Postdoc researcher Falling Short of Expectations: Evaluative Languages in Scholarly Book Reviews, 1900-2000

Postdoc researcher Falling Short of Expectations: Evaluative Languages in Scholarly Book Reviews, 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.

Falling Short of Expectations: Evaluative Languages in Scholarly Book Reviews, 1900-2000.

What kind of evaluative languages did 20th-century scholars use in assessing each other’s work? To what extent did they employ time-honored language of vice, for instance in drawing attention to “prejudiced” arguments or “dogmatic” ways of reasoning? In addressing this question, the project zooms in on book reviews: a genre that was practiced across the 20th century and across the academic spectrum, although with more intensity in some fields than in others, given the different value attached to publications in book form.

The principal source for this sub-project is the journal Science (1880), which broadly covers the life and natural sciences, to which The American Journal of Sociology (1895) and The American Historical Review (1895) are added for the sake of including social science and humanities perspectives. Focusing on four benchmark years (1900, 1933, 1967, 2000), the project examines the book reviews published in these journals with an eye to assessing the prevalence and relative importance of language of vice. What evaluative languages (errors, mistakes, vices, etc.) did book reviewers employ? To what extent and on what occasions did they use language of vice? And to what extent did this differ across fields or change over the course of the century?

Key responsibilities

  • Conducting research on the history of scholarly book reviews;
  • 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 the humanities;
  • 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’s historic city centre and in modern buildings in The Hague. 


  • Postdoc
  • Doctorate
  • 20-062



Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD, Leiden

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