Rees Davies Prize

The Rees Davies Prize for an outstanding Master’s thesis commemorates former Royal Historical Society President and distinguished medieval scholar, Professor Sir Rees Davies (1938-2005). It is awarded for the best Master’s dissertation submitted by a UK institution of Higher Education. The winner is awarded a prize of £250 and invited to submit an article based on the dissertation to be considered for publication in Transactions.

The Society is delighted to announce that the Rees Davies Prize for 2018 has been awarded to:  Amie Bolissian McRae (University of Reading) for ‘‘Second Childhood’: Old Age and Infirmity in Early Modern England’ 

The judges commented:

“This is an excellent dissertation across a broad range of criteria – it is innovative, knowledgeable across a broad range, very scholarly and also well-written with effective use of illustrations (for example, bringing the reader face to face with the shaky handwriting of a 73-year-old woman). The research questions are well thought-out, sustaining an admirably clear structure, and the author is not afraid to take on big topics such as history of health and the way that society regarded the elderly. She is particularly good at addressing the gap between discussion of the old in medical textbooks and the ways in which doctors actually treated elderly patients, and at capturing the varied experiences of old age. She uses a very wide range of primary sources, many of them unpublished (including medical textbooks, casebooks and personal diaries and letters) with knowledge and skill. Her handling of historical debate is also excellent. This admirably clear, thoughtful and thoroughly researched dissertation is an impressive piece of scholarship that pushes our knowledge further on a topic of major significance.

The proxime accessit is Ross Brooks (Oxford Brookes University) for ‘The true source of cruelty: medical concepts of sexual violence before Psychopathia Sexualis (1886)

The judges commented:

This dissertation presents an original, nuanced and convincing interpretation of nineteenth-century concepts of sexual violence which establishes the importance of previously neglected aspects of writing on the topic prior to the publication of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s sadism diagnosis in 1886. The author demonstrates an assured grasp of scholarship across several fields, positioning his argument against work on the history of medicine, sexuality and ideas, and deploys a wide range of primary sources written in English, French and German. Clearly and confidently written, the resulting analysis throws fresh light on differing approaches to sexual violence in, for example, the craniology (phrenology) of Joseph Gall, German Romanticism and early evolutionary thought. Thus what might at first sight seem a highly specialized study makes a significant contribution to intellectual and cultural history as well as to the history of medicine.

How to Enter

  • The Rees Davies Prize is awarded for the best dissertation submitted in 2018 as part of a one-year full-time (or two-year part-time) postgraduate Master’s degree in any UK institution of Higher Education.
  • The potential number 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 Master’s dissertation. Please note that an electronic copy of the dissertation 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 this Entry Form.

Closing date for entries: 31 January 2019

Past winners of the Rees Davies Prize

All enquiries about the Prize should be addressed to the Administrative Secretary, Ms Kerry Manning, at: adminsecretary@royalhistsoc.org