Vacancy for a fulltime PhD position in Contemporary European History: Transnational Activism and the End of the Cold War

In the framework of the FWO-Vlaanderen funded Project “From the Third to the Second World? Western European Social Movements and NGOs towards the Opening of the East, 1988-1997” (supervised by Prof. Dr. Kim Christiaens and Prof. Dr. Idesbald Goddeeris), KADOC (the interfaculty Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society) and MoSa (the History Research Group Modernity & Society 1800-2000) are hiring a full-time PhD Fellow in the field of contemporary history.


The collapse of state socialism in Central and Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War not only dramatically transformed post-communist Europe, these events also affected societies which had been at the Western side of the Iron Curtain, and reshaped Europe as a whole. This project seeks to assess the impact of 1989 and the ‘opening of the East’ on transnational civil society in Western Europe by examining East-West contacts from the vantage point of international social movements and NGOs. It aims to analyze how these actors related to and were affected by the unforeseen changes in the ‘other Europe’, and how they aimed to ‘modernize’ and ‘develop’ the region. To do so, it examines organizations, ideologies, and activities, as well as different spaces of transnational contact, of three key fields of social mobilization – labour, environment, and development cooperation – between 1988 and 1997. It also aims to analyze how these East-West movements surpassed European borders and related to campaigns with an orientation towards the postcolonial Third World. In this way, this project contributes in a substantial and innovative way to critical approaches towards the history of the Cold War, European integration, development aid, and ‘alternative globalizations’, and historicizes the development of transnational civil society in the 1990s.


  • You will be part of a dynamic and international group of historians and other scholars doing historical research
  • You will conduct innovative and internationally oriented historical research. To this end, you will prospect and analyze source material (archives, publications, interviews) and participate in international research networks.
  • You will write a PhD dissertation in History on the topic and defend it within the agreed term.
  • You will publish scientific articles related to the research project, and share your results in international networks.
  • You will be involved in a (limited) number of teaching activities at KU Leuven


  • You have a passion for history, strong academic qualities and a Master’s degree (or about to obtain one in the summer of 2021) in History or a comparable study with a strong historical dimension. You distinguished yourself during your studies.
  • You are passionate about international scientific research.
  • You are interested in the history of transnational social movements, the global Cold War, Central and Eastern Europe, and European integration.
  • You speak and write fluently English, knowledge of other languages (Dutch, French, German, or Central European languages) is an advantage.
  • You actively participate in a dynamic team, but you can also take on responsibilities independently and with integrity.
  • You have not yet worked as a PhD student.

For more information on the offer and the application procedure, visit the website.