This is a repost from Summer 2016 when Dr. Claire Morelon discussed Junior Research Fellowships. Claire, whose work focusses on the city of Prague in the Great War, is a JRF at Queen’s College at the University of Oxford. Her French background makes this an extremely useful testimonial showing the possibility of transnational postdoctoral moves.
What did you do your PhD on?
My PhD was on Prague during the First World War and in its immediate aftermath. It was an urban history of everyday life on the Austro-Hungarian home front. I was especially interested in the mobilization for the Habsburg war effort in the city (to show that it was not so dissimilar to what was observed in France or Germany but could not be sustained in light of the severe food shortages in the last years of the conflict). I also examined the transition from the Habsburg Empire to the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 and the continuity between the two regimes at the local level.
When, and why, did you apply for an Oxford JRF?
I applied for an Oxford JRF in April 2014. I did not know much about JRFs or the college system before applying. I applied because I was excited to join the research project on the First World War linked to the JRF (Globalising and Localising the Great War). This is slightly atypical because many JRFs are not advertised in relation to a specific field or topic.
What tips would you give to anyone interested in applying for an Oxford JRF ?
The application requires the same documents as other job applications (CV, referees) but if you are shortlisted, many of them will ask for a writing sample (a chapter or an article) so be prepared for that and choose something that you feel represents your work. Compared with other job interviews, the main difference is that you are hired by the college as well as by members of the faculty. Not all of your interviewers will be historians and you should take that into account. Your presentation should therefore be interesting for someone who is not in your field or even in your discipline. I would recommend that you ask advice on your presentation and on the interview to your supervisor or a fellow graduate student and even practice with them. Your supervisor is probably the best person to turn to in this case because they know your strengths and weaknesses and can prepare you in relation to them. I also had a friend who is not an academic listen to my presentation and that helped me focus my presentation on several essential points.
How are you finding the fellowship?
I have really enjoyed my time at Oxford so far. Intellectually, it has been incredibly stimulating: I have met many people whose work has inspired me to look at my own period or region differently. It’s also great to participate in our research network on the Great War. I think that JRFs can sometimes be a bit isolating because you are not very involved in the teaching side of things so it was really good for me to be part of a project in the faculty.
Would you do anything differently?
When I first arrived, I think I was a bit unfamiliar with the system and I didn’t make enough of an effort to engage with the academic community at faculty and college level. Oxford is a big place and I think it’s good during the very first months of the fellowship to just take the time to meet colleagues, attend events in your faculty, and introduce yourself to people.
Claire Morelon is a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford University (The Queen’s College) where she is part of a collaborative project on the First World War entitled “Globalising and Localising the Great War”. Her doctoral work (co-tutelle University of Birmingham/Sciences Po) explored daily life in Prague during and after the First World War (1914-1920). She has recently published: “L’arrivée des réfugiés de Galicie en Bohême pendant la Première Guerre mondiale : rencontre problématique et limites du patriotisme autrichien”, Histoire@Politique, 28 (January-April 2016)