Alexander Prize

The Alexander Prize was endowed in 1897 by L.C. Alexander, Secretary of the Society at its foundation in 1868 and a Life Member from 1870. The original endowment offered “to provide yearly a Gold Medal to be called ‘The Alexander Medal'”. The gold medal was later changed to a silver medal and now the successful candidate is awarded a prize of £250.

The prize is awarded for an essay or article based on original historical research, by a doctoral candidate or those recently awarded their doctorate, published in a journal or an edited collection of essays.

Winners are invited to submit another paper to the RHS Literary Directors within nine months of the award, with a view to publication in the RHS journal Transactions.

The RHS is delighted to announce that the Alexander Prize for 2017 has been awarded to Stephanie Mawson for her article, ‘Convicts or Conquistadores?: Spanish Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Pacific,’ Past and Present, Vol. 232, No. 1 (2016), 87-125.

The judges commented:

This ambitious and important article examines the ragtag army which colonized the Spanish East Indies during the seventeenth century. Its deep archival research reveals ordinary soldiers to have been quite unlike their stereotypical depiction as conquistadores. They were a motley collection of criminals, vagrants and fugitives, many conscripted and mostly from New Spain, who seldom shared the spoils of conquest with their commanding officers. The author at once restores agency to these historical figures and displays its narrow limits. Mutiny and desertion were among the few pathways open to the conscripted and the mistreated. Such a small, impoverished and volatile force could not be relied upon to achieve Spain’s imperial ambitions, resulting in the recruitment of increasing numbers of indigenous troops. The article offers a compelling portrait of the early modern Philippines. Its intertwining of social and military history makes it distinctive among submissions dominated by intellectual history. Its success in ‘[h]umanising and complicating the face of imperialism’ invites historians of empire to take account of the conflicting interests and motives of the colonisers and their correspondingly diverse relationships to the colonised.”

The proxime accessit is Felicity Hill for her article ‘Magna Carta, canon law and pastoral care: excommunication and the church’s publication of the charter’, Historical Research 89 (2016), 636-50.

The judges commented:

This article impressed the judges by offering a fresh perspective on a much studied subject: Magna Carta. The author does this by connecting two aspects of thirteenth-century history that have usually been treated separately: efforts to promulgate the definitive 1225 text of the Charter, and the Church’s concern to improve pastoral care. In particular, she argues that the inclusion of a sanction of general excommunication on breakers of Magna Carta and the Forest Charter, especially after this sanction was given written form in 1253, meant that the clergy were obliged to publicize the sentence, together with the charters, so that parishioners would avoid incurring the resulting spiritual penalties. Thus the Church’s duty of pastoral care contributed to the dissemination of political awareness. Clearly and cogently argued, firmly grounded in the primary sources, especially canon law, and engaging critically with a wide range of secondary literature in several languages, the article makes an original and significant contribution to scholarship, and the judges warmly recommend that it be selected as proxime accessit.”

How to enter

  • Candidates must be doctoral students in History in a UK institution, or be within two years of having completed a doctorate in History in a UK institution at the time of the closing date for entries.
  • The article or essay must have been published in a journal or edited collection during the calendar year 2018.
  • Please note that an electronic copy of your article or essay will need to be uploaded to the entry form.
  • For further information on how to enter, please refer to the Guidelines.
  • Once you have read the guidelines, please complete the Entry Form.

Closing date for entries: 31 December 2018

Past Winners of the Alexander Prize

All enquiries about the Prize should be addressed to the Administrative Secretary, Melanie Ransom, at: