PhD Scholarships

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The RIAS hosts a small, but dynamic community of graduate students, who use the Institute as a base from which to pursue original research in American history or American studies.

As of 2017, in cooperation with the Province of Zeeland and Leiden University, the RIAS offers four-year scholarships to students seeking to pursue a PhD on subjects that fall under the umbrella of the "Rooseveltian Century" in American history, including US foreign relations, media and culture, citizenship and the law, and gender and race relations.

The Institute's doctoral program offers aspiring scholars the opportunity to draw on the combined resources of Leiden University and the RIAS. Through the former, they enjoy full access to the national research networks covering their fields. They register with a national graduate school in political and/or cultural history, and are able to follow specialized research training. Through the latter, they enjoy direct access to the RIAS collections, as well as a unique range of doctoral seminars tailored to advanced students of American history, taught by invited scholars from Leiden, University College Roosevelt, and other partner institutions, as well as our visiting professors from the United States. They also participate in the RIAS's twice-yearly international PhD seminars, at which researchers from around Europe converge on Middelburg to share and discuss their research. RIAS PhD candidates aim to defend their dissertation at Leiden University within four years.

The RIAS hosts the following doctoral students:

Paul Brennan

Paul Brennan (MA Leiden) arrived at the RIAS in November 2017. He works on "Progressive Continuity within a Rooseveltian Century: Progressive Reformers and the New Deal." Paul: "I aim to analyze the continuities and discontinuities between the two great American reform movements associated with the presidencies of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, the Progressive Era and the New Deal, in order to follow how reformers from the first era responded to the second. I use their biographies and writings to assess the relationship and connections between the two political movements. There were Progressives who criticized the New Deal because it was too radical, while others criticized it as not being radical enough. A third group were satisfied enough to support, or even take part in, the New Deal."


Celia Nijdam

Celia Nijdam (MA Amsterdam) started her project in November 2017, entitled "'It's Not Happy the Way We're Living Now': Langston Hughes and John Dos Passos and the Art of the Labor Play." Also focusing on the New Deal era, it explores the response of key playrights Dos Passos and Hughes to the economic realities and social challenges of the 1930s, including the appeal of communism. Celia: "Their theatrical works reflected Leftist ideologies that rose to prominence within American culture at that time. One of the broader themes of this research will be how individual artists engaged with the American public to encourage change and an embrace of Leftist or communist ideologies. Both Dos Passos and Hughes used their works to address the flaws they identified in the American political system when it came to economic equality, social injustice and issues of systemic discrimination. The social context in which these plays were made, their interpretation of the New Deal era, the reactions of audiences and critics, and the subsequent disenchantment of the authors with communism raise many fascinating questions."


Nanka de Vries

Nanka de Vries (MA Leiden) started her PhD at the RIAS in February 2018. Nanka: "I aim to provide an analysis of Eleanor Roosevelt's promotion of the United Nations during 1945 up to 1962. I focus on how the former first lady encouraged and promoted multilateral and public diplomacy, both at home and abroad. In doing so I use her biography and other primary sources such as her radioshow, her TV show Prospects of Mankind, her My Day newspaper column, and her various books to provide a comprehensive view of how Eleanor educated and informed the public on the goals, missions and works of the United Nations system."


Debby Esmeé de Vlugt

Debby Esmeé de Vlugt (MSt Oxford) joined the RIAS in January 2019. Her research is focused on the influence of the African American Black Power movement on political and cultural resistance in the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname in the 1960s and 1970s. Debby Esmeé: "I find the transnational history of the Black Power movement fascinating because it shows just how powerful minorities can be. The global impact of the movement indicates that diasporic communities in different regions shared similar experiences and that there was a widespread need for pan-African solidarity. In the Dutch Caribbean, Black Power ideology was primarily used to criticize the colonial power of the Netherlands. Local activists felt inspired by the anti-imperial message of prominent American Black Power intellectuals, who believed that African Americans were still victims of colonialism and should therefore also challenge foreign colonial empires. By exploring the connection between African American and Dutch Caribbean protest in this period, I hope to place resistance in the Dutch colonies into a broader context while also explaining its unique position in the international Black Power movement."