[Humanist] 27.753 PhD studentship in Science and Technology Studies, UCL

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jan 30 07:52:51 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 753.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:55:34 +0000
        From: Jon Agar <jonagar2000 at HOTMAIL.COM>
        Subject: PhD studentship: Research Transplanted and Privatised: Post Office/British Telecom R&D in the Digital and Information Era

PhD studentship: Research Transplanted and Privatised: Post Office/British
Telecom R&D in the Digital and Information Era

An AHRC-funded Science Museum/UCL CDP studentship, starting October 2014

Interested in pursuing graduate-level research into the modern history of
innovation? This studentship might be for you.

Opened in 1975, the Post Office's new research centre at Martlesham Heath
was one of the largest telecoms research laboratories in Europe.  Like its
predecessor at Dollis Hill, it was a major state-owned centre for
innovation: important Martlesham projects included the development of
satellite base station techniques, digital telecommunications systems,
optoelectronics, cable television, continuing development of submarine
cables, videophones, microchip manufacture and the Prestel Viewdata service.
In the early 1980s Post Office Telecommunications was privatised and renamed
British Telecommunications in one of the most portentous acts of the
Thatcher government.  Research at Martlesham moved from the public to the
private sector.

Despite its significance, Martlesham has received almost no attention from
historians.  With rich archives becoming available, not least at BT
Archives, historians can now examine how research and development was shaped
by the movement from nationalised industry to fully private sector.  This
PhD project is an opportunity to open up one of the most significant
locations of post-war British history of technology to historical inquiry. 

The PhD might address three motivating research questions: 

1) What were the reasons and consequences of moving Post Office telecoms
research from Dollis Hill to Martlesham Heath? 

2) What explains the patterns of invention, innovation, product development
and use in telecoms in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s? 

3) How did research and development respond to privatisation?

Relevant archives include BT Archives, the National Archives, and other
collections. There may also be opportunities to conduct oral history

This studentship is the third of three linked PhDs mapping Post Office
research in the twentieth century.  The title of the overall project is
‘“Research is the door to tomorrow”: the networks and culture of the
Post Office Research Stations, Dollis Hill and Martlesham, c. 1910-1983’.
The first (on early 20th century Post Office research, University of
Leeds/Science Museum) and second (on mid-century Dollis Hill, University of
Manchester) PhDs commenced in October 2013. 

This PhD studentship will be held at UCL, and the principal supervisor is
Professor Jon Agar of UCL's Department of Science and Technology Studies
(STS). The second supervisor is Dr Tilly Blyth of the Science Museum.

UCL STS is a department which combines both history of science and studies
of contemporary science (science communication, science policy studies,
sociology of science). More information here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts

Interested applicants should send 1) a CV 2) a sample of writing, and 3) a
covering letter to jonathan.agar at ucl.ac.uk by 28 February 2014. Interviews
will be held on 12 March 2014.

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