The official publication of the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS), the Journal of British Studies, has positioned itself as the critical resource for scholars of British culture from the Middle Ages through the present. Drawing on both established and emerging approaches, JBS presents scholarly articles and books reviews from renowned international authors who share their ideas on British society, politics, law, economics, and the arts. In 2005 (Vol. 44), the journal merged with the NACBS publication Albion, creating one journal for NACBS membership.
NACBS Awards (1999)
1. JOHN BEN SNOW PRIZE: best book of 1998 in any field of British Studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.
WINNER: Adrian Johns (University of California, San Diego) for his book The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making University of Chicago Press, 1998.
In his detailed and finely-nuanced study of print culture, Adrian Johns has succeeded in transforming our conception of books, their makers and their readers in early modern England. Examining in turn the practices and strategies of printers, their disputes with authors and booksellers, the problems of credibility, piracy and sedition, beliefs about the corporeal effects of reading and the often vicious disputes within the prestigious Royal Society, Johns has recreated with great insight the rivalries, anxieties and internecine conflicts at the heart of print culture. He shows that books and other printed materials were not marked by fixity but by flux, both in their status as authoritative objects and in their uses by readers who took them up with a widely-discrepant range of motives, intentions and preconceptions. He examines the institutional and informal sites where print was consumed, the roles played by women and men as producers and users of books, and the often circuitous trajectories through which manuscripts were transformed into 'copies', books and frauds. His lively cast of characters includes lowly devils, perfervid pornographers and esoteric Royal Society theorists such as Isaac Newton. Finally, by focusing on the interplay between the printing and scientific revolutions, Johns brilliantly lays bear the performative nature of both experimental science and printed texts: both required shows of propriety and moral probity to advance their claims to truth and knowledge. Ironically, it was these struggles to discipline the unruly artifacts of the press that gave rise to the mythic beliefs adhered to by later generations about the importance of an unlicensed press in free societies. In these ways and more, Johns' tour de force of cultural history forces us to re-think our most central conceptions of early modern print culture and indeed of 'the nature of the book'-- an outstanding achievement for which this prize is a worthy recognition.
2. BRITISH COUNCIL PRIZE: best book of 1998 on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
WINNER: Alison Winter (California Institute of Technology) for her book Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Alison Winter's Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (University of Chicago Press, 1998) is a model of the revisionism that lies at the heart of the historian's craft. Beginning with a simple assertion--that the phenomenon of mesmerism belongs at the center rather than at the margin of our history of Victorian Britain--she sustains her argument with evidence of painstaking research, with imaginative reconceptualization, and with carefully chosen reproductions of cartoons, broad-sheets, and billboards chosen from the material culture of mesmerism. Most Victorianists have been aware of mesmerism as an eighteenth century enthusiasm that died out some time in the nineteenth century, a victim of the march of the human mind. In Winter's hands mesmerism takes its place alongside evolution, biblical criticism, and naturalist ethics as a site of hard fought rhetorical battles over issues of authority, plausibility, and the relationship between the spiritual and the natural. She makes it clear, for instance, that the debate about chemical anesthesia is inseparable from the debate over mesmeric anesthesia, both setting off controversies about the status of human agency and the meaning of pain. The various paths that Winter follows in her argument, including one to Calcutta, are impossible to summarize here, but they constitute a book that is a worthy recipient of the British Council Prize in the Humanities.
HONORABLE MENTION: Lynn Hollen Lees (University of Pennsylvania) for her book The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People, 1700-1948 Cambridge University Press, 1998.
3. WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE: for the best scholarly article of 1998 in any field of British studies.
WINNER: Margot Finn (Emory University) for her article "Working-Class Women and the Contest for Consumer Control in Victorian County Courts," Past & Present (November 1998).
Finn's is a deeply perceptive and well-crafted article that uses the case records of the Victorian county-court system to make three compelling arguments. The first is that working-class debtors improvised a number of ways to stave off payment of their debts through the mechanisms of a court system that was chiefly designed to ensure that these debts were honored; the second, that working-class women not only engaged in a variety of economic activities from which the common law formally excluded them, but also exploited the stereotype of female prodigality to their own--and their husbands'--advantage; and finally, that these women were sometimes assisted in their stratagems by judges who fancied themselves the champions not of the sanctity of contract, but of the moral economy. The history of women, of the market, and one of the institutions of state in the Victorian era are often treated as if they had very little to do with each other. But Finn's article makes an important contribution to all three by revealing some of the complex ways in which they interacted.
HONORABLE MENTION: Steven Pincus (University of Chicago) for his article "Neither Machiavellian Moment nor Possessive Individualism: Consumer Society and the Defenders of the English Commonwealth," American Historical Review (June, 1998).
HONORABLE MENTION: Claire Valente (University of Portland) for her article "The Deposition and Abdication of Edward II," English Historical Review (September, 1998).
4. NACBS-DISSERTATION YEAR FELLOWSHIP:
WINNER: Karl Shoemaker, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley for a project entitled "Criminal Sanctuary: Changing Conceptions of Law, Crime, and Punishment in Medieval England" Supervisor: Thomas Barnes.
5. NACBS-HUNTINGTON LIBRARY FELLOWSHIP:
WINNER: John Hintermaier, History, Princeton University for a project entitled "The Book of Common Prayer Revised, Refused, Restored: Liturgical Conflict in England, Ireland, and Scotland, 1604-1662" Supervisor: Peter Lake.