Three PhD students (m/f/d) | Hidden Heritage of the European Union

 The Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt/Main is a world leader in fundamental research on law. Its three research departments with more than 70 scholars, the unrivalled collections of its specialized library, and its numerous national and international co-operations make it the central research hub for a global scientific community investigating the past, present and future of legal regimes.

We are looking to recruit from July 2024 onwards three PhD students (m/f/d) for the newly established research group “The Hidden Heritage of the European Union: the Legacy of the Law of the League of Nations” directed by Dr. Michel Erpelding.

The research group

Conventional accounts of European integration have often insisted on the novelty of the supranational law developed in that context, asserting its ‘sui generis’ character and highlighting its differences with earlier forms of international and regional integration. However, recent scholarship has questioned this view, noting that forms of supranational law and institutions already existed during the interwar period. This was the case within the League of Nations and its broader context, which included international(ized) institutions both in Europe (e.g. Danzig, Saar, Upper Silesia…) and in (semi-)colonial settings (e.g. League mandates, international cities, protectorates…). The research group’s central aim will be to identify the continuities and discontinuities between the law of these interwar institutions and the law developed within the context of European integration. To do so, it will not only look at the relevant institutions and the norms they generated, but also at the actors that developed and used these norms, whether as legal professionals or as ‘subaltern’ individuals or groups.

Possible research themes, which, ideally, should cover both the interwar period and the early stages of European integration, include:

  • the law and practice of/before/vis-à-vis supranational institutions (including courts);
  • the protection and representation of labour;
  • the role of the International Chamber of Commerce;
  • the relation between regional integration and global trade liberalization.

Job description

Your key responsibility is to develop and complete a doctoral dissertation within the confines of the research group’s central aim, possibly (but not exclusively) in relation to one of the abovementioned research themes. You are also expected to publish and disseminate your research findings in close co-operation with the other members of the research group, including by contributing data to an online repository.

Your profile

A university degree in law, humanities or social sciences that has been completed with above-average success is required. You have an excellent command of English, both spoken and written and are proficient in either French or German. Knowledge of other languages relevant to the project (e.g. Arabic, Italian, Polish, Spanish…) is not a requirement but will be considered as an asset.

Your curriculum vitae shows the potential to conduct research at an internationally high level. You work meticulously and are able to handle deadlines. You work independently and have a strong interest in interdisciplinary, archival and comparative work. You have the ability to play an active collaborative role in the research group.

Our offer

We offer an attractive and international work environment with an unparalleled research infrastructure and a good working atmosphere. The payment is currently 3,000 € per month (gross), which equals approximately 2,045 € after taxes, depending on family circumstances, plus a special annual payment. The job is a full time position (currently 39 hours per week). While you will be based in Frankfurt/Main, there are generous opportunities for mobile working (at present, up to 40 per cent per month). The position is a fixed-term appointment for three years, with the possibility of renewal for a further year in exceptional circumstances. There is no obligation or expectation to teach, although we encourage you to take up limited teaching assignments if you wish to do so.

You will have unlimited access to our world leading library and a multitude of databases. You will be provided with a work space and will receive extensive academic and administrative support. There are generous grants for research trips to archives and libraries, as well as for attending conferences. A variety of personal and career development opportunities is available, including funding for German language classes.

The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such individuals. Furthermore, the Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society strives for gender equality and diversity. We welcome applications from all backgrounds.

Application process

The application should be in English or German or French and should contain the following documents:

  • Cover letter naming your research project and explaining to what extent your profile meets the selection criteria
  • Names and addresses (by post and electronically) of three scientists who have agreed to issue you with a letter of reference
  • Detailed CV containing a list of any publications you might have
  • Copies of your school leaver’s certificate and degree certificate
  • Preliminary research project (up to five pages) fitting within the confines of the research group’s central aim
  • Written sample of approx. 20 printed pages (e.g. master thesis sample, journal articles, book chapters, etc.)

Your application must be submitted online via our application portal by the closing date of 1st May, 2024.

Please provide your referees with all your application documents and ask them to send their references direct to  no later than 1st May, 2024. References may only be submitted by email. They do not have to be signed as long as they are emailed from the official mail address of the referee. Strong candidates will be invited for an interview.


Informal enquiries may be directed to Dr. Michel Erpelding (). For questions as to the terms and conditions of employment please contact Ms. Anna Heym ().

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