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 (2004)
1. JOHN BEN SNOW PRIZE: best book of 2003 in any field of British studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.
WINNER: Daniel Woolf (University of Alberta), The Social Circulation of the Past: English Historical Culture 1500-1730. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Daniel Woolf's book represents the culmination of a long-considered and ambitious program of research. The author's wide ranging concept of what the term 'history' meant to early modern people and his use of an impressive array of sources allow him to shift his discussion of the concept of historical consciousness from the 'high ground' of intellectual history to more general cultural and social spheres, and ultimately to show that in the two centuries between 1500 and 1700 Englishmen and -women of all backgrounds shared a keen sense of the past and of its importance on shaping their understanding of the present. Woolf's study is compelling both in its synthetic achievement and original in its interpretive claims. It is beautifully written, and will deservedly become one of only a handful of standard texts on the history of the English sense of the past.
2. NACBS BOOK PRIZE: best book of 2003 on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
WINNER: John C.Weaver (McMaster University), The Great Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World, 1650-1900. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003.
John C. Weaver's book is an exciting and ambitious account of land settlement and land holding in the temperate climates of Australasia, the United States, Canada, and South Africa. Inspired by recent work on business relationships between the frontier and the metropolis, as well as by a long history of theories of imperialism, Weaver offers compelling explanations for the differences in style and structure in different colonizing traditions that are attentive to culture, economics, law, geography, and climate. The book is a tour de force, directly relevant to contemporary debates surrounding the rise of Western global capitalism. Its chronological scope is suitably broad. While Weaver reaches back well before 1800, his focus is resolutely modern, as his book is precisely about the connections between ideas of land and what we might think of as modernity, with its economic and ideological arrangements.
Honorable Mention: Jane Nadel-Klein (Trinity College, Hartford), Fishing for Heritage: Modernity and Loss Along the Scottish Coast. Berg Publishers, 2003.
Jane Nadel-Klein's book is a historically nuanced anthropological study of fishing communities on Scotland's eastern coast. The author has immersed herself in these communities off and on for about 20 years, and she is thoroughly steeped in the culture. She treats fishing people with sympathy and understanding without ever romanticizing the harsh social environment and the terrible dangers of fishing as an occupation. Nadel-Klein examines these communities from every conceivable angle, sensitive to the logic of social interaction and unequal power relationships, bringing the voices of all into play.
She is very widely read not only in Scottish history but also in anthropology, enabling her to see parallels with other cultures in all parts of the world. And she is often quite original. Social critics have decried the heritage industry as prettied-up and commodified, and Nadel-Klein does not entirely disagree with them, but she also recognizes that fishing people genuinely want to preserve an authentic record of their way of life, now under threat from the North Sea Oil industry and EU fishing regulations.
3. WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE: for the best scholarly article of 2003 in any field of British studies.
WINNER: Jessica Harland-Jacobs (University of Florida), "All in the Family: Freemasonry and the British Empire in the Mid-Nineteenth Century," Journal of British Studies, 42 (2003): 448-82.
In her ambitious and broadly conceived article, Jessica Harland-Jacobs looks comparatively at Freemasonry in British North America and India in the mid-nineteenth century with an eye to shedding light on recent debates as to whether the ideology of British imperialism was primarily an ideology of sameness or of difference. By examining how Freemasons used the metaphor of the family to negotiate local crises on the imperial periphery, Harland-Jacobs explores the tensions between Freemasons' universalist rhetoric and their duties and assumptions as imperialists. The argument is both subtle and sophisticated, demonstrating a crucial sensitivity to issues of ethnic, cultural, religious, class and caste difference - and the article makes a series of important revisionist points which significantly alter our understanding of imperial, national and colonial identities during a period of wide-scale change. Harland-Jacobs shows that 'imperial' and 'national' identities were not necessarily oppositional and that Masonic ideology, depending on how Members chose to use it, 'might either act as a glue that helped hold the empire together or as a solvent that eroded the rule of difference upon which imperialism depended'. This article considers British history in its broadest sweep
and in the process forces us to think in new ways about a wide range of important historical issues.
4. NACBS DISSERTATION YEAR FELLOWSHIP: Caroline Dunn (Fordham University), "Damsels in Distress or Partners in Crime? The Abduction of Women in Late Medieval England"
Caroline Dunn's dissertation-in-progress is an imaginative re-examination of the stories of "stolen women" found in so many medieval romances. Dunn, however, turns to judicial records to discover the mundane reality that lies behind the dramatic tales. In her sophisticated prosopographical study, she uses these records to cast new light on "legal change, marriage formation, family relations, property transmission, and attitudes towards women." Her dissertation promises a novel way of exploring both the possibilities for and the limits upon female initiative in late Medieval England.
NACBS DISSERTATION TRAVEL GRANT: Mark Doyle (Boston College), "Industry, Empire and Violence: Belfast and Glasgow, 1850-1870"
Mark Doyle's dissertation-in-progress seeks to provide us with a more nuanced understanding of the sources and character of sectarian violence in mid-Victorian Britain. It does so by examining the contrasting histories of two cities, Belfast and Glasgow. The cities were alike in religious composition and their experiences of rapid industrialization, yet profoundly different in the level of communal strife. In his methodologically sophisticated study, Doyle argues that the difference between the two cities lies in contingent and historically specific patterns of political and religious expression, rather than being an inevitable product of the tensions associated with economic change.
5. NACBS-HUNTINGTON LIBRARY FELLOWSHIP: Kathryn Steele (Rutgers University), "Enlightenment in the Shade: Educational Appropriation in Eighteenth-Century Reading Practices"
Kathryn Steele's brilliantly conceived dissertation promises to make a provocative and lasting contribution to the history of 18th-century literature, the history of education, and the new history of reading. "Enlightenment in the Shade: Educational Appropriation in Eighteenth-Century Reading Practices" explores the "informal learning experiences" of "those excluded from formal institutions of learning in eighteenth-century England". The thesis aims to uncover the ways "appropriative reading practices, within networks of readers and in unexpected locations, compensate for and exist independently of restrictive educational practices and ideologies". The scope of the thesis ranges from new interpretations of classic enlightenment treatises on education and reading, to analyses of books for religious instruction, the diaries and letters of eighteenth century women, and the educational function of theatre, debating societies and public lectures. The committee was highly impressed by Steele's mature and sophisticated command of the theoretical, literary and historiographical concepts required to approach this topic in an innovative fashion, and intrigued both by the results of her first forays into the archives and by her determination to continue to exploit neglected archival sources. When completed, this thesis (and the book that will surely follow) will stand as distinguished works of genuinely interdisciplinary scholarship, read by critics and historians alike.