The Stansky Book Prize
The Stansky Book Prize of $500 is awarded annually by the North American Conference on British Studies for the best book published anywhere by a North American scholar on any aspect of British studies since 1800.
The author must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or Canada and be living in either country at the time of the award. Nominations may be made by the author or by the publisher of the book. A publisher may nominate more than one title each year but should use discretion and not overburden the Prize Committee.
The 2023 competition covers books published in 2022. Separate copies of the book nominated should be sent to each member of the Prize Committee, postmarked by May 1, 2023 (Only books sent to every committee member can be considered.)
Presses and authors should contact the chair to arrange for delivery of submissions.
Laura Tabili (Chair)
University of Arizona
Middle Tennessee State University
May 1, 2023
Paris Spies-Gans, A Revolution on Canvas: The Rise of Women Artists in Britain and France, 1760-1830 (Yale University Press).
Paris Spies-Gans’s A Revolution on Canvas recovers over 1000 previously forgotten professional women artists. The lavish illustrations, as well as quantitative evidence in the form of graphs and tables, abundantly support her argument that women constituted a substantial presence in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century art world, exhibiting widely and frequently, fully recognized by male peers. Ironically, women’s admission into the academies later in the century deprived these early “amateurs” of the recognition they enjoyed in their own times. This beautiful volume demolishes the historical fallacy of women’s absence with scholarly rigor and visual splendor.
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.
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.
Kate Imy (Independent Scholar) 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.
Elizabeth Thornberry (Johns Hopkins), Colonizing Consent: Rape and Governance in South Africa’s Eastern Cape (Cambridge University Press)
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.
Aidan Forth (Loyola University Chicago), Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain’s Empire of Camps, 1876-1903 (University of California Press, 2017)
This sophisticated and beautifully written book pulls together a massive amount of research from sites across the British empire to trace genealogical connections between famine, plague, and concentration camps. By carefully tracing the evolution of the camp and its centrality to imperial practice and ideology, Forth shows us the contradictory essence of late-nineteenth century Liberal empire: how the promise of uplift and freedom remained in constant tension with the impulse to discipline and control. This imperial story also helps us understand how camps came to be used for both genocidal and humanitarian purposes in recent history. The book's transnational scope is impressive and eye-opening, with implications well beyond British history. It opens up new avenues of research in European, South African, and Indian history; military history; and the history of public health, technology, colonial violence, liberalism, and humanitarianism. This promises to become a foundational text for a new body of scholarship.
Marie Hicks (Illinois Institute of Technology), Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (The MIT Press, 2017)
This revelatory book makes us see postwar British history in a new way by showing that the exclusion of women from advanced computing fields was engineered by the state in collusion with business interests; it was not simply a product of broader cultural formations or more generalized shifts in the workplace and gender roles. This is an unsettling and powerfully field-changing account. Clear and lucid in its arguments, this important book also does justice to the human side of the story, particularly through its engaging use of interviews with former women programmers. This innovative book will be critical to students and scholars of postwar British history, of the history of science and technology, as well as those of the state, and of gender.
Laura Beers (American University and University of Birmingham), Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist (Harvard University Press 2016)
Mark Doyle (Middle Tennessee State University), Communal Violence in the British Empire: Disturbing the Pax (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).