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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 (2019)

NACBS Undergraduate Essay Contest

Vincent Costa (Drew University), “‘Here We Have a Special Way of Waging War’: British Military Adaptations to Warfare in North America.” Nominated by Jonathan Rose.

Hannah Healy (Columbia University), “Margaret Thatcher and Navigating the Issue of Abortion.” Nominated by Sarah Mass.

Andrew Sobelsohn (Columbia University), “The Grave Problem of Peace in Palestine: Norman Bentwich and the British Military Administration’s Reestablishment and Restructuring of the Palestine Judicial System, 1917-1919.” Nominated by Anna K. Danziger Halperin.

Allie Spensley (Princeton University), “The making of manly, god-fearing citizens: Masculinity and domesticity in the Boy’s Own Paper, 1879-1900.” Nominated by Eleanor Hubbard.

Sarah Walker (Columbia University), “‘Surely There are Enough’: Lone Motherhood and Narratives of Moral Decline in Late Twentieth-Century Britain.” Nominated by Sarah Mass.  

 

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

Melissa Glass (Dalhousie University), “‘The Rust of Antiquity'? Print Culture, Custom, and the Manorial Court Guidebooks of Early Modern England.”

Glass’s thesis examines a topic rarely addressed, the operation of manorial courts in the early modern period. She does so by using guidebooks to holding court, instead of the records of the courts themselves (which rarely survive past the fifteenth century). Her focus on the genre of writing/publication that had considerable significance for English people's experiences of law and authority offers persuasive assessments of the correlative relationship between the significance of this layer of law and the varying strength of the crown. Glass’s thesis expands our knowledge of customary law and connects it to growing early modern debates on law and society.


NACBS-Huntington Fellowship

Zach Bates (University of Calgary), “Scottish Colonial Administrators and the Idea of the British Empire and Constitution, 1710-1763.”

Bates’ Ph.D. thesis explores the role of leading Scottish colonial administrators in theorizing an “imperial constitution” in the early to mid-eighteenth century. His work creatively combines the history of national identities, ideologies of empire and colonial governance. The Huntington collections will be vital for his research.


NACBS-Folger Library Fellowship

Ruma Chopra (San José State University), “Between God and Darwin: Early Modern Transitions in Understandings about Climate.”

Chopra seeks to explore how people in the early modern era construed the relationship between humans and climate in the midst of colonization, conquest, and global travel. It is multidisciplinary, drawing together insights from studies of geography, medicine, and psychology to draw ethical, economic, and political lessons from moments of intercultural contact. The project demonstrates how supposedly “rational” Enlightenment ideologies instead offered a complex of many diverse narratives, borrowed as much from classical assumptions about climate and character, as from pseudo-scientific arguments, and thereby speaks to the deep history of racial ideologies and racism. 


NACBS Pre-Dissertation Grants

Alexa McCall (University of Notre Dame), ““Reforming Ireland: Church Lands and Colonization, 1641-1660.”

Morgan Wilson (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill), Tigers on the Thames: Korean Objects and London’s Public Museums, 1885-1945.


NACBS Travel Grants

Tiraana Bains (Yale University), “Making and Debating Imperial Transitions in South Asia, circa 1756-1799.”

By examining the emergence of imperial governance in India alongside debates about colonial labor regimes, Bains’ innovative study demonstrates why the English East India Company adopted an increasingly centralized, racialized, and exclusionary form of governance during the late-eighteenth century. Rather than treating this development as either the inevitable product of colonial rule, or as the culmination of Mughal systems of governance, Bains draws upon Persian texts in order to transform our understandings of Britain’s governance of India. She shows how Britain’s imperial experience outside South Asia shaped policies ultimately adopted in India, while also revealing the ways that South Asians and their writings played key roles in shaping British India.

Roslyn Dubler (Columbia University), “Sex, Social Policy, and the Welfare State in Britain and West Germany, 1975-1997.”

Dubler’s dissertation examines the making of a social and legal revolution. The introduction of sex discrimination law in 1970s Europe, she argues, decisively “changed the relationship between women and the state,” by rendering illegal longstanding norms that had ordered the public world according to sex. Welfare states that had historically organized access to benefits and employment along male-breadwinner lines suddenly found those practices deemed a form of discrimination. Analyzing this development through a comparison between Britain and West Germany, Dubler asks how and why each state sought to address women’s inequality through a non-discrimination framework. Her project situates this history of gender non-discrimination within the wider history of Britain’s relationship with Europe, while also engaging with the emerging historiography regarding social democracy and neoliberalism in modern Britain.

 

NACBS Dissertation Fellowship

Louisa Foroughi (Fordham University), “What Makes a Yeoman? Status, Religion, and Material Culture in Later Medieval England.”

Foroughi’s dissertation examines the English yeomanry from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth centuries. Yeoman, she explains, occupied a middling rank in late-medieval England, above the peasantry but beneath the gentry, and its numbers and significance rose throughout the fifteenth century. Through the examination of court records, wills and testaments, and case studies, Foroughi reveals the role of both material culture and religious belief in the making of this social group previously more familiar to early modernists. Most importantly, Foroughi has developed a series of questions – and ways to go about answering them – that recover the role of women and gender in the yeomanry’s making – something that was not high on the list of historians’ priorities in 1942, the last time the yeomanry figured as the subject of a comparable monograph. Yet the yeomanry’s position, Foroughi shows, was only made possible through the dowries brought by wives and daughters, the values transmitted from mothers to children, and the maintenance of households that partly depended upon women’s labor. To recover these aspects of late medieval and early modern social history, Foroughi’s dissertation ingeniously draws upon literary studies, religious studies, and anthropology, in order to make visible the role of women and of gender in the making of the English yeoman class.  


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

Amanda Herbert, “Queer Intimacy: Speaking with the Dead in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Gender & History 31 (November 2018).

In her moving and elegantly written story of love, loss, and deep religiosity, Herbert meticulously charts the importance of friendship and spiritual comradeship between two women in early eighteenth-century England, Sarah Savage and Jane Ward Hunt. Through a close reading of the letters and diary entries that recorded their friendship, as well as the letters that Savage continued to write to Hunt long after her friend’s early death, Herbert deftly explores the logic of epistolary intimacy. In an article that is as methodologically generative as it is rigorous, Herbert uses the story of this friendship to shed broader light on early Georgian practices of bereavement and mourning, the affective friendships that often sustained Nonconformist convictions, and the logic of same-sex female intimacy.


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

Jonathan Connolly (Princeton, from 2020 University of Illinois at Chicago), “Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation: Free Trade, Race, and Labour in British Public Debate, 1838-1860,” Past & Present 238 (February 2018).

Connolly’s article seeks to answer a seemingly simple, yet big and important question: how is it that British public opinion shifted in favor of indentured labor around the middle of the nineteenth century, having just condemned it in the context of emancipation? Drawing on numerous and diverse types of sources, Connolly charts the shifting economic and political concerns, contemporary social-scientific discussions of race and labor, and he does so by placing these discussions within a broader, global framework (engaging questions such as the perceived fate of slavery elsewhere following indenture). It is beautifully argued, wonderfully researched, and draws together distinct trajectories in a clear manner. The result is a piece that bears huge implications for the field of British studies, and far beyond. 

 

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

David R. Como, Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2018).

In this complex and richly detailed work, Como shows how, in the first half of the 1640s, radical ideas migrated from the margins of English political life to the center – how, that is, a political crisis turned into the English Revolution. Uniquely, Radical Parliamentarians tackles this question by weaving an intellectual history of radical constitutional and religious ideas together with close examinations of print culture and underground publication, popular political mobilization, and the high politics of mutating parties and shifting coalitions. In so doing, it draws on the strengths of diverse and competing historiographies of the English Civil War – whig, Marxist, revisionist, and more – to offer both a nuanced account of short-term political calculations and a compelling explanation of long-term change. A work of great methodological ingenuity, deep archival research, and broad historiographical significance, Radical Parliamentarians opens up new ways of thinking about the causes, nature, and effects of the English Revolution. At a moment when democratic practices face myriad challenges around the world, it also offers a vital reminder of “the improbable, painful, and remarkable process through which those practices came into being.”

 

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

George Behlmer, Risky Shores: Savagery and Colonialism in the Western Pacific (Stanford University Press, 2018).

Behlmer’s study of British encounters with Melanesia—whether experienced, fabricated, or the product of widespread cultural fantasy--interrogates the place of “the savage” in the British colonial imagination. Risky Shores argues that the so-called “Cannibal Isles” of the Western Pacific that lay at the far edges of empire were sites of mutual misunderstanding. They were thus ripe for the production of a range of discourses that pitted a presumed inherent indigenous savagery against a white European civilization that was in fact far from orderly and stable. Highly engaging, Behlmer’s book uses a wide variety of source material and follows a range of historical agents as they negotiated what it meant to be British, a British colonial subject, and/or an Islander, from Captain Cook’s death on a Hawaiian beach in 1779 to the aftermath of the Second World War. 

Penelope Ismay, Trust Among Strangers: Friendly Societies in Modern Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Ismay’s study of friendly societies explores Britain's transition to industrial modernity by problematizing the concept of mutuality. She demonstrates how friendly societies evolved practices of sociability and reciprocity in order to cultivate belonging among working-class people who were, and would remain, unknown to each other. Deeply researched and engagingly written, Ismay explores the problem of trust in a modernizing society from the "ground up," challenging the idea of the independent, economically rational Liberal subject. Ismay’s book provides a rich understanding of theories of responsibility to others and the nature of mutual self-help as it was practiced in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, arguing for friendly societies’ lasting impact on collectivist approaches to welfare well into the twentieth century.

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: