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Research Property in the Iberian World at Max Planck

 [We have the following announcement.  DRE]

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 60 scholars, the unrivaled 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 March 2022 onwards, three PhD researchers (m/f/d/) for the ERC research group IberLAND, "Beyond Property: Law and Land in the Iberian World(1510-1850)"  directed by Dr. Manuel Bastias Saavedra, with a case study compatible with the following focus: (1) Goa (and Old Conquests), 1510-1630; (2) New Spain, 1520-1630; (3) Cape Verde, 1600-1730.

IberLAND explores the history of land tenure in a long-term and global perspective by focusing on the territories of the former Portuguese and Spanish empires in what has recently been labelled the Iberian world. The Iberian crowns of Portugal and Castile, beginning in the 15th century, connected diverse peoples and communities across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. In doing so, they for the first time transformed the questions of how to own and how to use land into an issue of global dimensions. While this age of discovery and colonialism has often been regarded as the first phase of the transplantation of European concepts of property from Europe to the non-European world, IberLAND seeks to disrupt this narrative by looking at the history of land tenure not as a process of diffusion from Europe to the world, but as a process of decentred legal innovation. To do this, the project will move beyond the idea of property and focus on land relations to understand the sets of social relations established between people and land. This conceptual approach provides a way of observing how law was produced at the local level through the combination of practice and doctrine. To connect legal doctrines to local practices, the project's analysis will focus on different sets of institutions that structured land relations in different places in the Iberian world. This conceptual and analytical framework will be applied to six case studies focusing on New Spain, Goa, Cape Verde, Spain, Brazil and the Philippines, enabling us to overcome the diffusionist mindset that has pervaded the study of law and empire.

Job description

Your key responsibility is to develop and complete a doctoral dissertation within the framework of the research group with focus on one of the three regions and temporal foci above. Doctoral researchers are also expected to discuss, publish, and disseminate their research findings in close co-operation with the other members of the research group.

Your Profile

You hold a university degree in history, law, anthropology, or other related field that has been completed with above-average success. Applicants should hold a master's degree at the time the PhD contract is signed. Candidates may already be enrolled in a PhD program in any university worldwide.

You are fully proficient in Portuguese and/or Spanish, and good knowledge of English is expected. Knowledge of additional languages relevant to the regional focus is not required but will be considered 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 unparalleled research infrastructure and a good working atmosphere. The candidate will have the opportunity to take part in an interdisciplinary international research group, benefit from continuous scientific exchange, a comprehensive library and the possibility of research stays in Germany and abroad.

The PhD positions are full-time (39 hours per week) and are paid the equivalent of 65% of the German Civil Service Collective Agreement (TVöD Bund), level E13.

The positions are fixed-term appointments for three years; in exceptional cases, a position can be extended for up to one additional year.

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 women are explicitly encouraged to apply.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds.

Application process

The application can be in English, Portuguese, Spanish or German and should contain the following documents (in one pdf document):

  • Cover letter naming your research project and explaining to what extent your profile meets the selection criteria
  • Detailed CV containing a list of any publications you might have
  • Preliminary research project (up to five pages, not including bibliography) on a local or regional case study fitting within one of the four regions indicated above, specifically indicating archives and sources. (Applicants working on other regions of the Iberian World may be considered but should contact Dr. Bastias Saavedra before applying).
  • Copies of your university certificates

Your application must be submitted online via the following link by the closing date of October 15, 2021: Outstanding candidates will be invited to an interview.


You are encouraged to contact Dr. Bastias Saavedra ( for any inquiries regarding the scientific aspects of the project. For questions as to the terms and conditions of employment, please contact Ms. Anna Heym (

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