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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 (2018)

NACBS Undergraduate Essay Contest 

Rodas Hailu (Grinnell College), “Challenging the Colonial Imaginary: How Fictionalized Characterizations of Gender Difference Informed the Mau Mau Emergency, 1952-1960”

Matthew Henzy (Grinnell College), “The Lady Behind the Veil: Margaret Thatcher, the IRA, and the 1981 Long Kesh Hunger Strikes”

Sabrina Khela (University of Toronto-Scarborough), “Early Modern Gendered Soundscapes: Silence, Speech, and Acoustic Agency in King Lear” 

James G. Lees (Dalhousie University), “An Intergenerational Thaw: The Anglo-Saxon Reception of Christianity in Kent and Essex” 

Diana Little (McGill University), “Icons of Landscape: Biblical Mapping in Early Protestant England”

Morgan McMinn (West Virginia University), “Corporate vs. Individual: A Study of Reputation in the Diocese of Lincoln under Bishop WIlliam Alnwich, 1436-1449”

Benjamin Peterson (Westmont College), “From Moral Betrayal to Imperial Decline: Reconceptualizing the defeat of the Armenian Republic and Britain’s diplomatic strength immediately after World War One”

Anna Stroinski (Boston University), “God Save the Alternative Jubilee: The Sex Pistols and Meaningful Monarchical Engagement”

 

NACBS Pre-Dissertation Grants

Benjamin Herman (Pennsylvania State University), “Atlantic Arbitrations: The Court of Requests, Royal Governance, and Settlement Dynamics in the English Atlantic, c. 1620s-1660s” 

Pranav Jain (Yale University), ““Low Church Thought and Religion in England, c. 1680-1720”

 

NACBS M.A. Essay Prize (for best paper in British Studies from a terminal Master’s program)

Andrew Campbell (Brown University), ‘Beware the “Hive of Presbytery”: The Scottish Presbyterian as Folk Devil in Restoration Britain’

The NACBS MA Essay Prize committee is pleased to award this year’s prize to Andrew Campbell, who received his MA at Brown University and was nominated by Professor Tim Harris. We found it analytically and theoretically sophisticated, and an essay that stood out for both its treatment of sources and its providing a meaningful contribution to a rich historiography on the construction of dangerous minorities within dominant cultures, religious dissent, and the conflicts between Early Modern Scotland and England, with which it deftly engaged.

 

NACBS-Huntington Fellowship

Catherine Hinchliff (Johns Hopkins University), ‘Women, Gender and Speech in the English Revolution’

Even among a strong pool of applications, Catherine Hinchliff’s project proposal stood out for its clarity, detail and originality. Hinchliff’s research promises to open new perspectives on the expanding role of women as political agents, and the varied forms of women’s political speech, in the revolutionary upheavals of the seventeenth century. The Huntington collections will be vital for her research.

 

NACBS-Folger Fellowship

Justin Roberts (Dalhousie University), “Property in People: Slave and Servant Laws in the Seventeenth-Century English Americas”

Roberts examines the intellectual and cultural histories of the evolution of slave and servant laws. Rather than approaching slavery and freedom as binaries, his work proposes to view servitude and enslavement as complicated, shifting and overlapping categories, exploring the degrees and kinds of unfreedom in early modern Britain and the Americas. Whereas late eighteenth-century legal theorists and nineteenth-century US pro-slavery apologists argued that they owned slaves’ time or labor, seventeenth-century English colonists and slaveowners placed claims upon the physical bodies of enslaved women and men, and, conversely, upon the time or effort of women and men in service.  This explication of the legal evolution of the chattel principle promises to bring greater and closer attention to study of freedom and enslavement in the early modern British world, and to help us understand how British philosophers, corporations, government officials, and slave-owners understood the principle of property rights in people.

 

NACBS Dissertation Fellowship

Jessica Price (Cornell University), “Demons of Empire: Demonology and Ethnicity in English Restoration Thought” 

Price’s dissertation will interrogate East India Company records from the late seventeenth century in a new and exciting way: to investigate how English merchants working for the Company in South Asia encountered and understood ideas of witchcraft and demonology.  When prosecuting locals for “witchcraft,” what resources and ideas did English merchants draw from and construct, and how did this in turn contribute to the generation of “demonological knowledge” during the so-called early Enlightenment?  This promises to be an important contribution to the intellectual history of English demonology from a time period and source base not usually associated with such ideas while at the same time exploring the East India Company as more than just a commercial or diplomatic entity.

 

NACBS Travel Grants

Catherine Hinchliff (Johns Hopkins University), “Women, Gender, and Speech in the English Revolution” 

Hinchliff’s dissertation proposes to examine and recover poorer women’s voices and agency during the tumultuous era of the English Civil War and its aftermath using sources that historians have generally not used for this purpose, including petitions, personal correspondence, and most significantly, parish poor relief records.  Hinchliff hopes to demonstrate the complex ways that poorer women confronted and negotiated with the new republican regime and its idealized notions of gender roles and expectations.  These records reveal that women regularly clashed with authorities about their supposed prescribed roles in English society, demonstrating an active involvement with local issues of governance and social control.

Katya Maslakowski (Northwestern University), “Men of Violence: Counterinsurgency and British Colonial Violence at the End of Empire” 

Maslakowski’s dissertation investigates the origins of the use and widespread acceptance of torture as a technique among British intelligence officials during the second half of the twentieth century.  In the first instance, it focuses on the British soldiers and police officers who served during the Anglo-Irish War of 1920-21 who utilized and justified such techniques, who later served in unstable places such as Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland.  The dissertation explores how and why torture and violence became acceptable ways to gather intelligence during the era of decolonization and so-called liberal democracy.

 

Judith R. Walkowitz Prize (for best published article on issues relating to gender and sexuality in British culture)

Elizabeth Prevost (Grinnell College), “On Feminists, Functionalists, and Friends: Lobola and the Gender Politics of Imperial Trusteeship in Interwar Britain,” The Journal of Modern History 89 (September 2017), 562-600.

On a simple level this is a tale of the conflict between two opposing views of the customary African practice of lobola, or bridewealth—the presentation of cattle or other goods, services, and/or currency by a husband’s family to his wife’s family around the time of marriage to seal the legal and social bond between them. On one side of the conflict was a coalition of women’s advocates, reformers, and missionaries, all pursuing a new abolitionist campaign—a new strain of“imperial feminism”—that called for the emancipation of African sisters in their domestic sphere. On the other side of the divide was a new generation of structural-functionalist anthropologists and their various supporters—especially in the ranks of colonial government officials—who defended lobola as necessary for maintaining the cohesion and the essential integrity of traditional African societies. Prevost dissects these competing positions with superb skill, leaving no stone unturned and no archive unvisited in reconstructing the complexities of this tale of imperial trusteeship and the politics of gender. It is a breathtaking tour-de-force of historical reconstruction with far-reaching implications for how we think about imperial governance at the moment when imperial rule was slowly giving way to a new international order.

Honorable Mention: Sasha Turner (Quinnipiac University), “The Nameless and the Forgotten: Maternal Grief, Sacred Protection, and the Archive of Slavery,” Slavery and Abolition 38 (April 2017), 232-250.

In this highly suggestive and imaginative article, Turner explores grief and grieving patterns and links them to practices of female resistance and resilience in slave society, especially in nineteenth-century Jamaica. Too often narratives of motherhood amongst enslaved women are frozen in a heroic pose, she argues, and we need to challenge this by examining how being enslaved shaped the experience, expression, and suppression of emotions. We need to focus on those remaining fragments of enslaved women’s lives that can tell a story of maternal fear, apprehension, and grief, and the ways in which mothers experienced the tensions between individual anguish and those cultural conventions that celebrated the liberating power of death of the slave mother’s child. But, more than this, the article is also an affirmation of loss—maternal loss, archival loss, and historical loss—dissecting the reasons why the story she wants to tell cannot be told at all. Turner cleverly explores the limits imposed by archival invisibility and the polarizing historical frame that has established enslaved women as either resistant heroes or dedicated mothers. As such this is an insightful contribution to methodological and epistemological debate on what can and can’t be known and, indeed, about the politics of knowability more generally. 

 

Walter D. Love Prize (for best article or paper in British history)

Elizabeth Prevost, “On Feminists, Functionalists, and Friends: Lobola and the Gender Politics of Imperial Trusteeship in Interwar Britain,” The Journal of Modern History 89 (September 2017), 562-600.

In a beautifully written and meticulously researched piece, Elizabeth Prevost explores the tensions inherent to liberal discourses of development in the context of the interwar politics of trusteeship. Focusing on the campaign against the institution of bridewealth in Africa, her story brings together an unusual range of actors: feminist activists and reformists, social scientists, missionaries, the British imperial state, and the League of Nations. Her nuanced and sophisticated analysis highlights the ways in which the debate on lobola generated surprising and unexpected divisions among myriad groups of actors. Prevost’s brilliant analysis weaves together the histories of feminism, liberalism, humanitarianism, social-scientific discourses, imperialism, and transnationalism. The broad intellectual reach and engagement allows her to offer important contributions to our understanding of these histories in imperial Britain and beyond, and sheds new light on the contradictory impulses and tensions that characterize the language of development and rights discourse today. 

 

John Ben Snow Prize (for best book in pre-1800 British Studies)

Paula McDowell (New York University), The Invention of the Oral: Print Commerce and Fugitive Voices in Eighteenth-Century Britain (The University of Chicago Press, 2017)

 Why did eighteenth century commentators come to view oral knowledge as primitive, unreliable and even dangerous, epitomized by the figure of the loud but lowly fishwife? After all, for centuries the English Common Law had privileged oral testimony over written evidence (which could easily be forged). According to Paula McDowell the answer lies in the proliferation of print, especially in the wake of the lapsing in 1695 of the Jacobean Licensing Act. In her nuanced and original analysis of the impact of print culture she demonstrates how print commerce inspired explorations of the relationship between orality and literacy; speech and print; ideas of oral tradition and probability and credibility; and between traditional and scientific knowledge. As her title suggests, in a very real sense print invented oral culture. Furthermore, the process did not simply involve one medium replacing another, but the coexistence and inter-dependence of multiple types of media. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including ballads, engravings, poems, essays, newspapers, and satires, and analyzing ‘fugitive voices’ as well as well-known writers including Defoe, Dryden, Johnson, Pope and Swift, the book transforms our understanding of the effects of literacy and print on orality in all its forms.

  

Stansky Prize (for best book in post-1800 British Studies)

Aidan Forth (Loyola University Chicago), Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain’s Empire of Camps, 1876-1903 (University of California Press, 2017)

This sophisticated and beautifully written book pulls together a massive amount of research from sites across the British empire to trace genealogical connections between famine, plague, and concentration camps. By carefully tracing the evolution of the camp and its centrality to imperial practice and ideology, Forth shows us the contradictory essence of late-nineteenth century Liberal empire: how the promise of uplift and freedom remained in constant tension with the impulse to discipline and control. This imperial story also helps us understand how camps came to be used for both genocidal and humanitarian purposes in recent history. The book's transnational scope is impressive and eye-opening, with implications well beyond British history. It opens up new avenues of research in European, South African, and Indian history; military history; and the history of public health, technology, colonial violence, liberalism, and humanitarianism. This promises to become a foundational text for a new body of scholarship.

 

Marie Hicks (Illinois Institute of Technology), Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (The MIT Press, 2017)

This revelatory book makes us see postwar British history in a new way by showing that the exclusion of women from advanced computing fields was engineered by the state in collusion with business interests; it was not simply a product of broader cultural formations or more generalized shifts in the workplace and gender roles. This is an unsettling and powerfully field-changing account. Clear and lucid in its arguments, this important book also does justice to the human side of the story, particularly through its engaging use of interviews with former women programmers. This innovative book will be critical to students and scholars of postwar British history, of the history of science and technology, as well as those of the state, and of gender.

 

PREVIOUS AWARD WINNERS

The winners of the prize and fellowship competitions are announced at the NACBS annual conference. Previous winners of recent competitions are available below: