PhD Studentship: Plants in the Wrong Place? Weeds and weeding in Britain c.1500-c.1950

News | Posted on Friday 1 December 2023

Closing deadline for applications is 31st January 2024.

Much cultivation is accompanied by efforts at eradication, removing unwanted plants which are designated as weeds. However, weed-infested land might also be viewed as covered by a rich diversity of species. This project examines the incidence, perception and definition of weeds in Britain between the C16 - C20 and the relation between them.

You will explore how far the pathologization of “weeds'' was bound up with political, aesthetic or economic imperatives.  This cultural historical approach will be balanced by attention to changes on the ground. To what extent were “weed” species simply colonising new anthropogenic habitats, thereby biodiversifying those environments? How far were they inadvertently introduced or escaping from cultivation, transitioning from ‘rare exotic’ to weed?

This project can be approached in a variety of ways. Applicants should set out the period and the sources on which they will focus, the approach(es) they expect to use, and how this particular work will illuminate broader questions. They are strongly encouraged to consult with the supervisors during the application process.

You will have a grounding in history, art history, archaeology, sociology, anthropology, cultural or literary studies. You should indicate what research/methodological skills you will bring and how you will craft a research project making the best use of your aptitudes, interests and experience.

You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) at the University of York, supervised by Mark Jenner, Nik Brown and Jack Hatfield. 

LCAB provides opportunities to interact with students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will offer additional training as required. 

Several studentships are available with LCAB - take a look at our others, including the option to submit your own research proposal under the theme of Biodiversity Gains and Resilience. 

Funding Notes:

This studentship covers UK fees for 4 years and a tax-free stipend to match the UKRI’s minimum rate for 2024/25 for 3.5 years. 

Entry requirements: 

Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the project. Applications should be made via the university website


To qualify for UK (home) fee status, students must be from the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) or Islands (Channel Islands and Isle of Man) and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the past three years. 

Interviews: Feb 2024