PhD candidate: Social inequalities in the history of the Dutch health transition

0.8 - 1.0 FTE
Gross monthly salary
€ 2,770 - € 3,539
Required background
Research University Degree
Organizational unit
Faculty of Arts
Application deadline
What are the historical roots of current-day social inequalities in health? As a PhD Candidate in the field of Economic, Social and Demographic History you will have the opportunity to carry out your own PhD project to study what caused health inequalities in the Netherlands during the long nineteenth century. You will be supervised by a team of experts and able to participate in a larger international network.

Dramatic changes in mortality are considered to be among the crowning achievements of the past 200 years. Life expectancy at birth has increased with no less than 40 years and, instead of infectious diseases, so-called degenerative diseases became leading causes of death. While it is difficult to overstate the importance of this development, this health transition was not equally distributed across and within societies.

Your main task is to research the historical developments of social differences in mortality and its drivers in the Netherlands during the long nineteenth century (1780-1940). We are open to proposals considering the 'social' history of health inequalities in the broadest sense possible, and especially welcome a focus on one or more of the following aspects:  health of adults (aged 20+); epidemics and contagious diseases; marginalised groups; gender differences; neighbourhood effects; and history from below.

For the project, we strongly encourage the use of individual-level data sources such as causes of death, civil certificates, population registers and patient registers - many of which have already been digitised. You do not need to be familiar with the quantitative methods used to study these sources, such as regression, event history, or competing risk analysis, but an interest in learning social science methods is important. Additional qualitative analyses of medical and governmental reports, newspaper articles and medical directories are encouraged to put into context and explain possible quantitative results. Through this mixed-methods approach, we hope to incorporate social history, historical demography, and medical history into the project.

For your project, you can take advantage of the international Studying the Health in (Port) Cities Network and the EU COST-Action 'The Great Leap. Multidisciplinary approaches to health inequalities, 1800-2022'. 

Your research will be embedded in the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH) and you will be part of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH). You will devote 75% of your time to the research for and writing of your PhD thesis. The remaining 25% will be spent on training and academic service to the Faculty of Arts, including teaching.

We offer you the opportunity to develop and carry out your own PhD project within the areas of expertise of your supervisors: Dr Sanne Muurling and Dr Tim Riswick. Your thesis supervisor will be Prof. Jan Kok. The project will be funded by a Starters grant from the Faculty of Arts awarded to Dr Sanne Muurling and Dr Tim Riswick.


  • You have a Master's degree in economic and social history, historical demography, or another discipline related to the project (or will obtain such a degree before February 2024). If you have not yet graduated, your thesis must have been graded before the date of the first interview round.
  • You have a good command of written and spoken English, and at least a working knowledge of Dutch.
  • You have excellent academic writing and presentation skills.
  • You are interested in learning, or already have experience in, database management and quantitative methods.
  • You are able to work independently as well as in a team.

We are

The Faculty of Arts is committed to knowledge production with a significant scientific and social impact. With over 500 academic and support staff, we teach and conduct research in the fields of history and art, languages and cultures, and linguistics and communication, using innovative methodologies and working in close collaboration with eachother. Our research is embedded in two research institutes: the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) and the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH). We currently have approximatively 2,500 students, enrolled in three departments: the Department of History, Art History and Classics, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the Department of Language and Communication. We aim to contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive world, which is why we especially seek applications from candidates who bring diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skills that will be assets to our study programmes and research profiles.

Radboud University

We are keen to meet critical thinkers who want to look closer at what really matters. People who, from their expertise, wish to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This ambition unites more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University and requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!

We offer

  • It concerns an employment for 0.8 - 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,770 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,539 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • It concerns a temporary employment for of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract) or 3.5 years (5 year contract).
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.

Additional employment conditions

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.

Would you like more information?

For questions about the position, please contact Prof. Jan Kok, Professor Economic, Social and Demographic History at or jan.kok [at] (jan[dot]kok[at]ru[dot]nl). Alternatively, you can contact Suzanne van de Liefvoort, Coordinator of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) at or gshcoordinator [at] (gshcoordinator[at]let[dot]ru[dot]nl).

Practical information and applying

You can apply until 31 October 2023, exclusively using the button below. Kindly address your application to Prof. Jan Kok. Please fill in the application form and attach the following documents:
  • Your CV, including the names, affiliations and email addresses of two referees (no need to send letters at this stage).
  • A list of courses and grades (BA and MA).
  • A short motivation letter, explaining why you are interested in this opportunity and how it fits in with your short- and long-term plans (maximum one page). You should answer the following questions in your motivation letter:
    - Why do you want to pursue a PhD?
    - What do you find interesting about this research project?
    - What do you think makes you suitable: what skills or experiences do you have that would be useful for this project?
  • Your own proposal for a PhD project: title, research question, scholarly background, aims, method (maximum 500 words, excluding bibliographical references). You might draw inspiration from our blog (in Dutch) or a recent PhD thesis on a related topic. Focus on the following questions: How would you approach the research? Which subprojects would you be interested in exploring, using what types of sources and/or methodologies?

The first round of interviews will take place between 22 November and 1 December (online). The second round of interviews will take place between 11 and 15 December. You would preferably begin employment on 1 April 2024.

We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure. It offers a rough outline of what you can expect during the application process, how we handle your personal data and how we deal with internal and external candidates.

Apply now Application deadline

We would like to recruit our new colleague ourselves. Acquisition in response to this vacancy will not be appreciated.

Prof. Kok, J. (Jan)

Professor Economic, Social and Demographic History

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