PhD Candidate: The Early Modern Economic and Social History Research Project ‘Business as Usual: the informal institutions o...

PhD Candidate: The Early Modern Economic and Social History Research Project ‘Business as Usual: the informal institutions o...

Published Deadline Location
13 May 16 Jun Nijmegen

Job description

Are you intrigued by the world of early modern merchants? And are you wondering how they made and justified business decisions? Do you want to delve into preserved 'letter books' and uncover the norms and customs guiding their decisions? Apply now as a PhD candidate at the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH)!

We offer you the opportunity to develop and carry out your own PhD project within the areas of expertise of your supervisors: Dr Joris van den Tol, Dr Sanne Muurling and Prof. Jan Kok. The project will be funded by a Starters Grant from the Faculty of Arts awarded to Dr Joris van den Tol.

‘Institutions,’ Nobel laureate Douglas North wrote, ‘are the humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic, and social interaction’ (North 1991). Institutions can be formal (e.g. laws, constitutions, property rights) or informal (e.g. taboos, traditions, norms, or customs). To answer the questions why early modern merchants made certain choices and how they shaped, negotiated and used informal institutions, this project studies the representations of European merchants’ norms and values in their correspondence.

Traditionally, merchants’ correspondence has been used by historians to reconstruct mechanisms of trust within an economic network (Lamikiz 2017; Wubs-Mrozewicz 2020; Trivellato 2009). Moreover, there has been a tendency to focus on merchants with more or less complete archives such as Marco Datini in Italy (ca. 1335-1410) or Simon Ruiz in Spain (1558-1598), or on correspondences captured as part of prize papers. This project, instead, prefers to focus on preserved ‘letter books’ or ‘copy books’ of lesser known or sometimes even unidentified merchants. This project looks beyond mechanisms of trust and studies sets of merchants’ practices and decisions described in their correspondence to unearth their informal institutions such as norms or customs.

The research may be performed through a diachronic and/or geographical comparison, depending on your preferences and skillset. Several promising ‘letter books’ of seventeenth-century merchants have already been identified in case you can read Dutch, but you are welcome to propose your own source base for other European languages. The material from correspondences can be supplemented with other material such as legal proceedings, notarial deeds or pamphlets. You will be encouraged to draw inspiration from recent advances in digital research methods, which have allowed historians to ask new types of questions about merchants and their way of thinking using similar types of source material (Puttevils 2021; Hermans 2023).


Radboud University


  • You hold an MA degree in Early Modern Economic or Social History, or a closely related discipline with a solid basis in History.
  • You have demonstrable affinity with the Early Modern Period.
  • You have demonstrable experience with Early Modern archival sources.
  • You have experience with digital research methods or are willing to acquire the skills necessary to employ these digital research methods.
  • You have proven ability to conduct independent academic research as part of a team and work in an international and competitive environment.
  • You are fluent in spoken and written English and the language of your proposed sources.
  • You are willing to perform teaching and service duties.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract) or 3.5 years (5-year contract).

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (0.8 FTE 5- year contract - 1.0 FTE 4- year contract) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract) or 3.5 years (5-year contract).
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


As a PhD candidate at the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH), you will be part of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH).

RICH and Research Group
The Economic, Social and Demographic History (ESDG) research group is a dynamic and very social group with broad interests, enthusiastic researchers and lecturers with outstanding track records and successful in attracting national and international research grants. ESDG is part of the Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH) which is dedicated to understanding the dynamics of an interconnected world and how they evolve and interact at the regional, national, international, and transnational levels. The candidate will find an additional welcoming and interdisciplinary home in the research group TEMPUS, which focuses on the Early Modern Period.

Additional information

You can apply only via the button below. Address your letter of application to Prof. Jan Kok. In the application form, you will find which documents you need to include with your application.

The first interviews will take place on 11 July. Any second interview will take place on 18 July. You will preferably start your employment on 1 September 2024.

We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure. It describes what you can expect during the application procedure and how we handle your personal data and internal and external candidates.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 30—38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 23.033.24



Houtlaan 4, 6525XZ, Nijmegen

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 16 Jun 2024 1:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).