Six Leverhulme Early Career Fellows to join University of Leicester to conduct groundbreaking research

Six academics will join the University of Leicester in the 2023/24 academic year after being awarded Early Career Fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust. 


The Fellowships aim to assist early-career academics who have a research record but have not yet held a full-time, permanent academic post to undertake a significant piece of publishable work. 


The Leverhulme Trust offers only 145 of these prestigious fellowships each year, across all eligible subject areas.


The 2023 Leverhulme Early Career Fellows joining the University of Leicester are:


Dr Adam Sharp - Heroin Babies: An Autoethnography of Being a Drug-Exposed Child (School of Arts)

This project explores the transformative power of creative writing in understanding the experiences of being exposed to drugs during pregnancy and childhood. Previous studies on children prenatally exposed to heroin have been pessimistic about potential outcomes, intellectually, physically, and socially. In a novel, interdisciplinary approach that combines memoir, biography and autoethnography, the author will present his experiences of being a heroin baby alongside those of other heroin babies. The project aims to update the findings, creating greater empathy and understanding by presenting intimate stories of those with lived experiences while situating them within a wider social, political, and historical context.


Dr Heena - Fortune Telling and Astrology in Early Modern South Asia (1700-1900) (School of History, Politics and International Relations)

The project explores the socio-political history of astrology and fortune-telling and its enduring legitimacy among elites and commoners in eighteenth and nineteenth-century North India. It answers how and why astrology strengthened its hold during India’s transition to British colonial rule despite its emerging split from astronomy, colonial modernity, and Islamic orthodoxy. Using Persian, Urdu, and English language sources. The project challenges early modern narratives of science and politics. By unravelling the early modern knowledge economy and politics of astrology, it makes a fundamental contribution to the field of South Asian social, cultural, and political history.


Dr Kiran Mehta - Making Useful Subjects: Penal Labour in Britain and its Empire (School of History, Politics and International Relations)

This project offers a critical new perspective on the negotiation of citizenship and subjecthood in nineteenth-century Britain and its Empire by exploring political incorporation through the lens of penal labour. Focusing on Britain, Australia and the Caribbean, it will probe the intersections between the ‘civilising’ mission of penal labour and the ‘civilising’ mission of empire. The research takes a comprehensive view of penal labour, bringing prisons, penal colonies, and penal settlements, across Britain and Empire, into the same frame. In so doing, it offers the first in-depth comparative exploration of penal labour in Britain and its Empire.


Dr Robert Frost - Mapping Ancient Egypt: The Relationship Between Egyptology And Cartography (School of History, Politics and International Relations)

This project will provide the first analysis of the relationship between the disciplinary traditions of Egyptology and cartography, 1740-1939: from topographical antiquarianism to excavation. Although it has long been acknowledged that colonial-era knowledge production was seldom neutral, maps produced by Egyptologists are currently viewed as reflections of regions at a particular time, and are virtually never contextualised. In reality, power relations and racial paradigms extended beyond overtly political maps such as the Description de l’Égypte into day-to-day scholarship. Maps produced by British Egyptologists in this period were manipulated, and accepted by subsequent generations, creating continuing repercussions for present-day scholarship.


Dr Mark Haughton - The Wool Age: rethinking social life in later prehistoric Britain (School of Archaeology and Ancient History)

The story of prehistory is written in durable materials – stone, bronze, and iron define the major archaeological periods and are taken to have shaped corresponding societies. Perishable materials, such as wool, have comparatively little impact on our understanding. However, wool production is highly demanding on societal and economic organisations and produces its own embodied experiences through seasonal production cycles. ‘The Wool Age’ will define the emergence and growth of the prehistoric wool economy in Britain for the first time. This is critical to the radical restructuring of societies and social life in the second and first millennia BC.


Dr Thomas Matthews Boehmer - Big Data and the Roman Dead: Archaeological Explorations around Age and Agency (School of Archaeology and Ancient History)

This project identifies who created public responses to the Roman Empire in Northern European communities BCE 250–400 CE. The research builds on the current big-data moment in Archaeology by bringing together methodologies from demography and identity studies to deepen and improve our understanding of societies along the Empire’s northernmost frontier. Critical aspects of the now-available information, namely, the ages of corpses in cemeteries, their delineation within that space, and the commemoration of age in other related contexts, can show how societies reacted to long-term occupation and shed innovative new light on group agency and the expression of different life-stages.


Professor Philip Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise said: “The award of six Leverhulme early career fellowship sis a tremendous achievement for the University – this is easily our most successful year ever with these Leverhulme fellowships.


"Each fellowship will support a talented investigator to address important and impactful projects, that closely align to some of the institution’s areas of research excellence. Fellowships such as these are crucial to our strategy of prioritising and nurturing the next generation of research leaders."


Professor Teela Sanders, Dean of Research for the College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities at University of Leicester, said: These fellowships are a testament to the excellent research environment here at Leicester and our strength in the social sciences, arts and humanities. 


We are very proud to have so many new early career researchers joining us with their innovative and exciting projects, which will no doubt lead to further successes.


The Leverhulme Trust contributes 50% of each Fellow’s total salary costs, up to a maximum of £26,000 per year. More information about the Fellowship can be found here