Pride and Prejudice: Moral Languages in Scholarly Codes of Conduct, 1900-2000

Pride and Prejudice: Moral Languages in Scholarly Codes of Conduct, 1900-2000

Published Deadline Location
11 Feb 31 Mar Leiden

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Leiden University, the Faculty of Humanities, Institute for History is looking for a Postdoc researcher

Job description

The overall project, Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History, revolves around a simple question: Why do scholars still evaluate each other’s work in terms that are often centuries old? Although modern science differs considerably from early modern learning, 17th-century terms like “dogmatism,” “prejudice,” and “speculation” are still being used, even if their meanings have changed over time. The project tries to explain the persistence of this cultural repertoire by zooming in on (1) interaction between idioms (cultural repertoires) available to scholars at certain points in time, (2) mechanisms that help transmit repertoires across time and place, and (3) rhetorical purposes for which repertoires can be used.

Drawing on a wide array of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century sources from across the academic spectrum, the project tests three hypotheses: (1) early modern language of vice persisted in productive interaction with modern notions of “bias,” “subjectivity,” and “conflicts of interest”; (2) commonplaces, anecdotes, and stereotypes (“dark Middle Ages”) were major mechanisms of transmission; and (3) language of vice was attractive, not despite, but because of its time-honored origins.

By doing so, the project hopes to enrich our understanding of continuity and discontinuity between early modern learning and modern science. It hopes to build bridges between fields (in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences) that are too often studied in isolation from each other. Finally, in the realm of knowledge utilization, it wants to encourage scholars to reflect on contemporary scholarly virtues and vices. Within this overarching project, a fulltime, 18-months postdoc position is available. 

Pride and Prejudice: Moral Languages in Scholarly Codes of Conduct, 1900-2000.

Codes of conduct are a relevant source for studying the persistence of early modern language of vice. Commenting on the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics, Albert Jonsen observes that even the newest version of the code “remained a compendium of the traditional deontology, decorum, and politic ethics.” Likewise, The Chemist’s Creed, adopted by the American Chemical Association in 1965, creatively combined “honor” and “virtue” with “interest” and “duty,” just as the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (1987) used an amalgam of “rules,” “values,” and “virtues” to describe the historian’s moral responsibilities.

If idioms employed in codes of conduct could be as idiosyncratic as these examples suggest, then to what extent did early modern language of vice, too, persist in this genre? The project examines this question on the basis of some one hundred scholarly codes of ethics, varying from the electrical engineers’ Code of Ethics (1907) and the Code of Ethics for Scientific Men (1927) issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the Association of Social Science Researchers’ Code of Ethics (1996). They are all available in the Ethics Code Collection (ECC) – the world’s largest online repository of codes of conduct, maintained by the Illinois Institute of Technology ( In assessing the prevalence and relative prominence of language of vice, the project pays special attention to intertextuality (i.e., textual dependency relations) within the genre.

Key responsibilities

  • Conducting research on the history of scientific codes of conduct;
  • Writing 3 articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Co-organizing one of the workshops envisioned within the project;
  • Contributing actively to the project as a whole (e.g., serving as a peer reviewer for other team members, contributing to the project website).


Leiden University


  • PhD degree, preferably in the history of science or the history of ethics;
  • One or more relevant publications (journal articles, book chapters);
  • Broad familiarity with the history of science;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Excellent writing skills;
  • Proven ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • Proven ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment. 

Conditions of employment

The postdoc position is fulltime. The successful applicant will receive an 18-months, non-renewable contract. Depending on qualifications and experience, salary range from €2,709.- to € 4,978.- gross per month based on a full-time position (pay scale 10 to 11 in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities)

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Leiden University

The Faculty of Humanities is rich in expertise in fields such as philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics, international studies and area studies, covering nearly every region of the world. With its staff of 930, the faculty provides 27 masters and 25 bachelors programmes for over 6,000 students based at locations in Leiden and in The Hague.


  • Postdoc
  • Language and culture
  • Doctorate
  • 20-061



Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD, Leiden

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