A Stranger among Foreigners. Robert Livingston's Scottish Networks in New Netherlands/New York

This project will uncover and track the Scottish contacts of the settler Robert Livingston and assess them in the wider context of the presence of 'foreigners' in North America c. 1700.

Department: History, Humanities

Supervised by: Dr Esther Mijers

The Placement Project

The Scottish settler Robert Livingston (1654–1728) is best known as the founder of an American political dynasty. Having trained in his teens as a merchant in Rotterdam, he went on to North America and settled in New York shortly after it had been taken over from the Dutch by the English. Due to his Scottish-Dutch background, he quickly made a name and tied his fortune to some of the most important colonial families and subsequently became a successful Trans-Atlantic merchant. Suggestively enough he allied himself throughout his life especially with ‘foreigners’, including fellow Scots, and his American papers contain many letters from his fellow countrymen, referring to their common origin, and examples of his preference to cooperate with 'foreigners' over Englishmen. This project aims to uncover Livingston's Scottish contacts and track them in a systematic way, using the full set of Livingston papers, which are available on microfilm. The analysis of these papers will provide the basis for essential and long overdue research into the presence of European ‘foreigners’, and Scots in particular, in the early modern Americas. It is a stand-alone part of the PI’s wider project Europeanising the ‘British’ Atlantic and draws on her long-standing interest in the interplay between Scotland, England, Europe and the Atlantic. It will allow the successful candidate to engage with new and exciting historiographical traditions, such as Scottish Diaspora studies and Atlantic History, and to conduct distinct historical research, from its earliest stages to preparation for publication.


The student will be responsible for the collection and arrangement of the data from microfilm (made available by the PI), as well as for the first draft of the article (in close co-operation with the PI). This includes initial guided research on late 17th c New York, historiography, and becoming familiar with the handwriting (week 1), analysis of the microfilms and collection of the evidence (3-4 weeks), resulting in a database. Week 6 will be spent drafting the first write-up, which will be the basis for the joint article.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The successful candidate will have a background in early modern history and ideally an affinity with studying manuscript material. Historiographical and IT skills are mandatory.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

A wide range of generic and specific, transferable skills will be developed. First and foremost, the co-writing of an article will enhance the student's employability through a realistic and challenging work experience and give a sense of unique achievement during their UG career. Secondly, it will provide a first-hand insight into all stages of a research project (framing of a research questions, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing up) through a collaborative, hands-on approach. As this is a stand-alone project, there will be a real sense of student-ownership. Thirdly, the project will feed directly into the BA dissertation, and will help the student to acquire both specific historical skills as well as give them essential experience of converting independent research into a written piece. Lastly, a set of more generic and transferable skills, such as IT and database experience, data interpretation and paleography, which are not normally an immediate part of the History degree, will be imparted.

Place of Work

Office space and PC access will be provided if required

Hours of Work

9-5, Monday-Friday

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Saturday 13 June 2020 - Wednesday 22 July 2020

How to Apply

Suitable candidates should send their CV and a covering letter to

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