RHS History Scotland Prize

Frieze of famous Scots, 1898, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The RHS History Scotland prize rewards high-quality work by undergraduates in dissertations on any aspect of Scottish history. It is jointly sponsored by the RHS and History Scotland and represents a partnership with a magazine which is written by Scotland’s leading historians, archaeologists and museum curators and reports on current thinking and the latest research to a large public interested in Scottish history. The successful candidate will be awarded a prize of £250 and, at the discretion of the Editor of History Scotland, the prizewinning entry will be published in a future issue of the magazine.

The 2014 prize was awarded to Jamie Kelly (University of Glasgow) for his essay ‘‘It is a work that all who profess Christianity should be assisting in’: A Study of the Origins, Operation and Impact of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge in the Highlands and Islands, 1680-1800’. History Scotland editor Alasdair Ross commented:

This is an original and extremely well researched dissertation on the work of the SSPCK in the Scottish Highlands. Each chapter contains new insights and a large amount of new material has been incorporated into the work. Both primary and secondary sources are well analysed and integrated throughout. It is a very fine piece of work indeed.”

Jamie Kelly writes:

Jamie Kelly

Jamie Kelly

I am greatly honoured to receive this award from the Royal Historical Society and History Scotland. While it certainly serves to reinforce the great pride I have in my work, carried out as an undergraduate at the University of Glasgow, it has also given me an extra boost in confidence and morale as I approach the end of my Masters programme and the beginning of my PhD project: a direct development of my dissertation. I am grateful for the support and encouragement of all of the Scottish History staff at the University of Glasgow, without whom I would never have become so enthralled with the history of my own nation.

When I first encountered the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, I saw it through the lens that was offered by the existing scholarship. It was an anti-Gaelic agent of crown-sponsored cultural imperialism, hell-bent on imposing presbyterianism and the English language at whatever cost. It quickly became clear from my exploration of the Society’s archive that this was a drastic oversimplification of the SSPCK’s role and impact. This charity organisation, founded by Royal Charter in Edinburgh in 1709, offered its mission as an endeavour of national improvement. It was unprecedented in receiving donations across such a broad spectrum of Scots, at home and abroad. Moreover, the society’s insistence on persuasion over coercion (even when dealing with Catholics), its strict guidelines for virtuous staff members and its role in the publication of Gaelic religious texts seem at odds with the established historical consensus. Many prominent Gaels – including the legendary Jacobite poet, Alexander MacDonald – held teaching posts in SSPCK schools and actively communicated the needs of their communities to political centres in Edinburgh and London. It offered not only a framework for education, but one for the mutually beneficial integration of the diverse Gaelic-speaking regions into the post-1707 British State and Empire.”

How to Enter

  • The potential level of entries to the prize is large and to reduce numbers to manageable proportions we limit entries to one for every UK Higher Education institution.
  • Departments are invited to nominate the candidate judged by the examiners to have presented the best dissertation.
  • History departments should complete this Entry Form. They will be requested to upload an electronic copy of the dissertation.

Deadline for entries: 31 August 2017

History Scotland is the world’s premier Scottish history magazine, available in print and digital editions, and provides fascinating features on topics from all branches and periods of Scottish history and archaeology. The magazine was launched in October 2001 at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh by Professor Christopher Smout, Historiographer Royal, and is backed by the Scottish history and archaeology professions with leading representatives from a variety of different disciplines on the Editorial Board. Find out more about the magazine at: www.history-scotland.com.

All enquiries about the Prize should be addressed to the Administrative Secretary, Melanie Ransom, at: m.ransom@royalhistsoc.org

Submit entry