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 (2005)
1. JOHN BEN SNOW PRIZE: best book of 2004 in any field of British studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.
WINNER: Dror Wahrman (Indiana), The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England
Dror Wahrman's The Making of the Modern Self offers a panoramic interpretation of English cultural development that confidently draws on a formidable range of source materials and throughout conveys a provocative historical imagination. In charting the transformation in the final decades of the eighteenth century from what Wahrman describes as the “ancien régime of identity” to the “modern régime of selfhood”, the study highlights not only the very different and less-familiar approaches to personal and collective identity embraced in the earlier period, but also the relative suddenness with which our modern understandings came to be entrenched. The Making of the Modern Self supplies an unusually erudite and stimulating contribution to the continuing scholarly engagement with the historical construction of race, class and gender. This is an exercise in English history that illuminates more than the English case, and a model of cultural history at its most ambitious.
Honorable Mention: David R. Como (Stanford), Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England
David Como's debut monograph takes on a subtle and exacting task: to excavate the theologically and socially radical tendencies inherent in English Puritanism with vigor, humanity, and rare finesse . Como consults a remarkable range of documentary evidence to reveal the personal and intellectual connections—once hidden, mostly fragmentary, often hostile, sometimes denied--between a godly mainstream and the antinomian brethren who made up Puritanism's avante-garde . His ability to draw hard, clean distinctions between narrow, shady differences of religious view has allowed him to draw a brilliantly nuanced portrait of early Stuart Puritanism. In so doing, he has also offered the first entirely-persuasive background to 1640's radicalism to emerge from the prodigious archive of early Stuart religious historiography.
2. ALBION BOOK PRIZE: best book of 2004 on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
CO-WINNER: Martin J. Wiener (Rice), Men of Blood: Violence, Manliness, and Criminal Justice in Victorian England
Men of Blood: Violence, Manliness, and Criminal Justice in Victorian England is an original and well-documented essay in revisionist history, no less important than English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit , and no less likely to set off exciting debates. Wiener challenges feminist and Foucauldian portrayals of Victorian mores as unambiguously oppressive to women, arguing that the nineteenth century ushered in a revolution in jurisprudence that greatly benefited women of all classes. Rape was treated far more punitively, standards of proof and consent were changed to favor the victim, the right of a defense lawyer to delve into the sexual past of the woman was greatly restricted, and the courts became much tougher on domestic violence committed by men. Victorian domestic ideology was gendered and patriarchal, but it was also protective of women and demanded that men of all classes exercise self-restraint. The result was that violence in general, and especially violence against women, declined tremendously by 1900. Wiener is exceptionally well-versed in the historiography of criminology, and he makes his case with solid statistical evidence as well as analyses of dozens of individual cases.
CO-WINNER: Susan Pedersen (Columbia), Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience
Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience is an extraordinarily well-researched and beautifully written biography, based on an enormous range of manuscript sources. It is the story of an independent woman – economically, socially, politically, and ethically independent – who dedicated her life to doing right, as a late-Victorian liberal feminist would define that term. Pedersen has a sure command of the social, economic, imperial, and foreign policy issues of the first half of the twentieth century. She also elucidates, with admirable subtlety and insight, the complex relationships that Eleanor Rathbone had with her larger family and with her lifelong partner, Elizabeth Macadam. Pedersen treats all the players in this drama fairly, able to view the world through their eyes. She has produced one of the best British political biographies in years, and she offers a salutary reminder that historians and politicians alike must grapple with difficult moral questions.
3. WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE: for the best scholarly article of 2004 in any field of British studies.
WINNER: Lisa Forman Cody (Claremont McKenna), “Living and Dying in Georgian London's Lying-In Hospitals,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 78 (2004): 309-48.
Lisa Cody's finely crafted article seeks to resurrect the reputation of London 's lying-in hospitals in the eighteenth century. Challenging the generally accepted argument that these charitable institutions were a key moment in men's usurpation of the midwife's traditional role, she argues that London 's lying-in hospitals, at least in the first few decades of their existence, allowed women to retain primary control over the birthing process. Of particular interest is her finding that the relatively high rates of child mortality reported in contemporary pamphlet of 1751 cannot be attributed to men-midwives' use of new obstetrical instruments, but was, in fact, probably a result of a outbreak of puerperal fever. Lying-in hospitals, she concludes, do not deserve the reputation as death traps that has dogged them through the centuries.
4. NACBS DISSERTATION YEAR FELLOWSHIP: Jonathan Eacott ( Michigan ), “Owning Empire: East Indian Goods in the Development of the Anglophone World, 1740-1830”
Eacott asks why some Indian goods like cotton and umbrellas were assimilated into into British and American economies and societies while others such as hookahs and palanquins continued to figure as exotic and Eastern. He seeks to answer this question through a material and cultural analysis of production, consumption, and use patterns in India , Britain , and America . Eacott studies the making, selling, wearing, bequeathing, and even stealing of Indian goods through such diverse source material as East India Company papers, manufacturer, merchant, and shop records, fire insurance policies, probate inventories, newspapers, travel guides, and cookbooks. He argues that the production and consumption of apparently innocuous goods was as significant in forming colonial and national communities as the major political events on which we usually focus.
NACBS DISSERTATION TRAVEL GRANT: Sarah Hoglund (Stony Brook), “The Birth of the Cemetery: Death and the Construction of British Identity”
“The Birth of the Cemetery: Death and the Construction of British Identity” examines how the commercial cemeteries that emerged in 19 th -century Britain served as an integral device in the construction of British national identity. Looking at cemeteries in London , Glasgow and Calcutta , Hoglund analyzes how they figured as ‘garden plots' for the middle-class dead, as leisure space for the working classes, and as places of 'English national culture'. These “gated communities of the dead” as she calls them inculcated Britishness through their landscape, architecture, and even horticulture.
5. NACBS-HUNTINGTON LIBRARY FELLOWSHIP: Lindsay O'Neill (Yale), “Speaking Letters: Communication and Community in the Wider British World, 1660-1760”
Lindsay O'Neill's fascinating dissertation focuses on “communities of correspondence” in the British world of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By examining both the interlocking networks of letter writers, and the content of the letters, O'Neill's work promises to provide important insights into various dimensions of communication during the eighteenth century. Who was in touch with whom? About what? How do these networks of communication affect decisions made about politics? Historians have long used letters as a major historical source, but O'Neill also asks us to think about the letters as a subject. O'Neill's work will thus help us understand the place of these letters in the economies of knowledge, emotion and power in the eighteenth century British Atlantic world.