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 (2000)
1. JOHN BEN SNOW PRIZE: best book of 1999 in any field of British Studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.
WINNER: David Eltis, Department of History, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
David Eltis's The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas may seem a strange selection for a prize in British Studies. Its title scarcely promises a British focus. Indeed, the book amply delivers on what it does promise - a study of the roots of what was often called in the nineteenth century and beyond the South's "peculiar institution". But that description is not Prof. Eltis's, for he locates the extremes of chattel slavery less in the economy of the Deep South and the Caribbean than in a European ideological matrix. What made David Eltis's book so riveting for the historians who made up the John Ben Snow Prize Committee was the way it ties the horrors of the slave work gang to the emergence and consolidation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the English doctrine of freedom. In a wide-ranging, elegant and utterly convincing argument, he accepts the assumptions of exceptionalism that have for so long characterized the work of British, and more particularly English, historians, and then looks through the other end of the telescope. By the time the New World was being opened up to exploitation, the English - unlike the Spanish or the Portuguese - had eliminated all shadings of personal legal status other than "free". When they sought to coerce the labor they needed for their expanding plantation zone, they could only do so by systematically denying the personhood that seemed by then inseparable from freedom. Prof. Eltis impressively refutes those historians who have turned to economic determinism to explain the peculiar slave system of England's Atlantic colonies. The explanation he offers turns instead to a complex of attitudes to work, to gender, and to identity and otherness. The outcome is a startling challenge to the complacencies of all who have written of English liberty. It is also a salutary challenge to those who would see English or even British history as self-contained.
HONORABLE MENTION:Bruce R. Smith, Department of English, Georgetown University, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor (University of Chicago Press, 1999).
The John Ben Snow Prize Committee also wishes to award an Honorable Mention to Bruce R. Smith's innovative, imaginative study of The Acoustic World of Early Modern England. In reconstructing the oral and aural cultures of the Elizabethan world, Professor Smith moves beyond the written-word filters through which we normally examine the many voice-based cultures of early modern England. His creatively chosen but rigorously applied evidence ranges from the traditional literary and dramatic texts of the English Renaissance through music, dance and games, educational and scientific treatises, legal and administrative records, and modern acoustical engineering: he recreates for us the sounds of a London street, the whispers of the Court, the decibel level of wind-tossed trees, or the distinctive acoustical properties of the oak and plaster design of the Globe Theatre. While the origin of this book lay in Smith's desire to understand what Shakespeare's audience heard, and how that may have affected the creation and presentation of Renaissance drama, the result is a broader, rich and stimulating study of the many overlapping communities defined by sound: the social distinctions of rural, urban, and Court-based speech; the "otherness" of ethnic or regional accents; the liturgical strategies developed by an emerging Protestant church to unify its congregation about the spoken sermon rather than the visual Catholic mass; the varied audiences for which classical rhetoric demanded different oratorical styles. In each of these instances and more, Smith's cross-disciplinary analysis of such "soundscapes" -- uniting literature, history and science -- enhances our understanding and recaptures for us something of the subjective experiences of a world we have lost.
2. BRITISH COUNCIL PRIZE: best book of 1999 on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
WINNER: Susan R. Grayzel, Department of History, University of Mississippi, Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War (University of North Carolina Press, 1999).
This rich and wide-ranging book provides a fresh perspective on the impact of the First World War on women and gender relations. Grayzel argues that the war was less a transformative than a conservative force, one in which women’s patriotism was expressed through the idiom of suffering motherhood and womanly sacrifice. Her analysis encompasses both the British and the French experiences, using the comparison to illuminate the structural forces that superceded national differences, and it addresses various dimensions of the subject, drawing on propaganda literature about rape victims, public debates about female sexuality, legal prosecutions against feminist pacifists, and much more. With its clarity of expression, its breadth of scholarship, and its independence of judgment, this is a work that historians of one of the twentieth century’s most catastrophic events will not be able to ignore.
HONORABLE MENTION: Michael T. Saler, Department of History, University of California, Davis, The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground (Oxford University Press, 1999).
Was English modernism primarily a literary, London-based and Bloomsbury-dominated movement? Against received wisdom, Michael Saler tells us that it was not. In his book, "The Avant-Garde in Interwar England", Saler shows how a group of Ruskin-inspired, provincial, middle-class and often Northern arts enthusiasts – a group he denotes the "medieval modernists" – were able to articulate and to a degree implement a vision for visual, public-spirited, and peculiarly English modernism. In an inspired choice, Saler pays particular attention to the career of Frank Pick, who left the North of England to bring a unified and modern visual style to the stations and billboards of the London underground. Aesthetically coherent and avant-garde, but also commercially acute and propagandizing, Pick’s "underground vision" brought the principles of modern design and a bolder aesthetic sensibility to a wide and by no means highbrow public. Clever, original, perceptive and light of touch, this book offers a refreshing challenge to our Bloomsbury-centered ideas about English modernism and to claims about the backwards-looking and nostalgic character of English culture.
3. WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE: for the best scholarly article of 1999 in any field of British studies.
WINNER: Anne McLaren, School of History, University of Liverpool, "Reading Sir Thomas Smith’s De Republica Anglorum as Protestant Apologetic," Historical Journal 42 (1999), pp. 911-39.
This is a deeply thoughtful and admirably well-structured piece that casts new light on a famous document of the Tudor era. In it, McLaren argues that Smith’s magnum opus is not the narrowly factual description of English society and institutions that historians have always taken it to be. Rather, it represents Smith’s attempt as an engaged Protestant to deal with the chief political challenge of his age: how to preserve England’s Protestant identity in circumstances in which monarchical incapacity – in the person of a minor king, and then an unmarried queen – seemed to present a threat as dangerous as that posed by international Catholicism itself. This piece represents intellectual history at its best: an examination of text and context that challenges us to rethink them both.
4. NACBS-DISSERTATION YEAR FELLOWSHIP:
WINNER: Alice M. Ritscherle, University of Michigan, "Civil Rights and the Politics of Race in Britain, 1948-1968"
RUNNER-UP: Andrea Denny-Brown, Columbia University, "Sumptuary laws, Sartorial Codes and the Origins of Modern Subjectivity"
5. NACBS-HUNTINGTON LIBRARY FELLOWSHIP:
WINNER: Christopher Petrusic, Carleton University, "Mapping Gender, Race and Imperialism in the British Empire: Masculinity, Femininity and Victorian Explorers."