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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 (2020)

Undergraduate Essay Prizes

Emma Davidson (McGill University), nominated by Brian Cowan, “The Medieval English Ghost and Disease: An Analysis of the Twelfth-Century Revenant”

Erica Ivins (Hamilton College), nominated by Kevin Grant, “The Fact and Fiction of Joseph Conrad’s Humanitarian Politics”

Mayaki Kimba (Reed College), nominated by Radhika Natarajan, “Omission Equals Exclusion: Social Citizenship and the Racist Rejection of Migrants

Lucy Leonard (Vassar College), nominated by Lydia Murdoch, “The Men of Mrs. Beeton: Finding Middle-Class Gender Dynamics between Puddings and Protocol”

Maya Arigala (Reed College), nominated by - Radhika Natarajan, “Melancholic Migrants and Hybridized Space in The Buddha of Suburbia”

MA Essay Prize

Terri Rolfson (University of Alberta), “Agency and Ambiguity: The Representation of Sarah Malcolm by William Hogarth.”

The committee found the essay's use of frameworks from social and cultural history, alongside its focus on art history, to be compelling. It is well-written and demonstrates engagement with both the core image and the associated source material it seeks to understand, as well as relevant theoretical literature.   

NACBS-Huntington Library Fellowship

Rachel Podd (Fordham University), “Medieval Conceptions of Health and Illness: Regimen Sanitatis and Medical Recipes at the Huntington Library.”

Rachel Podd's doctoral dissertation explores the lived experience of illness in late medieval England. The project combines historical analysis with a variety of other disciplinary methods, including anthropological perspectives, demography, and bio-archeology. At the Huntington, she plans to explore regimen sanitatis and recipe collections from the late middle ages in order to recover attitudes about illness and conditions of health among non-elite city dwellers. Her proposal impressed the committee and made a clear case for needing to consult the Huntington’s collections. 

NACBS-Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship

Wan-Chuan Kao (Washington & Lee University), “White Before Whiteness: Navigating Materiality in Late Medieval Dream Fiction”

The Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library is delighted to award the 2020-2021 NACBS-Folger Fellowship to Wan-Chuan Kao for his project, “White Before Whiteness: Navigating Materiality in Late Medieval Dream Fiction.”  This crucial project, an exemplar within cutting-edge work in late medieval and early modern critical race studies, examines European “dream texts” such as The Book of the Duchess, Pearl, Confessio Amantis, and Piers Plowman, to argue that, in the absence of a rigid association between racial discourses and color, medieval constructions of Whiteness did not denote or connote skin tone alone.  Within this type of literature, which offered explorations of the boundaries between abstract metaphysics and concrete reality, late medieval and early modern Britons sought to reconcile Aristotelian natural philosophy and Christian Neoplatonism.  These texts offered proof that British women and men worked to navigate the divide between the immaterial and the material, the spiritual and the bodily. This project uncovers the complex premodern history of Whiteness in the West and both problematizes and demystifies its modern permanence, power, and significance.

NACBS Pre-Dissertation Grants

Du Fei (Cornell University), “"Together but Separate: Law, Urban Environment, and Inter-Communal Relationship in Three Early Modern Indian Ocean Port Cities.”

Jocelyn Zimmerman (SUNY Stony Brook), “‘Fairy Dreams’: Polygamy, Sexual Dissonance and the British Empire, 1765-1815.” 

NACBS Dissertation Grants

Lynton Lees (Columbia University), “Democracy’s children: education, citizenship, and the totalitarian challenge to Britain and its empire, 1931-1951.”

Lees’s dissertation explores the way that education in twentieth-century Britain and its empire was deeply shaped by a growing sense of democracy’s fragility and contingency. Her dissertation promises to show how, in this context, education for democratic citizenship became central to recasting of liberal internationalism as well as the post-war reconstruction of the social and political orders in the British world.

Rachael Young (Boston College), "'Art and argument go hand in hand:' Street art as activism in the United Kingdom, 1980-1989"

Examining the murals and street art produced in Northern Ireland and England during the 1980s, Rachael Young's dissertation argues that these resources of community activism empowered communities opposed to Margaret Thatcher and her policies. Powerful means of expressing identity, community, and resistance, these works of art challenged the perceived injustices of the British government, telling the story of underrepresented groups from their point of view.

NACBS Dissertation Fellowship

Julie Johnson (University of California-Santa Barbara), “Commodifying Contraception: A Political Economy of Sex in Interwar Britain”

Johnson’s dissertation examines the “social life” of the cervical cap in the context of the rise of eugenics, evolving conceptions of national identity, and the reformulation of ideas about the family amid the social and cultural upheavals of interwar Britain.  In so doing, it brings together the histories of production and consumption, sexual freedom and regulation, political economy and medicine, inequality and social mobility. 

Judith R. Walkowitz Prize

Julia Rudolph (North Carolina State University), “Crediting Women,” Droit & Philosophie 11 (November 2019).

This sophisticated and meticulous article addresses what seems a simple question: how was women’s testimony credited in the 18th and 19th centuries?  It does so by weaving together multiple historical registers, from women’s engagement in the credit economy, to concerns about fraud, ideas of natural law and contract, and the spread of adversarial practice in the courtroom. Changes in both the cultural and legal landscape, as well as the economic changes resultant from the so-called ‘rise of commercial society’, are mapped onto each other in order to account for ways in which women’s testimonial credibility was understood and diminished. Rudolph moves fluently between the worlds of legal philosophy, economic change, religious practice, as well as eighteenth-century print culture.  The changes Rudolph charts helped shape the modern laws of evidence: the past lives in current practice. This is a virtuoso article, which demonstrates how careful attention to multiple forces illuminates the complex process of cultural and legal change.   

The Walter D. Love Prize

Ellen Boucher (Amherst College), “Anticipating Armageddon: Nuclear Risk and the Neoliberal Sensibility in Thatcher's Britain,” American Historical Review 124 (October 2019), 1221-1245.

This bold and conceptually sophisticated article brings together expansive research and multiple historiographies to shed new light on nuclear policy, neoliberal politics, and the rise of Thatcherism. Building on histories of emotion and sensibility, and uniting this literature with political and military history, Boucher focusses on changing attitudes toward "risk" to account for the appeal of neoliberal individualism in Thatcher’s Britain. In contrast to the fear, anxiety, or apathy evoked by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s apocalyptic visions, many Britons, largely white, middle-class suburbanites, embraced a more optimistic visions than is usually recognized; survival in a nuclear war was possible, they believed, through their own personal planning and initiative. However irrational or fantastical, this self-empowering cultural sensibility explains why a silent majority supported nuclear militarization in the 1980s despite vocal efforts to denuclearize. The offloading, or “democratization,” of risk management onto individuals and the mistrust of state-centric disaster planning prevalent in the 1980s speaks in prescient ways to the dilemmas faced by neoliberal governments and societies in the age of COVID-19.  

Honorable Mention

Joel Hebert (American University), “‘Sacred Trust’: Rethinking Late British Decolonization in Indigenous Canada,” Journal of British Studies 58 (July 2019), 565-597.

Divya Subramanian (Columbia University), “Legislating the Labor Force: Sedenterization and Development in India and the United States, 1870-1915,”  Comparative Studies in Society and History 61 (October 2019), 835-863.

The Stansky Prize

Kate Imy (University of North Texas) Faithful Fighters: Identity and Power in the British Indian Army (Stanford University Press, 2019)

Imy’s study of South Asian soldiers who fought for the British Empire (1900-1939) explores how the racial and religious diversity of the Indian Army, which the British attempted to deploy for their own ends, became entwined in anti-colonial politics.  Using English, Hindi and Urdu sources, Imy investigates the experience of Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Gurkha soldiers in a global war and at home in peacetime.  Faithful Fighters is a carefully researched and compelling book which demonstrates how the construction of racial, ethnic, and religious groups within the culture of the military became both a tool of colonialism.  It also reveals how the hardened identities that resulted ultimately led not only to anti-colonial resistance but also to powerful social and cultural divisions that persisted well into the post-colonial period.

Honorable Mention

Elizabeth Thornberry (Johns Hopkins), Colonizing Consent: Rape and Governance in South Africa’s Eastern Cape (Cambridge University Press)

The John Ben Snow Prize

Tawny Paul (University of California-Los Angeles), The Poverty of Disaster: Debt and Insecurity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2019) 

The rise of a middling sort characterized by independence, consumption, and access to credit shapes positive and critical assessments of eighteenth-century economic and social change. Tawny Paul’s deeply researched and beautifully written book draws on a range of legal, fiscal, personal, and public records and commentary from England and Scotland to reveal a very different middling sort. Enmeshed by communal, familial, and gender norms and obligations in ever more tangled webs of credit, and routinely exposed to the whims of creditors and incarceration for debt, the lives, identities, and bodies of these English and Scots men and women were marked above all by persistent and growing insecurity. Paul shows the brutality that underpinned polite society – the structural role that violence, “legitimised and sublimated” by legal and moral codes, played in shifting risk and sustaining economic expansion at the expense of individual autonomy. As she observes, “eighteenth century experience calls into question the deeply held assumption that economic growth is good for society.” Making insecurity central to thinking about class, Paul revises the history of capitalism and deepens our understanding of its nature in the present.

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: