RHS Teaching Prizes

RHS Prizes for the Teaching of History at UK Universities

Following the success in 2018 of the inaugural Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching and Supervision in History, introduced to mark our 150th anniversary year, in 2019 the Royal Historical Society decided to award two prizes for the teaching of History at Universities in the UK. We are pleased to continue with our third call for nominations.

Each prize is an opportunity to recognise academic historians who are making a significant contribution to excellence in undergraduate or postgraduate teaching and supervision. Each acknowledges that the continuing strength of history as a discipline depends on the enthusiasm, passion, and creativity of University teachers of History.

Nominations for the RHS Teaching Prizes are now open! Apply here. The deadline for entries is 17:00 BST on 4 June. 


The Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching and Supervision in History

The Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching and Supervision in History is named in honour of the Society’s first female President. It rewards outstanding and sustained commitment to supervision and in particular those who are inspiring the next generation of historians to excel, whether by undergraduate or postgraduate teaching. Potential nominees might be those whose research mentoring has encouraged new networks and communities of scholars to excel, often beyond the nominees’ own institution.

The prize marks Jinty Nelson’s outstanding contribution to the field in nurturing and training new generations of historians, through her own teaching and through her generosity in supporting and mentoring younger scholars.

One award of £1,000 will be made each year in July, usually to an individual historian.

This award is named after the Society’s first female President, Professor Dame Jinty Nelson

The Royal Historical Society Innovation in Teaching Award

The Royal Historical Society Innovation in Teaching Award is focussed on excellence in teaching at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Potential applicants may, for example, be individuals or groups of scholars working in collaboration, whose teaching has opened up the use of research materials by undergraduate or postgraduate students, or who have fostered new and original approaches to the discipline. Their achievements might include inspirational teaching, or the exemplary development of new teaching methods, modules or degrees. It might also include those whose teaching of Undergraduate or Masters-level Historians has expanded to include engagement outside the classroom or the University.

One award of £1,000 will be made each year in July, either to an individual or to a group of historians working in collaboration. A short account of the programme of work for which the award was conferred, agreed with the winner, will be posted on a dedicated section of the Society’s website.

For both prizes

To apply, please provide a short account (750 to 1000 words) of the programme of work or pedagogic initiatives for which the award is to be conferred.

Applications must also be supported by a statement from someone who has knowledge of your teaching experience. Your referee may be resident in the same institution as the applicant, but this is not a requirement. The recommendation must testify to the quality of the applicant’s contributions to historical pedagogy.

Lastly, applicants must include evidence from others, which might take the form of peer review, student feedback, evidence of impact on students’ later development or some form of institutional recognition such as a teaching prize.

If you are unsure which prize to nominate someone for, bear in mind that the Nelson prize is more likely to be awarded to someone who has a long-established record of mentoring and supporting the next generation of professional historians.


All enquiries about the Prizes should be addressed to the Administrative Secretary, Imogen Evans, at: adminsecretary@royalhistsoc.org

Submit nomination.


Previous Winners


Innovation in Teaching Award

Dr Tim Peacock (Glasgow University) was awarded the 2020 Innovation in Teaching Award. 

Dr Tim Peacock, Lecturer in History at Glasgow University, is co-founder/co-director of the Games and Gaming Lab, and Visiting Fellow at the British Library Eccles Centre. His teaching and research interests range from Transatlantic nuclear, intelligence and spaceflight history projects to an MUP monograph, The British Tradition of Minority Government.” 

Judges’ citation:
Tim has complemented his expertise in history by very successfully deploying a variety of technological applications.  The adjudicators were particularly impressed by the ways in which his innovative work promoted academic inclusion.  His innovative audio-visual support mechanisms are useful for all students, but particularly those with a variety of complex learning needs; and his use of gaming, social media and simulations give greater accessibility when exploring complex historical content and concepts.  Importantly, Tim willingly shares his innovative ideas not only across his department, but also with others across his University and he has already received two teaching awards from his own institution.  We are also very pleased to recognise the importance of his work which uses innovative tools and approaches to make history more freely accessible to learners and colleagues.”


Dr Jessica van Horssen (Leeds Beckett University) is named runner-up for the Innovation in Teaching Award 2020.

Dr. Jessica van Horssen is a Senior Lecturer in North American History in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. She strives to actively engage students in the past and empower them by helping them develop their own critical agency through participatory lectures and creative assessment.

Judges’ citation:

Jessica has inspired students in her teaching of American history by using approaches ranging from the use of music to explore controversial and societal issues, to the use of pedagogies which develop digital literacy through the study of history.  Her digital history module, which teaches students an array of important new skills, such as data mining and how to produce video games and 3D models for reconstructing historical sites has already been recognised by her University with institution-wide awards.  As a result, Jessica’s influence now extends beyond History, with her part-time secondment to her University’s Centre for Learning and Teaching.”


Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching & Supervision in History

Professor Marjory Harper (University of Aberdeen) was awarded the 2020 Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching & Supervision in History. 

Marjory Harper is Professor of History at the University of Aberdeen and Visiting Professor and Senior Researcher at the UHI Centre for History. Her teaching and research focus on emigration, particularly from Scotland, and two of her monographs have won international prizes. She has recently completed her first audio book. Marjory discusses her project and winning the 2020 award on the RHS blog, Historical Transactions.

Judges’ citation:

Marjory’s work spans over two decades and was praise because of her commitment to supporting others’ learning and progression.  However, the adjudicators are particularly keen to recognise her work in setting up an online MLitt course in Scottish history and heritage which has very successfully opened Scottish history up to a wide audience, including mature students from overseas.  Building a complex, on-line learning experience that creates a sense of collegiality and belonging is a daunting task, but, Marjory’s hybrid of pedagogic strategies for developing a community of practice were trumpeted by both colleagues and students alike, with one even stating that the learning experience was life changing.  She is a very worthy winner of the annual Jinty Nelson award.” 


Dr John Cooper (University of York) was named runner-up for the 2020 Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching & Supervision in History. 

Dr John Cooper is (from October) a Reader in Early Modern History at the University of York. John has always been fascinated by the Tudors, especially their architecture and art. At York, he teaches a special subject on Thomas More, with a sideline in colonial American history. His recent research focuses on St Stephen’s Chapel Westminster, which became the first House of Commons in 1548. A career highlight was hearing his book The Queen’s Agent serialised on Radio 4. 

Judges citation:

John has a long track record of providing intellectual and pastoral support to PhD students and early career academics; indeed, those nominating him wrote warmly about the very serious time and energy he commits in going above and beyond the normal call of supervisory duties.  His support has sometimes made the crucial, positive difference for students and staff at what are amongst the most precarious of times in an academic career.  He is a worthy runner up for this year’s Jinty Nelson award.”


Past Winners


Innovation in Teaching Award

In 2019, the Society’s first Innovation in Teaching Award was awarded to Dr Sharon Webb and Dr James Baker (University of Sussex).

Judges citation: 

“Over the last four years Drs Webb and Baker have delivered a series of first-year digital history workshop/lectures taken by all undergraduates at the University of Sussex in either History or Art History. These radically update the notion of the ‘historian’s craft’ to include the skills and practices required to engage critically with online sources (both inherited and born digital). The programme is a unique response to the challenges posed by the changes in historical research and debate, designed to turn history undergraduates into digitally savvy, expert navigators of this new landscape of knowledge. What sets the series apart is the self-conscious way in which it seeks to intervene in the history curriculum more generally. By building a skills/apprenticeship model into first-year teaching, it lays the foundations for the development of advanced approaches in the second and third year. The guiding narrative is to move gradually from ‘Doing History in the Digital Age’ to ‘Doing Digital History’ – taking students from referencing, search, and using online databases to compiling datasets, digitisation, and making data visualisations. It is this accumulation of skills, and layering of multiple approaches, that creates a comprehensive and sophisticated understanding. Second-year students move on to modules on the analysis of historical networks and the technologies of print, and then in the third year to a co-taught module on digital archiving. These same skills are also re-enforced in teaching by colleagues across the degree. The first full cohort of students introduced to these skills in their first year have now graduated. Standards of research and practice have improved across the board.” 

Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching & Supervision in History

The 2019 Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching & Supervision in History was given to Professor Julia Crick (King’s College London). 

Judges citation: 

“Professor Julia Crick receives the Jinty Nelson Award in recognition of her superlative contribution to the teaching and mentoring of younger generations of historians. Palaeography is challenging but integral to the subject of history. It underpins so much else in the field, and manuscripts in particular are windows onto much that would otherwise be inaccessible. Professor Crick has spent a life time advocating the importance of Palaeography to the global academic community and has demonstrated this specifically through her teaching and mentoring. Throughout her career (including appointments at the universities of Cambridge and Exeter, and in her current position at King’s College London), Professor Crick has been a wonderful teacher, not just of Palaeography, but also in training students of any level to think critically, to ask questions, and to build historical arguments based on visual and physical evidence. Professor Crick’s classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels bring history and palaeography to life and she mentors research students in the same way, whether they are at King’s or elsewhere, in History or in another discipline. Crick treats her students more like peers than pupils, which creates a sense that the work can be valued and taken seriously even from a very early stage. Crick’s commitment to the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation is especially evident in her establishment of networks and events that highlight postgraduate research.  She has frequently organised seminars, symposia and conferences which include equal space for early career researchers. Over the course of her career, Professor Crick has demonstrated a wide-ranging and sustained commitment to inspiring and training new generations of historians to excel.”

The 2018 Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching & Supervision in History was given to Dr Julie Anderson (University of Kent).

Judges citation: 

“Dr Anderson is an outstanding undergraduate teacher of history and a creative and highly effective supervisor of postgraduate historians in her field. Her enthusiasm for her subject is clearly infectious, and she has inspired a whole cohort of students to work with her, studying the history of modern medicine and disabilities in both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The panel particularly liked the way she breaks down the daunting task of completing a doctorate into manageable steps or ‘milestones’, building both students’ confidence and their theoretical and transferable skills. Thus her PhD students are encouraged to maintain a clear schedule for researching and writing the thesis, but also to publish a book review, give conference presentations each year, submit an article for publication in year two, undertake placements and outreach activities outside academia, and train to teach undergraduates. The collaborative and supportive atmosphere she has established – combined with her sensitivity to the mental, and emotional struggles of postgraduate work – is much appreciated by her students and colleagues and will be an inspiration to others. In sum, her work provides a template of excellent supervision and teaching.”