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Crime, Innovation and Mobility: Transport Migration and Policing in England, 1750-1950.

Applications are invited for the above ESRC Network project studentship commencing on 1 October 2016. This opportunity is part of the wider ESRC Network on 'Comparative Historical Perspectives on Crime, Innovation and Social Change' in collaboration with the University of York and the University of Leeds.

Application deadline: 5pm, Friday 29 April 2016
Interviews: interviews will take place week commencing 9 May 2016

Supervisory team: Professor Bob Shoemaker (Department of History, Sheffield), Dr Mark Roodhouse (Department of History, York)

This project will focus on three key areas of investigation:

  1. the new criminal opportunities which opened up between 1750 and 1950 as a result of transport innovations and the increases in migration and mobility which they facilitated;
  2. the resulting innovations in policing in response to the changing activities and tactics of criminals; and
  3. the social, economic, political and legal consequences of this dialectic between crime and policing.

While these issues have previously been addressed superficially in popular histories, they have never received careful scholarly analysis. With the creation of new digital resources including newspapers and the convict lives database created by the AHRC funded Digital Panopticon project, it is possible for the first time to trace criminal activity and mobility systematically. To facilitate a comparative perspective, the research will adopt a case study approach, focusing on specific periods of innovation and change. This will provide a perspective on topics of contemporary relevance, particularly how criminality is shaped by technological and social change; how innovations in crime have forced changes in policing, and with what success (and vice versa); and the extent to which migration and mobility are associated with specific patterns of crime.

Central objectives of the project will include:

  • Document patterns of transport-related crimes in England between 1750 and 1950 through searches in the Old Bailey Online and newspapers, identifying innovations in criminality which resulted from changes in transport and increased criminal mobility.
  • Identify how the new forms of policing which developed in this period were adapted to cope with these new forms of criminality, and how in turn criminals responded.
  • Assess the impact of new penal strategies, particularly the progressive stage system of imprisonment (in which prisoners were moved from prison to prison around the country), on patterns of post-punishment criminal mobility and recidivism.
  • Assess the implications of these developments for wider attitudes towards crime and policing, and the mobility of law-abiding citizens.

Resources and facilities:

The most relevant historical sources are available digitally. The University of Sheffield has access to the comprehensive online British newspapers 1600-1950. You will have access to the extensive range of databases to document individual criminal lives as developed by the Digital Panopticon project. The University of York has access to the collections of the National Railway Museum, including railway police records and rail company records of losses of goods in transit.

Training provision:

Subject specific training will be provided within the network. You will participate in Sheffield's Doctoral Development Programme and will benefit from the wide range of training offered at Sheffield, including by the Centre for Criminological Research, and under relevant WRDTC Pathways. You will also receive tailored support from National Railway Museum staff, and have the opportunity of a public history placement at York's Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past. You will also have the opportunity to participate in research training provided by the Institute of Historical Research or the British Society of Criminology.


Award Details

The studentship will commence on 1 October 2016. The ESRC Network studentships cover tuition fees at the EU/UK rate and provide an annual maintenance stipend at standard Research Council rates (£14,296 in 2016/17).

Successful network students will engage with the broader research community within the research centres, schools and institutions in which they are based. They will also provide each other with mutual support.  



The general eligibility requirements are:

  • Applicants should also have at least a 2.1 in a BA degree, or equivalent qualification
  • Awards are open to UK and EU applicants who are applying to study either full or part-time. Please note that EU applicants are usually eligible for a fees only award, unless they have been resident in the UK for 3 years immediately preceding the date of the award.

This studentship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 award:

  • To be eligible for the +3 award, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have already have a Master's degree (or equivalent experience) and have met the ESRC's full research training requirements, i.e. have a sound grounding in core social science methods training.
  • Applicants who do not already have suitable social science methods training will be eligible to apply for the 1+3 award, which will include registering on an appropriate masters programme at the University. This masters programme will provide the necessary training before progression to the PhD programme.

Full details of eligibility are available through the ESRC Networks webpage.


How to apply

To apply for the studentship, applicants need to apply directly to the University of Sheffield for entrance into the doctoral programme in History

  • Complete an application for admission to the standard history PhD programme here.
  • Applications should include a research proposal; CV; academic writing sample; transcripts and two references.
  • The research proposal of up to 1000 words should outline your reasons for applying to this project and how you would approach the research including details of your interests, expertise and experience in relevant areas. You should indicate whether you are applying for the 1+3 or the +3 award and, if appropriate, provide details of your existing social science methods training.
  • Supporting documents can either be uploaded to your application or sent by email or post to Miss Abby Brown, Department of History, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S3 7RA.


Any academic enquiries for the Sheffield studentship can be directed to Professor Bob Shoemaker ( Any questions about the application process should be directed to Beky Hasnip (