Deas Scholarship

Since 2011, the Department of History has offered an annual scholarship to students embarking on PhD research in any aspect of History. These students pursue original research alongside one or more academics in the department, while sharing a vision for public engagement of the discipline with a diverse audience and/or co-production of research.

Alongside their research, Deas Scholars help with the Past Matters festival of history, which normally takes place each spring and includes public lectures, workshops, and a range of community events. They  also run a schools or community event that emerges from their doctoral research interests and/or have the co-production of research at the core of their doctoral project.

2016 Deas Scholarship Applications:
Application Deadline: 27 May 2016
Eligibility: UK/EU/International

Deas Doctoral Scholarships 2016-2019
Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol

The Department of History is offering three doctoral scholarship of three years duration, to the value of £12,180 p.a. (rising to £12,789 in year two and £13,428 in year three, subject to satisfactory progression) (plus £500 p.a. for research expenses.) The award is open to students embarking on PhD research in any aspect of History commencing their studies in September 2016.

Deas scholars will be required to spend up to 6 hours a week during term time on academic-related activities. These might include: undergraduate teaching, training and preparation for teaching, research and teaching-related administration, and supporting public engagement and impact activities.

If interested, please apply in writing to Dr. Josie McLellan, at the Department of Historical Studies, Bristol University, 13 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1TB, or, with a statement (no more than 2 pages of A4) of your suitability for this role. Applications should be sent by 27 May 2016.  Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview in June 2016. Students who applied for funding from the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership but were unsuccessful are encouraged to apply for a Deas Scholarship.

Candidates will also need to hold an offer of a postgraduate research place in the Department of Historical Studies by the deadline.

Further information can be found on the Faculty of Arts funding pages.


Current Deas Scholars:

Vivian Kong

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Vivian moved to Bristol to take up the Hong Kong History Project Doctoral Studentship in 2015. After the completion of her BA and MPhil degrees at the University of Hong Kong, she embarked on her PhD study of the pre-war British community of Hong Kong at the University of Bristol under Professor Robert Bickers.

Her interests in studying the Britons there originate from her MPhil research on the evacuation of British families from Hong Kong in 1940. While examining the public response towards the compulsory policy, Vivian noticed that many Britons there had already developed a local identity in Hong Kong, which contributed to their nostalgic comments about their lives there and reluctance to leave the city despite the threat of a Japanese invasion. She became interested in how they identified themselves and how their experience living there affected the way they perceived Britishness, and how they viewed British subjects of Asian descent in Hong Kong. By reconstructing the lives of Britons in pre-war Hong Kong and their interactions with other communities there, Vivian’s doctoral research aims to explore the relationship between colonialism and Britishness. While using a variety of written sources such as official documents, newspapers and memoirs, Vivian also employs oral histories in her research. She is currently recruiting former residents of Hong Kong who spent their childhood in pre-war Hong Kong to participate in her research.

Combining her research with public engagement has always been an important aspect of Vivian’s work. She has a blog ( where she shares the findings of her MPhil research, and in the future, her PhD research. The blog has put her in touch with not only surviving former residents of Hong Kong who were willing to bring in their insights and stories, and readers who wish to find out more about their family histories, but also interested readers hoping to learn more about an untold aspect of Hong Kong history.


Andrew Primmer

AndrewAndrew studied a BA in History at Swansea University. After graduating he spent a gap year travelling through Latin America. After spending several years working in accountancy he was awarded the beca de estudiante sobresaliente to study for a master’s degree at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. In 2013 he moved to Bristol to begin PhD studies in the History Department supervised by Roger Middleton and Matthew Brown. His research project focuses on the history of British railways in Colombia as an example of British informal imperialism in Latin America. A specific focus of the project is how the local opposition exemplified by repudiation of sovereign debt floated on the London Stock Exchange impacted on British investment in the country’s transport sector.

During his time living in Colombia, engagement with non-academic audiences was a key focus of his thesis on a local railway. The project included interviews with local people, asking what the railway meant for them, and how they felt personally about the subsequent railway closures. In the second year of the PhD the research was presented to a diverse audience at the Railway and Canal Historical Society early mainline conference. This same research is to be published by the society in a compendium of the various themes presented there. The publications of the society have a large and diverse audience which will diffuse the results of the research within the general public. Engagement of the public will also be a key aspect of the project in the coming years. Bilingual online museum exhibits will be prepared to be hosted both in Colombia and the UK. These will be followed up with a tour of Colombian universities to give lectures on the history of British Railways in Colombia open to the general public.


Molly Conisbee

Molly is researching the social history of death, aiming to develop new insights into the historical relationship between death and politics. Her research adopts an interdisciplinary approach, combining history of medicine with ‘death studies’. As well as history it draws on contributions from anthropology, sociology, philosophy and historiography to explore new research questions: what insight does the history of death shed on the relationship between politics, society, economics and culture? How can our changing relationship to death be mapped onto evolving debates about (over)population, class consciousness, collective organising, and political legitimacy? Molly is being supervised by Dr Victoria Bates and Dr James Thompson.

After graduating from London University, Molly worked for a number of years in a variety of public policy and think tank jobs: including the NHS, local government, new economics foundation (nef) and IPPR. Working life convinced her that a slow death in an office was no way to embrace life: so she came back to research to explore the real ‘history from below’.

Along with co-conspirator Ruth Potts, Molly has established a multi-disciplinary platform – Bread, Print & Roses – which uses history workshops, seditious pamphleteering, directed walking and site specific activities to explore historical, political, economic and social issues with audiences across the UK. As part of this she has organised several walks on the ‘social history of death’, as well as Death Cafes and discussion groups. Over 1,000 people have attended these events in the last two years, and the resultant interactions have informed and shaped her research.

Molly’s (not-so-secret) plan is to establish a new take on the Renaissance ‘Ars Moriendi’ – or ‘Art of Dying’ manuals. This is driven by the belief that we all deserve a good death, but in order to do this we need to first develop the art of living. After all, as Seneca wrote, ‘life is long enough if you know how to use it’.


Taylor Aucoin

Taylor studies festive culture in medieval and early modern Britain, approaching festival as a time and space for economic, social, political, and religious communication. His research currently focuses on the history of British Shrovetide and the holiday’s related customs. His academic interests spring from being born and raised in Louisiana, where pageantry and seasonal festivities drive the cycle of day-to-day life and Carnival reigns supreme in the cultural mind of the people.

Taylor obtained Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Anthropology from Louisiana State University in 2012, graduating summa cum laude as a University Medallist with College Honours. His undergraduate thesis was based on archaeological field work at a submerged Maya site in southern Belize. After working for a year as a commercial archaeologist and historian researching former sugarcane plantations in Louisiana, he went on to study Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Durham University. There he examined the cultural material of English knighthood and earned a Master of Arts with Distinction before commencing doctoral study at the University of Bristol in 2014 under the supervision of Professor Ronald Hutton.

Bringing academia and the wider public together, and connecting communities to their heritage have always been important aspects of Taylor’s work. As a product of the underwater Maya archaeology project, Belizeans were educated about the site and a local sense of ownership was cultivated through heritage and tourism opportunities. While working on archaeological sites in Louisiana, Taylor presented findings on plantation communities to a local African American museum, getting non-academics involved in the historical study. His MA dissertation relied heavily on artefacts from the UK’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, and thus translated publicly sourced data into academic research. These collaborative experiences have steered Taylor’s career path to Past Matters, where he is working to engage Bristolians with the rich history of a British holiday.


Vesna Lukic

LukicVesna is visual artist from Serbia whose artistic curiosity has been more and more determined by past matters. Her PhD project develops around one Holocaust story which had its epilogue on Serbian soil. Research about one particular group of Jewish refugees, known as Kladovo transport, and their failed Danube escape journey is set as narrative basis for further exploration on memorialization and forgetfulness along the Danube line. This is a co-supervised project by Dr Angela Piccini from Drama department and Professor Tim Cole from History department; the end result should be a documentary film and historical thesis.

After obtaining MA degree in painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, and finishing Kvadrat film school, her artistic practice further developed between painting, video, experimental and documentary film.  Apart numerous solo and group exhibitions, Vesna worked in comprehensive school as Art History professor in bilingual program (French-Serbian).  She has Dalf C1 diploma of French and, during her studies she spent one semester at ENSBA (Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts) as French Government scholarship holder. Her professional experience also includes several projects for Serbian National Television (RTS), where she worked as assistant production designer. She is also co-founder of the artistic group NAR (Independent Alternative Workshop), whose activities address issues such as cultural heritage, ecology or haptic quality of objects.

Cohesion factor of her interdisciplinary work is particular interest in landscape, its historical interpretations, especially seen as lieu de memoire, and more generally notion of place and space and its commemorative potential.


Marcel Thomas

Marcel was Thomasborn and raised in Germany. In 2012, he completed his BA in History at the University of Manchester and subsequently moved to Bristol to take up postgraduate studies in the History Department. He is particularly interested in the history of the divided Germany and the ways in which processes such as modernisation or urbanisation have transformed everyday life in local communities in the latter half of the twentieth century. His PhD explores the changing nature of rural life in a West and an East German village between 1965 and 1989. The project is supervised by Dr Josie McLellan and Prof Tim Cole.

Engagement with the non-academic world has always been an important part of Marcel’s work as a historian. Since 2010, he has worked as a tour guide in the Bautzen Memorial, a former State Security prison in East Germany. During his MA, he interned at the ss Great Britain and facilitated workshops with community groups in Bristol as part of the Seeds of Change project. The Seeds of Change workshops aimed to create an oral history of migration to Bristol and offered a chance for locals to gain new perspectives on the places of longing and belonging that have shaped their lives. Oral history and an engagement with the individuals who have lived through the social changes analysed in his research has crucially informed Marcel’s earlier projects and will also be central to his PhD. A revised version of his BA thesis which explored the ways in which East Germans nowadays come to terms with the socialist past in memorials has recently been published in the European Review of History.


Past Deas Scholars:

Milica Prokic

Milica Prokic waM_Prokics born in 1983 in Belgrade, Social Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. As she and the rest of the 1980s generation in the region were growing bigger and taller, the borders were shrinking in size, pushing them out into the world in the pursuit of happiness to become nomads, artists, tricksters, jacks of all trades. This shape-shift of space and time, the swelling history and shrinking geography had formed Milica’s interest in metamorphoses of  lands as well as in the portraits which inhabit them. Exploring the interrelation of individuals and different notions of their native, foreign, transitory, or forcedly imposed environment through drawing, painting, photography and video, she travelled places and spaces.

Other than her art practice which deals with finding a middle ground between idealization and repulsion towards Communism, gender narratives and New World Order,  Milica has worked as an Art teacher, lab rat, waitress, illustrator, mural painter, baby sitter, and coffee cup fortune teller.

After doing a BA course in Chinese Language and Literature at Oriental Studies Department of Philological Faculty, as well as a five year  Fine Art Course at Belgrade University of Arts, specializing in traditional printmaking, Milica found herself in London. The research she had conducted for her Degree Show at Central Saint Martins College had led her from investigating mindscapes of female artists in incarceration, to patching up gaps in her family history by urban exploration of the abandoned Barren Island political prison and labour camp. While making a documentary film on this conflicted, self- healing landscape and remarkable people this place had once kept imprisoned, Milica decided to become a historian. She is currently doing a PhD thesis at History Department of Bristol University working on Landscapes of Incarceration – Barren Island and Yugoslav Communist Prison Archipelago under the supervision of Professor Peter Coates and Professor Tim Cole.


Gordon Barrett

Gordon abarrettcts as an assistant to the steering group, in particular maintaining the Past Matters website and helping with PM events. He was born in Calgary, Canada. His first introduction to historical research was via a high school work placement at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. This led to him assisting with archival research for the ‘Akaitapiiwa/Ancestors’ exhibition which opened in May 2002 at the Sir Alexander Galt Museum in Lethbridge, Canada. This exhibition was a collaborative initiative featuring the Deane Freeman collection of artefacts from the Kainai (Blood) Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It involved curators from the Royal Ontario Museum, and the British Museum who worked alongside members of the Kainai community, including ancestors of those from whom the objects in the collection had originally come, to shape the exhibition and interpretation of the material. Not only did this project give him his first true taste of archival research, but was also a model of just what can be achieved when academic institutions engage actively with the wider community.

Gordon went on to complete his undergraduate studies at Mount Allison University, Canada, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History (with First Class Honours and Distinction, Minor in Anthropology) in 2006 and was awarded the David Beatty History Prize as top graduating honours history student. He also holds a MPhil. Modern Chinese Studies from St. Antony’s College, Oxford (2010) and spent the following year at Zhejiang University conducting research as part of the Canada-China Scholars’ Exchange Programme. He is currently undertaking a doctorate in the History Department at the University of Bristol, supervised by Prof. Robert Bickers. His research focuses on the role of scientists in China’s transnational relations during the Cold War.


Paul Seage

Paul previously studied for an M.A. and then an M.Litt. in Medieval History at the University of St. Andrews before coming to Bristol to study under Brendan Smith. His  specific field of interest lies in fourteenth-century Ireland, and his work focuses on the ecclesiastical links between the English realm and the colony of Ireland throughout this period.

As part of the Deas programme, he is involved with two related projects. The first began, and very much continues, as a joint venture between Paul, Harriett Webster (a previous Deas Postgraduate Scholar) and Dr Richard Stone, the idea being to get local primary school children to engage with Bristol’s past. We now offer schools an afternoon workshop where pupils in the 8-10 age bracket can explore the history of Bristol’s smugglers and explorers through a series of activities based around the Key Stage 2 curriculum.

Following the success of these events, a further strand was developed with the support and guidance of Dr Evan Jones, aimed at a slightly older age group. Local secondary school pupils were to conduct their own research in small groups over number of weeks, supervised by undergraduates from the university. Topics could cover any aspect of Bristol’s history in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and, in the event, ranged from the foundation of local schools, the life and times of Bristol merchants, and the men involved in John Cabot’s voyages of discovery. This culminated in an academic style conference, where the pupils came as delegates to present their research findings to their peers at the university. Trialled with great success, we hope that this will remain a central part of this particular outreach programme in the future.