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3-year Research Post-Doc: Catherine de Francheville Fellow in the History of Catholicism (c.1650–c.1820) @ Durham U, UK

  • March 31, 2021 6:57 PM
    Message # 10257959
    George Faithful (Administrator)

    Catherine de Francheville Fellow in the History of Catholicism (c.1650–c.1820)


    Applications are open for a three-year Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Centre for Catholic Studies in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, UK.


    This fixed-term Fellowship has been made possible by a contribution from the Congregation of La Retraite. The Congregation of La Retraite was founded in France in the seventeenth century. Having been involved with the Jesuit retreat house for men in Vannes (founded in 1663), Catherine de Francheville looked to provide Ignatian retreats for women. Despite the retreat houses’ popularity, questions were regularly raised about the provision of such spirituality for women, until the community running the retreats was recognized by Church and State in the 1670s. From this first retreat house were started others, including in Quimper in Brittany by Claude Thérèse de Kermeno. The movement’s ministry continued till the anti-Catholic violence of the French Revolution, during which one of the Congregation, Victoire de St-Luc, was executed because of her devotion to the Sacred Heart. In order to survive in France, the Congregation added education to its work of spiritual accompaniment, and its houses subsequently spread throughout the nineteenth century, both inside and outside of France.


    Little scholarly attention has been paid to the Congregation’s story, particularly amongst English-speaking scholars. The Catherine de Francheville Fellowship will allow the holder to research the largely unexplored history of the La Retraite Congregation from revolution to Revolution, to develop how the history of the La Retraite experience in France links to the wider national and international context, and to highlight the significance of the La Retraite experience for the study of the history of post-Reformation Catholicism. The history of the Congregation in the early modern period is markedly unusual and the La Retraite Fellow would trace the first c.170 years of the Congregation’s existence, from the ‘revolution’ of being an early modern women’s movement, to the French Revolution and suppression by the State, ending with the Congregation’s rebirth at the start of the nineteenth century. As well as the Congregation’s own archives in France, the holder will be expected to supplement this research with trips to relevant archives elsewhere in order to provide the widest possible context. The holder will, therefore, require fluency in the French language.

    There are a number of potential routes that researchers could explore. It should be stressed that any research into the Congregation of La Retraite will place the story in a wider context. For example, there might be some focus on how the activities of the early Congregation’s pioneers show a level of female agency in the period that has been neglected, or how Revolutionary enlightenment here crushed a women’s movement, going against popular assumptions about the time. Alternatively, their emphasis on Ignatian spirituality means the Congregation’s history should be known as part of recent surges in global Jesuit Studies. Equally, the Congregation’s history offers an insight into the growth of female spirituality, religious and lay, after moments of rupture, whether that be the French Wars of Religion or the French Revolution.


    This is an opportunity for a first-rank researcher. Applications will be considered from candidates whose background lies across a range of disciplines. The Catherine de Francheville Fellow will conduct research with the aim of producing at least two pieces of scholarly output of the highest quality which can be submitted for publication by the end of the term of the Fellowship. The principal output will be a history of the La Retraite Congregation in the early modern period that not only tells their story, but situates it in the broadest possible context. As such, the book will fit into the current scholarly move towards reintegrating the history of Catholicism into the wider national and international narrative. Due to the lack of English-language historical analysis in existence, this would offer the first overview history of the Congregation in that language.


    The closing date is 12.00 midnight on 28 April 2021.


    Full details, including how to apply, can found at


    If you have any questions about this vacancy, please do not hesitate to contact the project’s Principal Investigator, Dr James Kelly –

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