Wellcome Trust PhD Studentship for Historical Perspectives on Crop Diversity and Food Security

A new PhD position in humanities is available at University of Cambridge. Candidates are welcome before June 30, 2020.

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Cambridge, invites applications for three-year doctoral studentships to start in October 2020. We seek outstanding candidates whose research will explore the history of 20th and 21st century agriculture, particularly with respect to plant exploration and the conservation of crop diversity.

The successful applicants will be part of the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘From Collection to Cultivation: Historical Perspectives on Crop Diversity and Food Security’ directed by Dr Helen Anne Curry This project explores the history of international agricultural research related to crop diversity from the 1930s onward. It aims to develop a better understanding of how and by whom modern agricultural crops have been made.

Successful applicants for the studentship will develop a project that investigates the 20th century history of either (1) plant exploration or (2) genetic conservation, with an eye to documenting how the study and use of crop diversity has, or has not, fostered food security.

Applicants interested in (1) exploration will develop a project that charts the reasons why and the means by which researchers and institutions obtained breeding materials from distant locations from the 1920s onwards. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: the training and experiences of 20th century agricultural explorers, the contributions of peasant and indigenous farmers to plant exploration, and the origins of globally important collections of crop diversity.

Applicants interested in (2) conservation will develop a project that investigates the emergence of institutions and practices centred on the long-term preservation of crop diversity. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: the creation of seed and gene banks, the contributions of community organizations and farmers or gardeners to conservation, the creation of technical standards for effective conservation.

In both cases, the doctoral projects will integrate institutional histories with accounts of the daily activities of researchers within institutions and the movement of plants through these. Further details about ‘From Collection to Cultivation’, including its aims and methods, can be found at:

The three-year studentships pay a stipend plus University and College fees at the home rate, with additional funding available for conference and research travel.

Candidates will usually be expected to hold (or be studying for) a Master’s degree or equivalent in one of the following fields: history of science, medicine and technology; science studies; modern history; environmental humanities; geography. Applicants in closely allied fields, or with experience in plant sciences and agriculture, are also encouraged to make inquires. The expected academic standards are explained at:

Further information on graduate funding opportunities in HPS can be found at:

To apply, interested candidates should begin by contacting Dr Helen Anne Curry ( as soon as possible, to discuss their intended project and receive advice on preparing an application.

Formal applications will then be submitted to HPS through the University Graduate Application Portal, indicating that the application is for the ‘From Collection to Cultivation’ studentship under the supervision of Dr Curry:

Enquires about the project should be directed to the University supervisor Dr Helen Curry (

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.


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