs page may also be useful. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Anna Plassart ( with questions and for any guidance before submitting their application. 

You should apply to the PhD in History by midday (UK time) 11 January 2022, indicate your interest in being considered for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship and submit a completed copy of the OOC DTP Application Form at the same time. Further details on how to apply through the Open University can be found on our How to Apply page