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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 2022

Undergraduate Essay Prizes

Hannah Badovinac, Dalhousie University, “The ‘Crying Sin of Tolerated Slavery’: Granville Sharp’s Campaign for Liberty, Justice, and Abolition in Eighteenth-Century England.” Nominated by Krista Kesselring.

Quinn Downton, Wilfrid Laurier University, “’Hounding the King of the Devil Cults’: Aleister Crowley, Scandal and the Press.” Nominated by Amy Milne-Smith.

Georg Gaidoschik, McGill University,  “Hillsborough: a case study of how “establishment versus the people” dynamics come into play in modern Britain.” Nominated by Elizabeth Elbourne.

Signy Harnad, McGill University, “The Old Past in the Living Present: Cultural Constructions of the Aged Poor, c 1870-1900.” Nominated by Elizabeth Elbourne.

Genowefa Kleiner, McGill University, “The Effects of the National Health Service on Maternity Care in Britain, 1948-1974.” Nominated by Elizabeth Elbourne.

Maya Peters-Greno, Idaho State University, “Colonized Garments as Colonizer Trends: The Case of Asian Conical Hats in Western Fashions 1840-1960.” Nominated by Arunima Datta.

Kara Start, Covenant College, “’We’re Here Because We’re Here’: Music and Song Behind British Lines During the Great War.” Nominated by Richard R. Follett.

Emily Wunsch, Grinnell College, “Empire After All: The Decolonization of the Churches of Punjab.” Nominated by Elizabeth Prevost.

NACBS-Huntington Library Fellowship

Hannah Kaemmer, Harvard University, for her research on “Expertise and Empire: Fortification Building and the English Board of Ordnance, 1660-1714.”

Hannah Kaemmer’s doctoral dissertation in the History and Theory of Architecture explores a centrally important, yet substantially under-studied dimension of British imperial activity – the building of fortifications – during the first decades in which the empire acquired truly global dimensions. The committee was impressed by both the originality of the work proposed, blending scholarship on architecture, knowledge-expertise, and state-building, and its ambitious geographic scope, spanning sites as varied and far-flung as London, Ireland, New York, Jamaica, Tangier and Newfoundland. This fellowship will enable Kaemmer to consult a wide range of materials unique to the Huntington’s manuscript collection, including the Ellesmere and Blathwayt papers, and rare copies of treatises on fortification contained in the print collections.

NACBS-Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship

Ari Friedlander, University of Mississippi, for his project, “Inventing Impotence: Disability‚ Sex‚ and Labor in Early Modern England.”

Inventing Impotence uses the early modern legal category of impotence, the standard that qualified one for parish poor relief, to reevaluate contemporary accounts of the evolution of disabled identity. Friedlander’s project shows how a strong legal and political category of disabled identity began earlier than generally acknowledged, based in the Elizabethan poor laws and their cultural reception, and formed a key part of the development of the multi-faceted modern political subjectivity.

NACBS Pre-Dissertation Grants

Julia Burke (Columbia University), “Irregularities of the System: The Business of Abortion in Nineteenth-Century London.”

Julia Burke’s dissertation project examines the lives of British women who underwent abortion care in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Through a close look at individual biographies, she paints a vivid portrait of the social circumstances that drove healthcare decisions, especially for working-class women. Yet, her research also seeks to explain how the business of abortion operated in Victorian Britain. Burke’s project uncovers the political stakes around abortion, as well as the wider social implications of its practice. It works to reveal how law, urbanization, labor, and mass-marketing created a complicated matrix of pressures on women’s healthcare.

Calvin Paulson (University of California-Berkeley), “Carrying the Sea on their Backs: The Uganda Railway and Kenya’s Indian Ocean Legacies.”

Calvin Paulson’s dissertation project explores the creation of the Uganda Railway from 1895 to 1903, and its role in the construction of race, settlement, and identity in East Africa. Built largely by indentured laborers from South Asia, the Railway was critical to the colonization of East Africa. Paulson’s dissertation will not only document the railway’s history as a vital piece of infrastructure, but also as a site of contested meaning for the region. Although British settlers wished to see the new nation of Kenya as neither African nor Indian, native inhabitants and immigrant laborers who built the railway challenged those efforts. The project promises to trace a key part of African history, while also incorporating it more firmly into the larger social and political networks of the Indian Ocean.

NACBS Dissertation Travel Grants

Natasha Sartore (University of Toronto), “Precarious Desire: Gender, Intimacy, and Companionship in Working-Class London, 1864-1914.”

Natasha Sartore’s innovative dissertation explores the intersections between the affective, economic, and political struggles of working-class women in London between 1864 and 1914.  Though eager to improve their material circumstances and claim fuller rights within society and the state, working-class women found it particularly challenging to navigate the constricting ideals of mainstream ideals of femininity and compulsory heterosexuality.  Sartore’s project explores how women created communities and refashioned spaces available to them on the margins of society to make their work possible, both logistically and emotionally. 

Thomas Stephens, (University of Indiana), “’All the Work Without the Excitement of War’: Age, Gender, and Race in the Royal Army Service Corps, 1888–1965.”

Through an exploration of the soldier-workers who served in the Royal Army Service Corps between 1888 and 1965, Thomas Stephen’s dissertation offers a new perspective on the tension between “martial” masculinities and “civilian” masculinities.  These soldier-workers did jobs that often diverged sharply from classic combat roles, tended to be older than most traditional soldiers, and often worked alongside colonial subjects performing similar work.  Yet, their work was vital – as they publicly insisted in ways that destabilized British conceptions of gender, race, age, and work both within and beyond the military, during and outside of wartime. 

NACBS Dissertation Fellowship

Stephanie Makowski (City University of New York), “From Riot to War and Back Again: Interracial Relationships in Britain from the Interwar to the Postwar.”

Stephanie Makowski’s dissertation project on interracial relationships in Britain from 1919 through the 1960s asks vital and pressing questions about the intersection of race with class and gender in British public life.  It offers new insights into the power of British public discourse by studying how a public preoccupation with relationships between men of color and working-class white women connected up with colonial rhetorics strengthening racist ideals both at home and abroad. Makowski’s project promises to chart not only the growth of networks promulgating racist ideals, but also the global networks combatting those racist political projects, using interracial relationships as a lens to understand the “battles over public space and British identity” in this key period.

Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship

Jade Bentil (Oxford University) “‘We used our place in the world to imagine ourselves differently’: Black Feminist Activism and the Politics of Race, Nation and Empire in Britain, 1968-1988⁠.” 

Jade Bentil’s research seeks to expand our understanding of Black British women’s contributions to Black feminist history.  Drawing from oral histories conducted with Black women activists, Bentil’s work explores how Black women built autonomous spaces to organize in the service of capacious visions of social justice and Black liberation.  In addition to adding much-needed texture to our understanding of Black women’s lives in Britain during the late twentieth century, Bentil work challenges dominant narratives of feminist organizing in Britain during the late twentieth century and sheds light on the myriad ways that Black women leveraged their marginality in British society to contemplate radical post-imperial futures.

Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Honorable Mention

Leonard Buntigan (UC Santa Cruz) “Black Anti-Racist Activism and the Afterlife of Empire: Britain 1976-2000.”

Interrogating how activists grappled with the legacies of empire as postcolonial praxis is at the fore of Leonard Buntigan’s research.  With a focus on understudied historical actors including Black feminists, queer intellectuals, independent film makers, radical current affairs stars and local grassroots activists, Buntigan’s work examines how Black Britons operating across a number of domains understood racism, sexism and homophobia in Britain as part of a neocolonial order and in relation Black transnational liberation movements.  Buntigan’s ground-breaking research historicizes Black globality in the late twentieth century and offers critical analysis of the ways that Black activists and intellectuals imagined anti-racism beyond the nation-state.

Jada Gannaway (Michigan State University) “The Political Biography of Althea Jones-Lecointe.”

With a focus on the life and legacy of Althea Jones-Lecointe, a central figure in the London-based Black Power movement, Jada Gannaway’s study examines the political realities confronting Black communities in Britain during the long 1970s.  Gannaway’s research interrogates how Black Caribbeans like Jones-Lecointe articulated expectations of citizenship and highlights how developments including shifting immigration policies influenced how Black political organizations mobilized in defense of Black rights.  In doing so Gannaway’s project positions Black women activists like Jone-Lecointe as key strategists in shaping campaigns against state violence that confronted a range of range of social issues including police violence, housing and education. 

Judith R. Walkowitz Prize

Olivia Weisser (University of Massachusetts, Boston), “Poxed and Ravished: Venereal Disease in Early Modern Rape Trials”, History Workshop Journal 91, Spring 2021.

Olivia Weisser’s “Poxed and Ravished: Venereal Disease in Early Modern Rape Trials”, History Workshop 91 (2021) is a richly researched and persuasively argued study of how evidence of venereal disease offered a way to navigate early modern legal dilemmas about rape. Her argument is based on impressive archival research spanning fifty-nine court cases of rape between 1604 and 1754, mostly from the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court. She examines how rape victims, their families, and medical experts reframed bodily evidence of rape as evidence of venereal disease that would be visible and tangible and did not rely on women’s words. She argues that venereal disease provided “a rich repertoire for talking about illicit sex that entailed visually vivid expression, colourful language and a surprising means of navigating the limits of a patriarchal legal system.”By demonstrating how and why the “poxed body” rather than the “ravished body” was repeatedly presented during courtroom discussions on rape, Weisser’s article makes innovative and significant contributions to the history of gender, the body, medicine, and the law.

The Walter D. Love Prize

K. J. Kesselring (Dalhousie University), “Law, Status, and the Lash: Judicial Whipping in Early Modern England,” Journal of British Studies 60, July 2021.

Whipping was not invented in early-modern England, but as Kesselring demonstrates in this insightful and nuanced essay, its use as a form of judicial punishment rose and fell amidst the social, legal and political transformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The poor, particularly those accused of theft and vagrancy suffered the lash more than others, but it was these others—lords, parliamentarians, constables and magistrates—whose protests often resonated the loudest. Combining political debates, statutes, archival materials, and a reconstruction of proceedings from the Court of Star Chamber, Kesselring shows how the rule of law, so often celebrated as a feature of the period, emerged gradually from social and political struggles that reinforced inequality as a norm of theory and practice.

The Walter D. Love Prize Honorable Mention

Baillargeon, David. “Spaces of occupation: Colonial enclosure and confinement in British Malaya.” Journal of Historical Geography 73 (2021): 24-35.

In this tightly structured and innovative article, Baillargeon combines historical geography, mapping technologies, and original research in Malaysian and British archives to demonstrate how the dual logics of enclosure and confinement in late 19th century Malaya produced the conditions for the events that unfolded during the Malayan Emergency or Anti-British National Liberation War (1948-1960). Confinement wasn’t simply reducible to enclosure - both were consequent upon each other and together these processes worked symbiotically to create new “spaces of occupation” - racially-structured spatial entities that simultaneously enclosed land and concentrated populations of Chinese and Indian laborers in rubber camps and forest reserves. In all these ways the article testifies to the extraordinary potential of historical geography to expose historical processes that are typically treated by separate subfields and even disciplines. 

The John Ben Snow Prize

Keith Pluymers (Illinois State University), No Wood, No Kingdom: Political Ecology in the English Atlantic (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

Wood was crucial to early modern states and people, but it was also a source of anxiety. No Wood, No Kingdom explores the multiple and competing ways of understanding and addressing wood scarcity in the Atlantic world. More than simply a matter of supply and demand, Pluymers argues that scarcity was a question of “political ecology,” that is, the political and social beliefs, and practices that governed how natural resources were defined and used. Grounded in meticulous research spanning the British Isles, North America ,and the Caribbean, Pluymers reveals the interconnected nature of wood use, and argues that what connected colonies in the Atlantic more than people or commodities, were "fears of wood scarcity and competitive efforts to exploit woodlands." While communicating complex ideas in clear, brisk language, No Wood, No Kingdom offers a timely account of the politics of resource management in an interconnected world.  

The Stansky Prize

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller (University of California, Davis), Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion (Princeton University Press, 2021)

Beautifully written and rigorously interdisciplinary, Extraction Ecologies is a timely examination of British industrial power as told through a literature of environmental collapse. Engaging with numerous authors from across the British imperial world, this work animates the intellectual imperative to process and challenge extractive industrial power. Through close readings of works such as The Hobbit, Treasure Island, and Sultana’s Dream, Miller explores the real-world fears of ecological disaster that inspired landmark works of fantasy. Miller’s analysis is armed with vivid theoretical, historical, and literary insights that bridge intellectual boundaries. This major scholarly achievement leaves readers to ponder the creativity required to inspire, and build, habitable worlds for the future.

Arunima Datta (Idaho State University), Fleeting Agencies: A Social History of Indian Coolie Women in British Malaya (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Fleeting Agencies painstakingly assembles fragmentary evidence to recover the substantial presence, voices and agency of women rubber workers in colonial Malaya, hitherto obscured in the historical record despite their critical contribution to imperial prosperity. Applying an innovative methodology to sift through archives in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Britain and the United States as well as oral histories with surviving workers, the book produces multiple revisions to the historiography of the British empire, global migration, women’s history and labor history. Most importantly, it finds women deploying multiple strategies to advance their goals and agendas, repudiating their stereotypical depiction as downtrodden and disempowered. The book demands historians recognize agency even in “extremely oppressive situations,” ​even when it was fleeting and situational.

 

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: