Postdoc position in Legal History and Construction History (4 years)

    Université Libre de Bruxelles
    Recognised Researcher (R2)
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    26/10/2022 00:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Belgium › Brussels


Research project:

This vacancy fits within the framework of the EOS research project “Construction History, Above and Beyond. What History Can Do for Construction History”, directed by professors Michiel Dehaene (UGent), Dave De ruysscher (VUB, Tilburg University), Rika Devos (ULB), Johan Lagae (UGent), Stephanie Van de Voorde (VUB) and Ine Wouters (VUB). In total, 3 PhD positions and 4 postdoc positions are included in this project (the fourth postdoc mandate will be opened later in 2023). An overview of the full project and all mandates involved can be consulted on: www.vub.be/arch/project/eos.

The EOS research project will set up a dialogue (in terms of sources, methodologies, concepts and cognitive interests) between Construction History and three other fields of history, namely Colonial History, Legal History and Planning History. As such, the project sets out to strengthen the historical dimension of Construction History, while simultaneously demonstrating its relevance and potential to other fields and disciplines. The project overall concentrates on selected aspects in 19th and 20th -century building knowledge and building practice in Belgium and its former colony, with particular attention for tacit knowledge, in order to voice crucial yet underrated actors, sources and types of knowledge.

The individual trajectory of each postdoc researcher is embedded in this larger team, operating in the 3 universities (ULB, UGent and VUB). Intensive exchange and shared outcomes among team members are crucial for the success of the project. The postdoc positions are each situated in one of the 3 fields of dialogue: (1) colonial history – construction history; (2) legal history – construction history and (3) planning history – construction history.

This specific vacancy is issued by the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and engages in the dialogue between legal history and construction history. It is co-supervised by profs. Rika Devos (ULB) and Dave De ruysscher (VUB, Tilburg University).

This postdoc study focusses on the normativity of ‘implicit’ and ‘practical’ knowledge building in Belgium, during the 19th and 20th centuries. This type of knowledge is often enforced through informal rules, in many segments of society. The field of Construction History holds promising opportunities to further disentangle normativity and informal rules, as they can be enforced in the case of harm or construction faults. The liability of architects, contractors and even workers was tested against ‘rules of the trade’, which were rules of implicit, practical knowledge. The sources that can be used range from instructional literature to case law, in which the liability of constructors is explored. These sources shed light not only on the appraisal of ‘rules of the trade’ but also on how legal practitioners categorized ‘practical knowledge’.

The post-doc study in the dialogue between Legal History and Construction History explores the types of normativity as found in instructional literature for construction professionals. As such, this research will link up not only with recent developments in Legal History, but also engage with the larger knowledge gaps identified in this project by assessing not only the relation between different types of knowledge engaged in normativity, but also the relations between the actors involved – both professional builders and professional legal actors – and the untapped sources to assess this normativity, including their technical and legal challenges. Legal practitioners and construction practitioners produce very different types of documents, from different viewpoints, in different ‘languages’. How do they interact and integrate the insights of the other field? How can they be understood by the other field and were these sources accessible and used? Do they reflect the standard of building? How and when does practical knowledge turn into a normative set of (implicit or explicit) rules or guidelines? These issues are tested through case studies in the archives of construction companies, such as the private archives of the Blaton archives and Entreprises Louis de Waele.

The successful candidate will be based alternatingly at ULB and VUB, to allow a dynamic interaction with the team members and a full insertion in both institutions.

More Information


About the position:

- The postdoc position is funded by a 4-year EOS research project and is offered as research contract, following the standards of ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles). See Research in a nutshell - ULB for further details. The project additionally covers expenses related to research visits, participation in conferences, publications, etc. as well as running costs.

- The successful postdoc researcher will contribute to and benefit from the open academic environment uniting 3 leading Belgian universities in the intensive collaboration on 1 project, of which the postdoc study is a constituent part.

- The successful postdoc researcher will benefit from the guidance of the supervisors, the direct interaction with the other postdoc researchers in the project and the visibility that will result from it. The researcher will also collaborate with a PhD researcher working in the same dialogue between Legal History and Construction History.

- The successful postdoc researcher will engage in educational activities at the involved departments at VUB and UGent. These activities can cover the guidance of students in exercises, following up MA thesis, etc. following the needs of the departments and the skills of the researcher. The amount of hours will not exceed the limits set by FNRS.

Selection process

How to apply?

Interested candidates can apply by submitting an application file containing the following documents:

- Motivation letter (in English, max 500 words), mentioning also the contents of the application file;

- Curriculum vitae with list of publications;

- Copy of you BA and MA diploma and PhD diploma (if already obtained, see above);

- A sample of writing: your best research paper (preferably individual work, in Dutch, French or English) and a chapter of your PhD;

- Annexes when relevant (publications, award certificates, etc.)


Applications need to be sent to Rika.Devos@ulb.be. After pre-selection based on the application file, possible candidates will be invited for an interview. Interviews are planned soon after the application deadline.



Applications are expected on Wednesday October 26 2022 (noon).

Communication of pre-selected applications (by email): early November 2022.

Interviews are planned in November 2022, on invitation, and the results will be communicated soon after.

Start of the mandate: asap between December 2022-January 2023.

Additional comments

Contact for more information:

Prof. Rika Devos: Rika.Devos@ulb.be

Prof. Dave De ruysscher: Dave.De.Ruysscher@vub.be

See also:

AIA - Architectural Engineering (ulb.ac.be)


Web site for additional job details

Offer Requirements

    ENGLISH: Excellent
    FRENCH: Good
    DUTCH: Good


Required profile:

We are looking for candidates with a good track record in legal and/or institutional history. Affinity for construction history and architecture history is a plus.


The candidate will hold one of following Ph.D. diplomas:

- PhD in Architecture;

- PhD in History;

- PhD in Architectural Engineering;

- PhD in Law

or equivalent.


Also PhD students defending their thesis later than the submission date for this vacancy are welcome. The PhD degree must be obtained in 2022.

Specific Requirements

The candidate needs to demonstrate a good mastering of Legal History and:

- fluent passive knowledge of both Dutch and French. Attention: this is a binding requirement as it is necessary for archival research;

- a B2 level in English;

- a passion for archival research;

- good editing skills, to be demonstrated by a sample of writing: your best research text and a chapter of the PhD (in Dutch, French or English);

- good competences in teamwork and good social skills;

- an interest in participating in international congresses.

Map Information

Job Work Location Personal Assistance locations
Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 50, CP 194/2

EURAXESS offer ID: 789321


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