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PhD Opportunities

Energy Citizens Before Energy Citizenship:

School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics | PHD

Applications are now CLOSED
Reference Number
Application Deadline
8 November 2021
Start Date
16 September 2021


This PhD project provides an opportunity to explore the historical interplay among modern energy life, consumer culture and environmental thinking in late 20th century UK and Ireland.

The project studies the historical evolution of energy consumers’ collective identity in a period when early optimistic visions for an energy future was seriously undermined by the 1970s energy crisis and then by growing concern about global climate change. These energy-related crises—along with the rise of environmentalism and ethical consumerism—engendered crucial contexts where ‘energy citizenship’ later emerged in the 1990s. The main aim of this project is to illuminate historical precedents to the ethical and ecological dimensions of energy consumption and draw lessons for today’s discussion of energy citizenship, just energy transition and societal decarbonisation.

The concept of energy citizenship has recently attracted intense academic interest in humanities and social sciences research on energy and climate change. In contrast to the conventional image of energy users as passive recipients of energy services, the scholarship on energy citizenship envisages energy users as active agents for energy systems’ evolution (see, for example, Patrick Devine-Wright, ‘Energy Citizenship: Psychological Aspects of Evolution in Sustainable Energy Technologies’ in Joseph Murphy (ed.), Governing Technology for Sustainability. Routledge, 2007). This project contributes to the expanding literature on energy citizenship from a historical perspective by drawing upon the rich historiography on consumer citizenship and local/regional identity formation. Departing from the universalised idea of the ‘energy consumer’ identity, this project considers culturally attenuated and place-based modes of energy users’ identity formation, which have been shaped by local energy landscapes and local energy cultures. The project’s chronological focus begins with the 1950s, when modern energy appliances saw a strong penetration into domestic and public spaces, and extends to the 1990s, a decade when the rise of the climate change debate worldwide began to question the energy-intensive consumer life. Through its investigation of the pre-history of energy citizenship, the project reconsiders the impact of modern energy production, extraction and consumption on social and cultural identity formation in late 20th century UK and Ireland.

The successful candidate will develop the project in his/her own direction, but key areas to address include the following:

• How and in what ways has modern energy life been articulated in cultural media, such as films, literature, museum displays and artworks, and what do they tell us about modern identities as energy users, workers or citizens?
• How have local energy landscapes (e.g., coal mines, power plants, gas fields, oil refineries, pylons and pipelines) contributed to the formation of distinctive local energy identities?
• How have pre-existing local identities and memories shaped the public’s attitudes toward environmental movements, citizen protests and early responses to climate change discussions?
• What can we learn from the pre-history of energy citizenship to inform the current energy policy debate on issues such as net zero emissions targets and citizens’ contributions to decarbonisation goals?
• What are the implications of energy consumers’ place-based identities in the ongoing debate about just energy transition?

We are looking for applicants with the following:

- A first or upper second class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree and/or MA (completed or in progress) in modern history, political science, geography, energy studies, sociology or a related field.
- Advanced research and organisational skills

We particularly encourage applicants with interest in and/or general knowledge of energy history, environmental history or energy and environmental humanities. Research proposals with an Irish/Northern Irish dimension—and some element of regional comparison within the UK—are also specifically advocated.

As selection will be based chiefly on the quality of the research proposal as well as academic qualifications, potential candidates must submit a proposal of approximately 1,500 words (excluding bibliography) that clearly identifies research questions, methodologies, suggested case studies and potential sources. Dr Hiroki Shin (HAPP, QUB), who will act as the primary supervisor, would be happy to discuss potential applications. Enquiries should be made in the first instance to Prof Sean O’Connell (

Funding Information

Due to funding restrictions, only UK students are eligible. See for eligibility details.

Project Summary

Dr Hiroki Shin

Research Profile

Dr Hiroki Shin is a social and cultural historian of energy, transport and the environment from the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries.

Mode of Study

Full-time: Full-time only

Part-time: not available

Funding Body
Department of the Economy (DfE)
Apply now Register your interest

History overview

History at Queen’s is the largest group of historians at any university on the island of Ireland. It is a dynamic research area, with strengths in ancient, medieval, early modern and modern periods, across a wide geographical area that includes Ireland, Britain, Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia. We specialise in oral history, gender and women’s history, urban history, public history, religious history political history, and the history of race. Proposals are welcome in any of these areas.

As a History PhD candidate, you will engage in original research in a historical subject of your choice, supervised by our internationally recognised scholars. With Queen’s being part of the AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium(with Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teeside and Ulster Universities), there are also opportunities for co-supervised doctoral work with staff at these institutions.

A flourishing programme of events, seminars, and research groups complements our postgraduate courses and doctoral supervision.

Research expertise:

Queen’s is one of the premier research centres globally for the study of Irish history and boasts a large and active team of researchers in this field, with interests ranging from the middle ages to the twentieth century. We have particular strengths in Irish social history, politics, gender and religion, and Ireland's and Ulster’s relationships with Britain and the wider world.

The dynamic Centre for Public History involves historians with a variety of geographical and chronological interests. A number of current or recent history PhD candidates are engaged in public history related projects, which involve internships and collaborations with bodies such as the BBC, Belfast City Council, Historic Royal Palaces, the Public Research Office of Northern Ireland and National Museums NI.

Other areas of particular research expertise include oral history, 20th-century British social, cultural, political and imperial history, history of the U.S. South, gender history and religious history. There are also specialists in the history of Ancient Rome, Medieval England and Europe, Early Modern Britain and Europe, twentieth-century Europe, modern China, India, and South-East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Take a look at our History staff profiles for details.

Research resources:

The School boasts the following Research Centres:
- Institute of Irish Studies – a pioneering centre for interdisciplinary Irish scholarship and teaching.
- Centre for Public History – a lively hub for those engaged in researching, teaching and practising public history.
- The QUOTE hub at Queen's has members from across the University who are passionate about oral history and its potential for producing democratic and inclusive forms of history.

Major research resources are close at hand. This includes the extensive collection of Irish manuscripts, books and pamphlets in the Queen's University Library's Special Collections and our state-of-the art McClay Library with extensive book and journal holdings, and subscriptions to many of the principal online resources for historical study, including digital newspaper archives, Mass Observation Archive, ECCO, EEBO, and HCPP. Also nearby are wide-ranging collections in Belfast's historic Linen Hall Library, extensive manuscript holdings at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and the Gamble Library’s specialist collections in religious history and theology. The National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland in Dublin are within commuting distance.

About the Programme:

The aim of the programme is to produce independent researchers. From the outset, PhD candidates are encouraged to disseminate their work at seminars and conferences, and through publication or public engagement. The programme culminates in the submission of an 80,000-word dissertation that makes an original contribution to historical knowledge.

Mode of study/duration:

Registration is on a full-time or part-time basis, under the direction of a supervisory team appointed by the School. You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years of full-time registration for PhD.


We are proud of our students who have graduated with their doctorates. Where possible we stay in touch so that the link and relationships remain long after a student has left the School. Our graduates have found success in a wide range of careers, including in archives and libraries, public history and heritage, education, journalism, marketing, and civil service.

Research Environment:

The research environment within the School is lively, energetic and diverse. As a History PhD candidate, you will be a member of a vibrant graduate community and research culture that hosts regular lectures, seminars and conferences, and research-related training events. You will be encouraged to attend such events, present the results of your research at seminars and conferences, and to organise your own events.

The School boasts a number of regular research seminars. The History Postgraduate Research Seminar, run by research students, meets regularly throughout the academic year. The Irish History Students’ Association, of which QUB is a founder member, hosts an annual conference at which postgraduate students from across the island meet and deliver papers in a collegial environment.

Our prestigious annual Wiles lecture series, delivered across four days by a historian of global standing, is a particular highlight, alongside the Centre for Public History annual conference and the Keith Jeffery Memorial Lecture. Other regular seminar series are hosted in the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Classical and Medieval Cultures Forum, the Centre for the Americas, the Centre for Economic History, and the Religious Studies Forum. Queen's also hosts regular meetings of the Ulster Society for Irish Historical Studies.

Course content

Research Information

Associated Research
The University's Special Collections also hold important archival and printed primary materials, especially for the history of Ireland, Great Britain and the British Empire, and China.
Significant deposits of modern American, Soviet and British military archival materials have recently been acquired.

Research Projects
We also host annual events including the Wiles Lectures on the history of civilisation and regular conferences on a range of historical themes. A weekly postgraduate seminar is run and organised by research students.

Career Prospects

For further information on career development opportunities at PhD level please contact the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) Career development Team at email:; Tel: +44 28 9097 5175 AHSS Development Officer: Aileen Carson will be happy to provide further information on your research area career prospects.

People teaching you

Dr Hiroki Shin
Vice-Chancellor Illuminate Fellow
To see our History staff research areas Email:

Course structure
1. Independent research on your PhD topic.
2. Regular feedback and guidance from your supervisory team, comprising at least two expert academic supervisors.
3. Feedback on your work every year from academic staff who are not part of your supervisory team.
3. Participation in History’s active research environment, which includes conferences, seminars, lectures, and other staff- or student-led events.
4. Opportunities to present aspects of your work locally, nationally or internationally.
5. Teaching opportunities.
6. Placement prospects, depending on your PhD funders.

Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 TBC
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 TBC
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 TBC
EU Other 3 £20,500
International £20,500

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

History costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

Bench fees

Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

How do I fund my study?

1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.

Download Postgraduate Prospectus