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 (2006)
1. JOHN BEN SNOW PRIZE: best book of 2005 in any field of British studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.
WINNER: Tim Harris, Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms, 1660-1685 (Penguin)
In size and scope, Harris's work may appear to be old-fashioned history of the political-biographical stamp, but its nuance and complexity succeeds in transforming a hidebound genre. Harris excels in establishing the significance of Charles II's multiple kingdoms, as he analyzes the seeming intractability of the “British problem” and demonstrates, ultimately, the king's success in working out a “British solution.” His treatment of opinion and propaganda combines history from the center and the localities, providing the most persuasive context possible for his excellent discussion of Tory ideology and conceptions of absolutism. In the end we find the author has even managed to lay out the structural causes of the revolution of 1688 with admirable clarity. Tim Harris's Restoration successfully achieves what no other work on this subject has before attempted: a thorough and persuasive three-nation analysis of the reign of Charles II.
2. ALBION BOOK PRIZE: best book of 2005 on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
WINNER: Sandra Herbert, Charles Darwin, Geologist (Cornell University Press)
This richly learned work revises our understanding of a preeminent scientific thinker. Sandra Herbert reminds us that before The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin published mainly in the field of geology, and argues that his work can only be understood if it situated in debates among nineteenth-century geologists. She displays a rare ability to range across scientific disciplines, including mathematics and cartography as well as biology and geology, and she expertly weaves them together to recreate the international scientific milieu in which Darwin worked. She knows the vast literature surrounding Darwin and works it all into a genuinely new synthesis. Her interdisciplinary method is a model for future research in the history of science, but Charles Darwin, Geologist should be read by all historians of modern Britain . It is beautifully written, a real literary achievement, featuring illustrations that perfectly complement the narrative. Like Darwin himself, Herbert renders technical scientific developments and theories accessible to a general audience. Charles Darwin, Geologist is one of those books where it is a joy to read the detailed endnotes as well as the text.
HONOR: Lowell J. Satre, Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics and the Ethics of Business (Ohio University Press)
Satre's achievement is rooted in the traditional values of our discipline. This is a deeply researched study of a relatively well-known libel suit leveled by Cadbury Bros. against a London newspaper for accusing the company of profiting from cocoa it knew to be slave-grown. Satre's attention to historical detail leads him on an archival journey that crosses national, imperial, and subdisciplinary boundaries. His narrative illuminates the intersections of labor and business history, social and diplomatic history, African and British history, economic and imperial history. Satre reminds us that political economy operated (and, one might add, continues to operate) at a transnational level. In the Cadbury chocolate case, British capital followed free market pressures to Portuguese colonial territory where labor costs remained unaffected by the humanitarianism the Cadbury family had done so much to promote in Britain and its colonies. The issues raised by the chocolate slavery controversy of the early twentieth century remain equally if not more pressing in today's globalizing economy.
3. WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE: for the best scholarly article of 2005 in any field of British studies.
WINNER: Shannon McSheffrey, "Heresy, Orthodoxy, and English Vernacular Religion," Past and Present (2005)
Shannon McSheffrey's penetrating essay begins with a conundrum and a question: there was a large market for devotional texts in English among the demonstrably orthodox, yet use of the vernacular was widely taken to be the mark of Lollardy. What, then, defined Lollardy, and what distinguished Lollards from anyone else? Insisting that we attend not simply to the language of texts but to the way in which they were read, spoken, and understood, McSheffrey provides a nuanced analysis of the nature of late Lollardy and the boundary between orthodoxy and heresy. Her article offers insights into broad problems such as the origins of the Reformation, the relationship between technology and intellectual practice, the politics of language, and the possibilities of dissent in persecuting societies. Thanks to its lucid argument, imaginative and subtle use of sources, close reading of texts, and engagement with significant questions within and beyond British historiography, this is model of historical scholarship.
4. NACBS DISSERTATION YEAR FELLOWSHIP: Heather Welland, History, University of Chicago, "Investors and Improvers: British Imperialisms, 1711-1763"
Welland 's proposal struck the committee as the most ambitious and historiographically significant project among a truly impressive group of submissions. Her well-framed proposal makes an excellent argument for the need to re-think eighteenth century British imperialism. In particular, Welland questions the whole notion of a first and second British empire and shows how our focus on Atlantic history has perpetuated this division. Welland is attempting to revise a whole master narrative (an admittedly monumental project for a Ph.D thesis), but her work has the potential to contribute in extremely important ways to our understandings of empire. It is boldly conceived, nicely written, and creative. Finally, while impressively articulating her case, she shows a thorough knowledge of the sources she needs to pursue in her research in Britain and abroad.
NACBS DISSERTATION TRAVEL GRANT: Katherine Paugh, History, University of Pennsylvania, "The Strongest Interest in Preventing this Diminution: Rationalizing Reproduction in the British West Indies, 1760-1833"
Paugh's dissertation explores the maximization of African slave reproduction in the British Empire during the age of Abolition. Her thesis proposal is an impressive example of interdisciplinary research that draws on both History and History of Medicine sources and techniques. Her work is also a consummate model of transnational history in that she explodes the boundaries between Britain, the U.S., and the Caribbean. Paugh's dissertation has the potential to be an extremely important contribution to the history of slavery and to British Studies more generally.
5. NACBS-HUNTINGTON LIBRARY FELLOWSHIP: Brooke Newman, University of California, Davis, “‘To Own the Savage Nature': Narratives of Human Differentiation and Degeneration in Early Imperial England , 1660-1714”
Ms. Newman's ambitious, multi-dimensional project focuses in innovative ways on ideas of human difference and the construction of English national identity in the later Stuart Atlantic world. Newman explores how “national consciousness” was shaped by “English encounters with alien peoples in Africa and the Caribbean,” and suggests that later seventeenth-century national identity was increasingly rooted in hierarchies of difference that distinguished the “civilized, self-restrained” English from the supposedly “degenerate” peoples living in alien societies rife with “uncontrolled passions”. Newman explores the articulation of these “hierarchies of difference” in multiple sites: in Restoration philosophical debates about gender and self-control; in the Royal Society's taxonomies of foreign flora and fauna; in mercantile assessments of the peoples of West Africa and of Caribbean slaves; and in the representation and performance of the “exotic” in travel narratives, displays of “rarities,” and urban rituals. Ranging from traders' narratives to pioneering natural histories, from Hobbesian philosophy to London guildsmen wearing blackface for the Lord Mayor's pageant, Ms. Newman's project promises to make a major contribution to our understanding of nationhood and empire in Later Stuart England.