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M.A. Essay Prize


The NACBS awards a prize of $500 annually for the best piece of original research produced by a student in a “stand-alone” M.A. program at a university or college in the U.S. or Canada. Essays may be from any department—History, English, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, etc.—but must relate to a topic in British Studies. Essays nominated for this prize may deal with subjects related to the British Isles or with some aspect of the British Imperial/Post-Colonial experience, broadly construed.


Essays may be from any department—History, English, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, etc.—but must relate to a topic in British Studies. Essays nominated for this prize may deal with subjects related to the British Isles or with some aspect of the British Imperial/Post-Colonial experience, broadly construed. Entries must not exceed fifty pages in length, inclusive of notes and/or illustrations.

The following conditions apply:

  • Nominees must be students (or recent graduates) of a “stand-alone” M.A. program. “Stand alone” refers here to an M.A. degree earned at an institution that offers a master’s degree that is separate from a Ph.D. program and not simply a degree earned, as a matter of course, along the way to ABD status. This means that potential nominees might come from either a program with just an M.A. or programs where the M.A. and Ph.D. are awarded as separate degrees and candidates are admitted through separate application processes.

  • Nominees may be currently enrolled in an M.A. program, recent graduates of an M.A. program (within one year of degree completion), or Ph.D. students (again within one year of having completed a degree in a terminal, “stand-alone” M.A. program).

  • Submitted papers should be no more than 50 pages in length (inclusive of notes and/or illustrations). A longer (more than 50-page) M.A. thesis may be edited down to fit the word limit. Alternatively, stand-along chapters from a longer thesis will also be considered.

  • The prize will be decided by a committee of three faculty members from institutions with “stand-alone” M.A. programs. Whenever possible, there will be broad disciplinary representation on this committee.

Procedures for Nomination:

Nominating faculty must be current members of the NACBS. Submissions must be accompanied by a nominating letter from the professor, who should have taught the course for which the essay was written or supervised M.A. thesis work. Submissions should include the permanent mailing address and email contact information for the student nominated.

MA Prize Committee

Arunima Datta

University of North Texas

Penny Sinanoglou

Pomona College

Jacob Steere-Williams

College of Charleston

Due Date

January 15, 2024

Previous Winners


Elizabeth DeBold (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), “According to my true meaning: emotions and will-makers in southern England during the seventeenth-century.”

  • DeBold’s submission features outstanding analysis of the emotive landscape of seventeenth-century England through the investigation of wills and their crafting. Although scholars have extracted useful social and statistical data from the large corpus of wills for the period between 1500 and 1700, few have interrogated wills to learn about the cultural and emotional fabric they contained, which knit together early modern kinship and political relations. DeBold’s essay insightfully engages the historical topic of emotions, and skillfully anchors this work in expansive historiographies related to gender and emotions.

The committee also awarded one Honorable Mention: Matthew Fulford (University of Colorado Denver), “Becoming better Britons: Canadian emigration schemes and imperial masculinity, 1880-1914”

  • Fulford’s submission brings together several complex and changing fields of inquiry and the scholarship surrounding them—labor, gender, and migration—in the larger context of British, British Empire, and British World histories. Fulford’s sophisticated use of sources allows for analysis of how working-class laborers conceptualized their migration to Canada during the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras, showing in turn how shifting notions of what it meant to be working class and gendered male dominated one set of discussions about imperial citizenship.


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.


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.   


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.


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.


Megan Groninger (University of West Georgia), “Deserving and Undeserving: Representations of the Moralization of Poverty in the British Press during the Passing of the New Poor Law”

Honorable Mention—Kelly Daughtridge (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), “Women’s Funerary Monuments Commissioned by Men in Early Modern England”

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