Postdoc position: The great leveler under the microscope: epidemiology and economic redistribution in the early modern Low Countries (1,0 fte)

Postdoc position: The great leveler under the microscope: epidemiology and economic redistribution in the early modern Low Countries (1,0 fte)

Published Deadline Location
18 Jan 16 Feb Rotterdam

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Job description

A vacancy on the NWO VIDI project “Positively Shocking! The Redistributive Impact of Mass Mortality through Epidemic Diseases and Violent Conflict in Early Modern Northwest Europe” led by Dr. Daniel R. Curtis, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands

Project VIDI description

Catastrophic shocks redistribute economic resources. Recently it has been argued that epidemics and wars alone explain most swings in pre-modern inequality, and the only times socio-economic inequalities leveled themselves out before the Industrial Revolution were during episodes of extreme violence or sudden mass mortality caused by epidemics (e.g. Scheidel 2017; Milanovic 2016). However, while the amount and quality of evidence is convincing for the 19th century onwards, the story for the pre-industrial period is founded on only a handful of empirical examples. Furthermore, many of the ‘equalizing’ mechanisms invoked to explain this tend to only apply to the Black Death of 1347-52 (destruction of labor with untouched capital), or were just very rare (total destruction of all capital goods).The basic objective of this project then is to get that evidence necessary to formally test recent scholarly assertions made on the equitable effect of catastrophic shocks. Rather than accepting an inevitable ‘model’ of redistribution after epidemics or violence throughout history, the goal of this project is to show in what kinds of conditions a particular redistributive effect was more likely to occur – its direction, its intensity and its longevity. The added value of the project consists of first, considering epidemiological characteristics as a potential driver of different distribution outcomes, and second, broadening the analysis of distribution away from simply material economic resources to examine how different epidemic shocks can shape future prospects of children and sub-adults, and affect societal attitudes towards the poor.

Further information on the more specific details of the project is available on request. 

In this sub-project, the Postdoc shall examine the link between epidemiologic characteristics of epidemic diseases in pre-modern Northwest Europe and the extent, longevity, and direction of redistribution in economic resources measured predominantly through wealth and property. By doing this, new quantitative empirical foundations are put behind recent scholarly assertions on the equitable impact of destruction and mortality. There are two essential tasks that need to be completed by the Postdoc across the 3 years. First, the Postdoc is expected to contribute significantly to the continuing development of a new epidemiologic database for early modern Northwest Europe. This will require not only helping reconstruct this database by extracting information from the burial records and other sources with demographic information, but being responsible for the management of this large quantitative database – optimally arranging the data for any statistical analyses needed. Second, the Postdoc is expected to find and use source material that allows reconstruction of wealth or property distribution indicators both shortly before and after epidemic shocks. This will explicitly start with the morgenboeken for property distribution in early modern Holland, but should expand into other dimensions over time – looking at other indicators of redistribution such as, for example, epidemics and the movement of people between cities and rural spaces, the rearrangement of households, or the redistribution of rights to collectively-pooled-resources.


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


This project suits a historian with quantitative skills (economic history, historical demography, etc.), or someone trained in another social science discipline such as economics with a background in history. The Postdoc needs to (a) be accomplished with quantitative approaches to historical data, (b) able to manage large databases effectively, (c) have some experience working with original manuscripts of the early modern period, and have a decent understanding of what kinds of sources are available for the Low Countries (broadly defined), and (d) have an excellent command of written and spoken English, and preferably a second reading language of Dutch, French, German, Latin, or any combination of those.

It is recommended if the Postdoc has educational experience and training.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 3 years, after a probationary period. Potential for extending the contract is dependent on financing and performance.


1.0 fte for 3 years (0.8 fte research, 0.2 fte teaching)

Employment is intended to start in April 2019. The contract run for a term of 3 years, after a probationary period. Potential for extending the contract is dependent on financing and performance. The conditions of employment correspond with the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) of the Dutch Universities (CAO NU). Salary is subject to training and experience and corresponds to Scale 11 NU, with a minimum of € 2.709 and a maximum of € 4.978 gross per month on a 38 hour per week contract.

The EUR has attractive employment conditions, which include a holiday allowance of 8.0%, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% and 41 annual vacation days in case of a full workweek.


Erasmus University Rotterdam

The Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), named after Rotterdam-born humanist and theologian Erasmus, is a research university with a strong international orientation and a pronounced social focus, both in its education and research activities. On the lively, modern campus, more than 28.000 students and scholars of more than 100 nationalities are constantly encouraged to develop their talents and meet their ambition. Our more than 2700 scientists and employees work together with all our students to solve challenges faced by global society, drawing their inspiration from the consistently dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam. The academic education offered at our faculties is intensive, engaging and strongly focused on practical application. We increasingly perform our research in multidisciplinary teams, which are closely interwoven with international networks. In terms of research impact and the quality of its degree programmes, EUR can compete with the foremost universities in Europe, which is reflected in its consistent top-100 position in most major universities rankings. Erasmus University Rotterdam’s key values are daring, curiosity, social involvement, breaking new ground and striving for success


Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

The Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication at Erasmus University includes the Departments of History, Arts and Culture Studies, and Media and Communication. The Faculty has approximately 1800 students and 140 employees.


  • Postdoc
  • Behaviour and society; Language and culture
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • Doctorate
  • ESHCC-18012019-1


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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