2016 RHS Prizes, Awards and Fellowships

7 July 2016

Alexander Prize 2016

For the best published scholarly journal article or an essay in a collective volume based upon original historical research.

Awarded to Mary Cox for her article ‘Hunger Games: Or How the Allied Blockade in World War I Deprived German Children of Nutrition, and Allied Food Subsequently Saved Them’, Economic History Review, 68: 2, (2015), 600-31.

Judges’ citation: This important article examines the fact and the effect of the hunger blockade, examining a large body of data to determine conclusively that children’s growth was directly affected by Allied action. Paradoxically, this same alliance provided the capacity to alleviate the effects of the blockade, as the article again demonstrates by looking at the changes to children’s bodies. Cox takes a highly technical method and applies it rigorously, in a way that illustrates a new and significant source base, allowing it to be analysed in a succinct and highly convincing way. Her findings are important in methodological as a well as historical terms and the judges were particularly impressed by the way in which a scholar at this stage in her career has made such an authoritative contribution to this important debate.

proxime accessit

Tom Johnson for his article ‘Medieval Law and Materiality: Shipwreck, Finders, and Property on the Suffolk Coast, ca. 1380-1410’, American Historical Review, 120:2 (April 2015), 406-32.

Judges’ citation: This article makes an original and imaginative contribution to scholarship by viewing medieval law through the lens of scholarship on materiality. An extensive discussion of various critical theories, drawn from studies across both periods and disciplines, as well as of the legal background, provides a framework for the illuminating case study that follows, namely an analysis of terms ‘found’ on the shore registered in court rolls from Suffolk. Clearly structured and written throughout, the article not only reveals much about social structure and dynamics in later medieval coastal communities in England, but compels us to think about objects, agency, and how these are expressed in legal terms. The combination of conceptual sophistication, broad contextualization, grasp of legal history and empirical depth is impressive, and the judges have no hesitation in recommending that the article be selected as proxime accessit.

David Berry Prize 2016

For the best published scholarly journal article or essay on a subject dealing with Scottish History.

Awarded to Karin Bowie for her essay ‘Public, People and Nation in Early Modern Scotland’.

Judges’ citation: In a neatly structured and carefully argued essay that is deeply and widely researched, Karin Bowie considers the development of a ‘textual public’ in early modern Scotland. While acknowledging that print provided an important context through which early modern public opinion was formulated and expressed, Bowie argues that the debates, discussions, petitions and addresses engendered by the religious differences and constitutional experiences of seventeenth-century Scotland fostered the development and expression of popular and national political opinion. Acknowledged by contemporary Scottish politicians as expressions of the ‘inclinations’, ‘genius’ or ‘mind’ of ‘the people’ or ‘the nation’, these extra-parliamentary and often oppositional forms of direct engagement not only encouraged the development of political opinion among, especially, increasing numbers of Lowland Scots, but also serve as a reminder of the subtle and multi-faceted contributions and developments which led to the birth of modern public opinion.

Gladstone Prize 2016

For a first solely-written book on a historical subject not primarily related to British History published in the UK.

Awarded to Emma Hunter for Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Judges’ citation: This sophisticated book is surely at the vanguard of a new way of writing intellectual history. It builds a history of ideas ‘from below’ by working from Swahili language newspapers and other texts in circulation in Tanganyika and from archives in Tanzania and elsewhere. Tanzanians become political thinkers and agents in the transformation of key mid-twentieth century concepts such as freedom, progress, democracy, representation and citizenship. The changing senses of a ‘word in motion’ gesture to the changing possibilities open to Hunter’s agents as decolonization took root. Hunter takes seriously prior forms of political organisation and so never sees Africa as pre-political, nor does she see the rise of single-partyism as a straight story. Instead she places Africa at the heart of the widest canvas of international and world history. The way Hunter’s focus moves between the microscopic conditions of localities far from any metropolis to the biggest questions of the twentieth century history, such as the theory and practice of democracy , is deeply admirable.

Rees Davies Prize 2016

For the best dissertation submitted as part of a one-year full-time (or two-year part-time) postgraduate Master’s degree in any United Kingdom institution of Higher Education.

Awarded to Megan Johnston (Durham University) for ‘Doing Neighbourhood: Practising Neighbourliness in the Diocese of Durham, 1624-31′.

Judges’ citation: This is a dissertation which grabs the reader’s attention from the very first page and never lets it go thereafter. It is a learned and scholarly piece of work, but it is also lively, arresting and very well-written. Ms Johnston has drawn on a vast corpus of original documents in order to throw popular attitudes towards neighbours, ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘neighbourliness’ in the early Stuart diocese of Durham into sharp relief, and her work contains a wealth of fascinating – and sometimes rather surprising – narratives culled from local consistory court records. The judges thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Doing Neighbourhood’, and they have no doubt at all that the themes which Ms Johnston addresses would appeal to a much broader audience, too. She is clearly a historian of great promise who possesses a genuine flair for her subject. The judges were delighted to recommend that this well-researched, thoughtful and thought-provoking dissertation should be awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Rees Davies Prize for 2016.

Whitfield Prize 2016

For a first solely-written book on a subject within a field of British history published in the UK.

Awarded to Aysha Pollnitz for Princely Education in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Judges’ citation: This highly original and beautifully written book explores the liberal education received by royal children in Tudor and Stuart Britain. Drawing attention to the specificities of nation and context, Princely Education draws on an impressive range of Latin sources, and is yet highly readable and accessible in style. It succeeds admirably in demonstrating the wider significance of princes’ education by drawing connections between childhood learning and royal policies in later life during a stormy and eventful period. This rich and deeply-textured book is certain to provoke interest and debate for many years to come.

The Royal Historical Society jointly with the Institute of Historical Research has awarded the following research Fellowships:

RHS Marshall Fellowship 2016

Awarded jointly to :

Samuel Drake, Royal Holloway, University of London, for research on “Cornwall and the Kingdom: Connectivity, Cohesion, and Integration, c. 1300-c.1420”.


Aashique Ahmed Iqbal, University of Oxford, for research on “Sovereign Skies: Aviation and the Indian State 1939-53”.

RHS Centenary Fellowship 2016

Awarded to Benjamin Savill, University of Oxford, for research on “Papal Privileges in Early Medieval England, c. 680-1073”.

The Institute of Historical Research has this year awarded the following prizes:

Pollard Prize 2016

For the best paper presented at an Institute of Historical Research seminar by a postgraduate student or by a research within one year of presenting the PhD.

Awarded jointly to: Anna Dorofeeva for her paper on ‘Miscellanies, Christian reform and early medieval encyclopaedism: a reconsideration of the pre-bestiary Physiologus manuscripts’ (Early Medieval Seminar)


Megan Webber for her paper on ‘Troubling Agency: Agency and Charity in Early Nineteenth-Century London’ (British History in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar)

Runner Up: Sam Drake for his paper on ‘Since the time of King Arthur: gentry identity and the commonality of Cornwall c.1300-c.1420 (Late Medieval Seminar)