PhD researcher: First World War and redevelopment (KU Leuven)

RHN 90/2014 | Opportunity

Interfaculty Centre for Agrarian History (ICAG) and the research group Modernity & Society 1800-2000 (MoSa) at KU Leuven (Belgium)

Apply no later than: 21 September 2014

First World War and redevelopment.
The reconstruction of the countryside and the farming landscape in Flanders

The Interfaculty Center for Agrarian History (ICAG) stimulates interdisciplinary research that throws a new light on historic and current mutations of agriculture, the rural landscape and the food chain.

The research group MoSa (Modernity & Society 1800-2000) studies political and social processes of change that are associated with modernization. MoSa inquires the various ways in which people and societies experience and steer these changes in a Belgian, European and global perspective. Her key focuses are the history of mobility, identity and mobilization, policy and politics, churches and religion.


The First World War had a profound impact on the countryside, the (farming) landscape and the rural economy in Flanders. In many places villages, fields and pastures were destroyed. Thousands of houses, farms and factories encountered major damage. The landscape impact of the war was the most far reaching in the forts belt around Antwerp and, of course, in the Westhoek. In this last region as many as 68,000 hectares of agricultural land was destroyed; two cities and 68 villages needed to be rebuilt. Only at the end of the 1920s the reconstruction activities were finished.

In this research project the design and the results of the reconstruction activities in some well-defined rural regions in Flanders are studied, and this from different angles. This project wants to chart and analyze concrete realizations and will identify the different visions and discourses that circulated about the (re)construction and further development of the rural space. Did modernist or romantic discourses dominate? Did the recovery initiatives result in a process of modernization (for instance leading to the adjustment of plot boundaries or the construction of more efficient farm buildings)? What actors played a dominant role in the reconstruction initiatives: the State, civil society organizations (such as the Belgische Boerenbond), architects or individual farmers and rural dwellers? The research focuses on multiple initiatives at three levels: 1) the village centre, 2) the (farmers) landscape and 3) the farmhouse. The Flemish situation will be compared to developments in foreign regions such as Northern France. Moreover, this research project aims to consider to what extent this reconstruction heritage is still visible today in the selected regions. And in what way this heritage can be valorized in the current rural policy.

The results of this research form the basis for a doctoral dissertation. Some aspects and partial results will be presented on seminars and conferences (in Belgium and abroad) and published in scientific journals.


  • You hold a Master degree in Modern History, Geografy, Bio-science-engineer, Architecture or other equivalent discipline with excellent study results (graduated with honors)
  • You have a strong interest in scientific research on the historical evolution of landscape, rural architecture and the countryside
  • You have a real interest in doing innovative historical research and are willing to travel abroad for research and conferences
  • You are result-oriented, a team player and eager to obtain a PhD
  • You have a good command of Dutch, French and English
  • Engagement to valorise your research results by publications and participations at conferences


  • We offer a full time employment as a PhD researcher for one year, renewable till max. 4 years after positive evaluation
  • In a pleasant and dynamic research team, frequent contacts with other researchers in and outside Belgium
  • This research project is funded by the Flemish Government (VLM) and supervised by Prof. dr. Yves Segers (ICAG & MoSa). and Prof. dr. Gert Verstraeten (Geografy)
  • Working place: ICAG, Atrechtcollege, Naamsestraat 63, 3000  Leuven


    For more information please contact Prof. dr. Yves Segers, tel.: +32 16 32 35 43, mail: or Prof. dr. Gert Verstraeten, tel.: +32 16 32 37 95, mail:

    Selected candidates will be invited for an interview that will take place on Thursday 25 September 2014.

    You can apply for this job no later than September 21, 2014 via the online application tool.