RHS News

2017 Book Prize Shortlists

The RHS is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2017 Gladstone and Whitfield book prizes.

Gladstone Prize Shortlist 2017

Whitfield Prize Shortlist 2017


RHS Submission to REF 2020-21 Consultation

Following Lord Stern’s review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), HEFCE opened a consultation on REF2020-21, which closed on 17 March 2017. REF is of vital importance to the scholarly community and to history as a discipline and the consultation exercise has shown that its significance for our research culture is widely perceived. The Royal Historical Society has consulted History schools and departments across the country in preparing its submission to the consultation exercise, and has provided a considered response that evaluates the possible effects of measures such as full return of research staff and non-portability, seeks to support the position of Early Career Researchers, and makes a strong case for equality and diversity. Read the Society’s full response here.


Analysis of REF2014 Impact Case Studies

The RHS has undertaken an analysis of the Impact Case Studies submitted for History in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. A number of characteristics emerge from the analysis:

  • Impact Case Studies were overwhelmingly headed by male historians: over 70% of listed Principal Investigators were men. This gender divide was higher at Professorial level than at other career stages, reflecting the issues surrounding gender equality highlighted in the RHS Gender Report.
  • A diverse range of funding was used to support Impact Case Studies: while 31% listed support from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, nearly half did not list a specific source of external national funding.
  • While there were Impact Case Studies on many different geographical areas, the UK was by far the largest area of focus (58%), followed by Europe (15%).
  • Modern history was the main period focus (62%), with fewer centring on early modern (12%) or medieval history (6%).
  • Public engagement was the largest impact area (listed by 66% of projects); comparatively few case studies were focused on digital impact (listed by just 9%).

Our analysis is available here.


RHS Programme 2017

Friday 10 February, 6pm, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL
Professor Claire Langhamer (Sussex)
‘Who the hell are ordinary people? Ordinariness as a category of historical analysis’

Friday 24 February, Wolfson Suite, Institute of Historical Research
The Gerald Aylmer Seminar
‘Archives & Teaching in Higher Education’

Friday 21 April, University of Chester
Symposium: ‘Putting History in its Place: Historical Landscapes & Environments’

Friday 5 May, 6pm, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL
Professor Gary Gerstle (Cambridge)
‘The Rise & Fall of America’s Neo-Liberal Order

Friday 7 July, 6pm, Cruciform Lecture Theatre 2, UCL
The Prothero Lecture

Professor Simon Dixon (UCL)
‘Orthodoxy & Revolution: The restoration of the Russian patriarchate in 1917’

Friday 22 September, 6 pm, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL
Professor Chris Marsh
‘Woman to the Plow and Man to the Hen-Roost:
Wives, Husbands, & Best-Selling Ballads in Seventeenth-Century England’

October 2017 (date, location & title to be confirmed)
Colin Matthew Memorial Lecture for the Public Understanding of History

Professor Mary Beard (Cambridge)

Friday 24 November, 6pm, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL
2017 Presidential Address

Professor Margot Finn (UCL)
‘Material Turns in British History I: Loot’


‘Educating the Nation’

Over the past four years, RHS President Professor Peter Mandler has presented a series of Presidential Addresses on ‘Educating the Nation’, charting the impact of mass education on Britain since the Second World War.

I: Schools (video, text)

II: Universities (video, text)

III: Social Mobility (video, text)

IV: Subject Choice (video)


RHS Letter Regarding the EU Referendum

Dear Fellows and Members,

The recent EU referendum has brought the issue of how international exchange and collaboration enrich history as a discipline to the forefront of the profession’s attention.

Whatever our position on the outcome of the referendum, I’m sure that as historians we want to ensure that our discipline remains outward looking and global in perspective. Only 13% of historians in UK university departments study the non-Western world;  the equivalent proportion in Canada is 20% and in the US 27% (see the revealing study by Luke Clossey and Nick Guyatt in AHA Perspectives, May 2013).  Surely we must want in the coming years to become more comprehensive in our understanding of all the world’s peoples and their histories, rather than less.

The Royal Historical Society is committed to this goal and to keeping our discipline as diverse and capacious as possible, both in terms of academic employment and in terms of the scholarship that we support. We are particularly conscious at this moment of the precarious situation in which citizens of EU nations who are working as historians in the UK find themselves, and are keen to gather information about their situation that would allow us to support them in any way we can.  We also wish to facilitate collaboration between UK-based historians and others abroad, both in the EU and in the wider world.  If you have any information about or experience of threats to employment or collaboration, please do write to us at info@royalhistsoc.org.

Council will keep these international issues at the head of its agenda and I hope to be able to report to you in the autumn on further developments, both the challenges that we are encountering and the opportunities that we hope to open up.

With best wishes,

Peter Mandler







2016 RHS Prizes, Awards and Fellowships

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)