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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 (2021)

Undergraduate Essay Prizes

John Ellis (University of Nebraska), “Sir Francis Walsingham and Roberto Ridolfi: A Critical Analysis of the Ridolfi Double-Agent Theory,” nominated by Carole Levin.

Brianna Cervantes Reisbeck (University of California, Riverside), “Advertising Revolution: The Emergence of Advertising in British Newsbooks in the 1600s,” nominated by Thomas Cogswell.

MA Essay Prize

Ariel Morrison Credeur (Florida Gulf Coast University), “Women’s Economic Lives and Gendered Public Spaces in Early Modern English Texts.”

Ariel Morrison Credeur’s thoughtful essay explores questions about women and work in early modern England that have been the subject of lively debate among scholars of the field. After a crisp discussion that situates the project within recent historiographies concerning labor and of the rise of the public, she analyzes representations of English women’s work in books and printed ephemera using five key documents. Credeur identifies in these sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts evidence of a public discourse on gendered divisions of labor, agency, and space and points to a shift in the later seventeenth century that both reflected and informed women's entrance into broader political and social exchange.

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

Nedda Mehdizadeh (University of California, Los Angeles), “Translating Persia in Early Modern English Writing.”

The Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library is delighted to award the 2021-2022 NACBS-Folger Fellowship to Nedda Mehdizadeh for her project, “Translating Persia in Early Modern English Writing.” This multidisciplinary project with broad implications for our understanding of early modern English conceptions of empire explores how England shaped its vision for imperial progress according to its fantasies of Persia in the early modern literary imagination. Popular early modern English literature, including translations of classical texts and biblical commentary about the ancient Achaemenid empire (550–330 BCE) taught English readers that Persia was always meant to be superseded by more enlightened civilizations. English understandings of the biblical model of translatio imperii, or the transfer of empire, positioned Christendom as the culmination of civilization. This supersessionary logic not only positioned England as the inheritor of this transfer of empire, but also sanctioned the “browning” of Persia by casting it to the past and temporally othering it from England’s (white) imperial future.

NACBS Pre-Dissertation Grants

Austin Raetz (Cornell University), “Ungovernable Bodies: Male-to-Male Sexual Violence in English Courts, 1600-1800.”

Lucy Sharp (Columbia University), “Au pairs in post-war Britain, c. 1945-79.”

NACBS Dissertation Travel Grants

Alexandra MacDonald (The College of William and Mary), “The Social Life of Time in the Anglo-Atlantic World, 1660-1830.”

Macdonald's dissertation recovers the diverse ways in which people experienced, measured, and engaged with time in the Anglo-Atlantic. She argues that conceptions of time were shaped and mediated by a variety of material objects, and as much through conceptions and representations of gender, age, family ties, race, and ethnicity as they were by the ticking of the second hand. Looking beyond mechanical timepieces, she examines temporal signifiers in samplers, earthenware, and small portable objects such as handkerchiefs and snuff boxes as well as a diverse set of textual sources including almanacs, diaries, letters, wills, and inventories.

Chenguang Zhu (Boston University), “The Silent Delegates in a Foreign Capital: Chinese Objects, Civilizational Hierarchy, and Cultural Diplomacy in the International Exhibitions and Museums in London, 1851-1912.”

Through an examination of the collection and display of Chinese objects in international exhibitions in London as well as the exhibits staged at the British Museum and the South Kensington Museum from 1851 to 1912, Zhu explores how these displays shaped British opinions about the culture and society of China and Britain. Zhu's dissertation shows how these exhibits produced knowledge about China and reveal Britons' assumptions about China and Britain's relative places in the world, unpacking important historical concepts that remain relevant in the present day.

NACBS Dissertation Fellowship

Claire Arnold (Northwestern University), “The Demands of Distance: British Families around the World, 1815- 1914.”

Arnold's dissertation investigates middle-class migration to Argentina, China, and Australia, three regions that also attracted significant professional migration and investment over the nineteenth century. Bringing these destinations into the same frame, she argues that middle-class migrants and the family networks that backed them were a significant force not just in empire, but in the wider British world. Arnold's project raises intriguing questions about power, class, and ultimately the creation of the nuclear family.

Alison Hight (Rutgers University), "State Making and the Construction of Four Nations and Imperial Consciousness in Victorian Britain."

Hight's dissertation explores the emergence of tensions within the "four nations" of the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century. As reformers and nationalists made the case for self-government and demanded distinctive national institutions (especially educational ones), both the four nations and colonies across the empire created began to borrow from one another's ideas and tactics. Hight also attends to the ways that celebrations of institutions that seemed to bind Britons together - including the monarchy - became ways to articulate a sense of national distinctiveness. All this ultimately laid the foundations for successful independence movements in the empire and for tensions that continue to exist at the heart of the United Kingdom today.

Claire Wrigley (University of California, Berkeley), "Family, Nation, Empire: An Imperial History of Public Housing in Britain, 1890-2017."

Through a study of public housing that reveals it to be a crucial site in the renegotiation of citizenship, this dissertation builds on our understanding of how the making of the welfare state in Britain was entangled with the imperial project of making better British subjects. Nurturing and rewarding the "fitness" of White and non-White subjects in Britain was a key part of that project in ways that Wrigley explores in a wide-ranging set of case studies. These case studies attend to the ways that a sense of the "fitness" of subjects was bound up with evolving conceptions of not only gender, class, and race, but also the imperial politics of the family and the private sphere.

Judith R. Walkowitz Prize

Averill Earls (Mercyhurst University), “Solicitor Brown and his boy: Love, Sex and Scandal in 20th century Ireland” Historical Reflections 46:1 (2020) (doi: 10.3167/hrrh.2020.460106)

In this engaging and stimulating essay, Averill Earls examines how same sex desire and an indecency case brought against two men in1941 determined their lives. On the one hand, Solicitor Brown had a position of respect in the Irish state; his lover Leslie Price was a 17-year-old deserter from the English army. The extensive records of the case allow Earls to track the contours of their relationship in the context of the social history of 1940s Ireland. Her impressive attention to detail and the depth of her archival work creates a compelling narrative. Earls shows how anxieties about sexuality intersected with Irish nationalism to shape the culture of policing and law. She deftly balances a detailed, single case history with a sophisticated cultural and political history to ask how one distinctive case enriches questions central to the histories of gender, sexuality, age, class and nation.

Honorable Mention
Satyasikha Chakraborty (The College of New Jersey), “’Nurses of Our Ocean Highways’: The Precarious Metropolitan Lives of Colonial South Asian Ayahs,” Journal of Women’s History 32:2 (2020).

This essay offers important insight into the actual lives of Ayahs who came to England, challenging the literary trope of the “family”.

Emily L. Loney (University of Madison-Wisconsin), “Redressing the Past: New Clothes, Old Estates, and Anne Clifford’s Fashioning of Community,” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15:1 (2020).

Loney provides a fascinating new perspective on the life of Lady Anne Clifford by linking her fashion choices to women’s networks.

The Walter D. Love Prize

Ian Beattie (McGill University), “Class Analysis and the Killing of the Newborn Child: Manchester, 1790–1860,” History Workshop Journal 89, Spring 2020.

Ian Beattie’s essay, “Class Analysis and the Killing of the Newborn Child: Manchester, 1790-1860” offers readers a deeply humane, methodologically sophisticated, and beautifully written analysis of a seemingly all too familiar and widely discussed topic: working-class culture in an early industrial and urban society. Drawing on rarely used court depositions, Beattie approaches this topic from the far less familiar perspective of neonaticide and the dense networks of communal support for working-class women that arose around this not infrequent and yet specific form of birth control. These networks are revealed through the patterns of silence, obfuscation, delay, and deflection that can be traced in witness testimonies. At every turn, the essay is filled with new interpretive insights that keep the reader in a state of suspense, riveted not only by the extraordinary phenomenon of neonaticide but also the possibilities of microhistory as a genre. The result is an argument that demonstrates clearly and with impressive nuance and compassion the confrontation between opposing ethics of care that shaped the everyday experience of class in an industrial city. This is scholarship that should inspire established scholars, students, and lay readers alike. 

The Stansky Prize

Alex Chase-Levenson (University of Pennsylvania), The Yellow Flag: Quarantine and the British Mediterranean World, 1780-1860 (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

The Yellow Flag is a model work of transnational history that illuminates Britain's complex relationship with the Mediterranean world through exhaustive research across multiple nations and languages. It recounts British participation in Europe’s prophylactic “universal quarantine” of people and cargo arriving from the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. In keeping Europe plague-free while the Ottoman Empire continued to suffer, this border regime constructed the people of the Orient and the colonies as sources of contagion, creating a far-reaching detention regime. Driven by public health officials “on the spot,” cooperation with France, Italy, the Habsburgs, and Malta also shaped responses to domestic epidemics such as cholera. This timely book anticipates popular and scholarly concerns about bureaucratic overreach, migration, smuggling, transnational cooperation, and the state’s power to inflict social and economic costs in order to contain a deadly, poorly understood disease.

The John Ben Snow Prize

Alison Games (Georgetown University), Inventing the English Massacre: Amboyna in History and Memory (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Inventing the English Massacre shows how violent deaths in the spice islands of modern Indonesia helped the English reimagine themselves as victims, rather than aggressors, in the global race for empire and mercantile primacy, vulnerable to betrayal and conspiracy rather than plotting for power and wealth. In engaging prose grounded in meticulous research, Games reveals new insights into what happened at Amboyna in 1623, what remains speculative or unknown, what was immediately misrepresented in England, and how this was retold and repurposed from the seventeenth century into the modern era. A history of language, print culture, international relations, and empire, this book places the idea of the “massacre” at the center of early modern British, Atlantic, and Global history and serves as a model for how historians might approach issues of truth, myth, and memory in their own works.

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: