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 (2007)
John Ben Snow Prize: best book of 2006 in any field of British studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.
Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (Notre Dame), Books Under Suspicion. Censorship and Tolerance of Revelatory Writing in Late Medieval England (University of Notre Dame Press).
Through its superb scholarship, Books Under Suspicion recasts our understanding of religious heterodoxy in late medieval England. Kathryn Kerby-Fulton challenges traditional historiography that privileges the radicalism of John Wycliffe and his followers. Instead, through close examination of visionary genres and texts, she establishes a significant, alternative intellectual history, one that shows a surprising degree of pluralism and tolerance for unorthodox thought. In this context, space existed for intellectual freedom particularly in the universities, writers responded to continental sources, and a strong strand of non-Wycliffe radicalism ran throughout the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Although a good deal of analysis focuses on texts by key figures --- Langland, Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, Margery of Kempe --- Kerby-Fulton also closely analyzes works of their predecessors, including Hildegard of Bingen, Joachim of Fiore, and William of Ockham, as well as a host of other contemporary figures.
Kerby-Fulton's insights along the way are far-reaching --- whether on the development of prison literature; the openings created for visionary genres by the Great Schism; the linkage between antimendicalist radicalism and revelatory texts; or the evolution that various writers, especially Langland, demonstrate in different versions of their texts. Kerby-Fulton's scholarship is remarkable, her methodology often ingenious, particularly her use of reception history and codicology. She traces manuscripts and their owners, the relationship between manuscripts in medieval collections, even annotations on manuscripts to construct a hidden history of influence, tolerance and internal debate. This book rests on rich sources, both literary and theological, vernacular and Latin. It integrates Europe and England in new ways and shows a pluralist culture under constant negotiation and evolution.
Albion Prize: best book of 2006 on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
Mrinalini Sinha (Penn State), Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire (Duke University Press).
Deborah Cohen (Brown), Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions, 1830-1945 (Yale University Press).
Mrinilini Sinha's Specters of Mother India: the Global Restructuring of an Empire, published by Duke University Press, is a breathtakingly learned and original intervention in the history of the British Empire. Sinha's study is organized around the production and reception of Katherine Mayo's 1927 publication of Mother India, which contested Indian aspirations for national independence by reference to the moral inferiority of the Indian home. In the global reactions to Mayo's indictment of Indian domesticity, Sinha discerns both the internationalization of the British imperial project during the interwar period and the centrality of women therein. Global and local, exterior and interior, male and female, are all displayed in dynamic and mutually constitutive relations in this fast paced and subtly argued narrative.
The second winner of this year's prize is Deborah Cohen, author of Household Gods: the British and Their Possessions. Household Gods is a delicious treat to the senses, the kind of exquisitely designed and beautifully illustrated work that we have come to expect from Cohen's publisher, Yale University Press. In contrast to Sinha's expansion of the geographical horizons of British history from an imperial to a global geographical stage, Cohen focuses on British and particularly English household interiors. Household Gods is a micro history of the material artifacts found in British homes. The importance of furniture, carpet, wall paper, bric a brac, paintings, ceramics, and the like was a material expression of the evangelical sacralization of the early Victorian home. The evolution of British consumption over the course of the next century and a half along with changes in consumer taste provide Cohen with a revealing vantage point from which to scrutinize changing attitudes to domesticity, to gender relations, to class differences, and to industrial capitalism itself.
Walter Love Prize: for the best scholarly article of 2006 in any field of British studies.
Priya Satia, "The Defense of Inhumanity: Air Control and the British Idea of Arabia," American Historical Review, Volume 111, no. 1 (2006).
Priya Satia's essay combines brilliantly two different strands of historical explanation with reference to British imperial policy in the Middle East beween the world wars. It draws upon military history to describe the strategic goals of imperial control; it also utilizes cultural history to analyze how British perceptions of the Middle East as uncanny, sublime, inherently unknowable by rationalist canons of epistemology, and imbued with an alien ethos of violence, shaped the gathering of Arabia intelligence and justified a brutal campaign of airborne terror. Rooted in thorough archival research, Satia uses the insights of cultural history to provide a broader context for our understanding of imperial ideology itself. Imaginative in conception and execution, this article contributes significantly to the continuing debate about the British Empire and to a wider historiography of imperialism, knowledge and violence.
Love Prize Honorable Mention
Thomas Cogswell, "John Felton, Popular Political Culture, and the Assassination of the Duke of Buckingham," Historical Journal 49, no. 2 (2006).
Although it is well known that the Duke of Buckingham was corrupt and incompetent, Thomas Cogswell's reconstruction of the life of John Felton, Buckingham's assassin, brings home in a fresh and compelling way the human costs of the aarly Stuart regime. Patterns of patronage and preferment at the court of James I, Cogswell finds, produced a train of misfortunes for even, or perhaps especially, the relatively obscure. His beautifully crafted narrative sheds light on many aspects of early Stuart life and society: the travails of small officeholders, the chronic arrears in soldier's pay, the controversial attempts by the government to use martial law, the horrors of the Ile de Ré debacle, and the power of rumors and libel in shaping political actions. Showing that even seemingly random events are not random, and that political history must take into account the views and experiences of those outside the corridors of power, Cogswell's article stands out as a great piece of story-telling and archival research.
Dissertation Year Fellowship
Daniel Livesay (University of Michigan), "Imagining Difference: Mixed-Race Britons and Racial Ideology in the 18th Century Atlantic"
Daniel is a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan working under the direction of Professor David Hancock. The committee was extremely impressed with the creativity and novelty of this topic and the ways in which it contributes to a variety of literatures central to British Studies. Livesay's work focuses on the making of British subjectivity in the context of racial discourses and imperial networks. He argues that to understand racial discourses and racism in the eighteenth century, one must take into account the presence of mixed-race Britons in the metropole as well as in the colonies. By focusing on mixed-race Britons as British subjects and as members of a transatlantic British society, Livesay argues for the significance of this group of people, often overlooked in the historical literature to date, to the making of racial discourses. A very well written and nicely conceived dissertation project, Livesays work will have important ramifications and is sure to become a significant book.
Dissertation Year Travel Grant
Rachel N. Schnepper (Rutgers), "Jonas Cast Up at London: The Experience of New World Churches in Revolutionary England"
Rachel is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University working under the direction of Professor Alastair Bellany. Schnepper argues for the centrality of printed polemical pamphlets about New World churches to the remaking of the English national church during the English Revolution. Instead of merely focusing on a one-way transmission of ideas, from metropole to the colonies, Schnepper is arguing for the significance of religious transformations in Colonial North America to the shaping of ideas of liberty of conscience and church government in the British Isles. The committee felt that this was a smart, beautifully written, and nuanced approach to both religious history and transnational history. Indeed Schnepper has exploded the category of religious history and made it central to understanding transnationalism and the Atlantic exchange.
NACBS-Huntington Library Fellowship
Jason Eldred (University of Virginia), "Spain in the English Imagination"
Eldred's dissertation will focus on the pull that all things Spanish exercised on the English imagination from 1580 to 1659. Moving beyond the "Black Legend," he is eager to explore how Spain and the Spanish figured both negatively and positively in English culture. Spain, in Eldred's argument, was not threatening because it was strange and foreign. Instead, the English found Spain threatening because of the many ways in which the two countries were bound together. Spain was both familiar and close, and how the English imagined their neighbor shaped political, economic, and military ventures in surprising ways. Eldred's dissertation will draw on numerous manuscripts and printed books, as well as paintings and other works of art, that are in the Huntington Library's collections.
By examining both the fear and fascination that Spain elicited in England, Eldred will advance a new interpretation of both early modern English, and early modern European, history during a period of imperial expansion and change. The committee was impressed by the scope and originality of the project, and unanimously and enthusiastically selected him to receive this fellowship.