Funded PhD, Glasgow: “Testing the limits of the ‘hard man’ in film: masculinity and male health behaviour in Scotland’s public health films 1934-2000”

Three Year PhD Studentship, Glasgow

Project Title:  “Testing the limits of the ‘hard man’ in film: masculinity and male health behaviour in Scotland’s public health films 1934-2000”

Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow, the Centre for the Social History of Health and Health Care at the University of Strathclyde and the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive are pleased to announce a three-year PhD studentship funded via the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts & Humanities Applied Research Collaboration Studentship (ARCS) and the SFC. The studentship will begin 1 October 2016 and covers the cost of home/EU tuition fees and provides an annual maintenance award of maintenance bursary (stipend) of approx. £14,296 (at 2016/17 rates). There are no nationality restrictions for this award, but please note that maintenance and tuition fees will be paid at current UK/EU RCUK rates. Students from outside the UK or EU will be responsible for any shortfall in fees.

Research Project

“Hard drinking and heavy smoking have for a long time been ‘strong symbols of male virility and machismo in Scottish culture’.”(Johnston and McIvor, 2004:141)

The stereotype of the ‘hard man’ has an established place in written and cinematic Scottish fiction and is examined in a number of empirically based studies, for instance, in linguistics and labour history That stereotype is conventionally associated with manual labour in ‘big’ industries (such as ship building), with heavy drinking, violence, cynical humour and the performance of machismo. More recently, with the decline of larger manufacturing industries across Scotland, the stereotype is also apparently provoked by the absence of labour, cf. John Caughie’s assertion: ‘when masculinity can no longer define itself in ‘hard work’ it increasingly identifies itself with the ‘hard man’ for whom anguish, cynicism and violence are the only ways to recover the lost dignities of labour’.

While the implications of the this hard drinking, heavy smoking and often violent lifestyle have for the actual medical health of the population of Glasgow and Scotland is relatively well understood, what has been under-explored is both the manner and impact of the NHS, Council and other attempts by public bodies and charities to address and challenge this stereotype in public health films with the intention of improving population health. While the project will explore how public health films mapped onto the evolution of particular health campaigns and concerns (for e.g. alcoholism, lung cancer, occupational health) since the Second World War, it will also engage directly with the construct of the ‘hard man’ as it features implicitly and explicitly in the content of the various films and how this persona is remembered and articulated through interviews. It is anticipated that other dimensions of Scottish masculinity (the man as ‘provider’, their sentimental attachment to family and loyalty to their peers) may emerge, which could provide a more nuanced understanding of the ‘hard man’ archetype and its impact – for better and worse – on key areas of medical concern in relation to masculine health in Scotland during the latter part of the twentieth century.


  • The project will investigate how public health issues typically associated with men, such as drinking, smoking, addiction, occupational health and sexual health, were documented on film.
  • The focus is Scotland wide but with a comparative element, which would explore the wider British context. The student would also examine British public health films, such as those held in the Wellcome Library’s moving image collection, the Imperial War Museum’s department of moving images and the British Library’s ‘British Films Online’.


  • The use of films as a public health strategy in Scotland remains relatively unexplored – this project will therefore pioneer work in this area using a multi-disciplinary approach employing and testing the applicability of both historical and film-oriented methodologies.
  • It will provide the first systemic investigation of Scottish public health films addressing an area of specific national concern – reflecting on the relationship between ‘lifestyle’ and environmental factors as apparently manifest in a specific national ‘stereotype’ (the ‘hard man’) and how this archetype has been addressed and employed within public health campaigns.

Research Questions

  • What were the main public health issues facing Scotland’s men in different chronological periods, such as World War Two, the post-war era and the 1980s?
  • What are the collective myths associated with masculinity and health behaviours in Scotland?
  • How were these issues represented in public health films?
  • How did campaigns change over time in relation to ongoing issues (for example, alcoholism)?
  • What do these films tell us about society’s attitudes to health?
  • How were the films funded, produced and displayed (e.g. Who was responsible for creating public health films? Who decided on final scripts and shots to be filmed?)
  • Where and how were these films shown?
  • Who were the intended audiences? (eg. general public, workers, youth, clinicians)

Research Methods

As an interdisciplinary project the student will apply a mix of appropriate methods:

  • The student will interview men from urban and rural areas of Scotland who watched public health films in during 1940-2000 in order to explore individual and collective memories of health and masculinity and public representations, applying recent developments in oral history theory and methodology.
  • They will also: conduct literature reviews (within social history, gender history, the history of medicine, film and cultural studies); work in close collaboration with archives (within the MIA, related archives such as the Wellcome collection and local health board archives where appropriate); and conduct a series of film analyses (a reading of the content and aesthetics of different films selected as case studies).


Professor Karen Lury (University of Glasgow), Dr. Emma Newlands (University of Strathclyde), Dr. Emily Munro (NLS Moving Image Archive)
The student will be based at the University of Glasgow and will take part in postgraduate development activities in Glasgow and at the University of Strathclyde.

Requirements for Applicants

Applicants should hold (or expect to achieve in 2016) a Masters degree with Merit or Distinction, and an undergraduate degree with First-Class or Upper Second-Class Honours in relevant fields or subjects.

How to Apply

Applications should include the following materials:

  • CV
  • Covering letter describing in detail your interest in and suitability for undertaking this project
  • An example of scholarly work up to 3000 words in length (e.g. coursework essay, or a dissertation chapter)
  • Degree transcripts (this may be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • 2 academic references (these may be sent directly from your referees if they would prefer)

Please send application materials to Research Administrator, with the subject line ‘Moving Image Archive ARCS Application’ by Friday 24th June 2016.

Further Information


Applications for the studentships are due no later than Friday 24th June 2016. Interviews will be held the week beginning 18th July in Glasgow (interviews may be conducted using Skype).

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