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.

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: Two nominators are required (not more) and must include both a Fellow of the Society and a student or former student of the nominee(s).

Nominators should provide a statement in not more than 1000 words, and must include evidence from others. This might, for example, take the form of peer review, student feedback, evidence of impact beyond a single programme or university, 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.

2020 Prizes

Closing date for entries: 31 May 2020

All enquiries about the Prizes should be addressed to the Administrative Secretary, Imogen Evans, at:

Submit nomination.


Past Winners

The Society is delighted to announce the winners of the first Innovation in Teaching Award: Dr Sharon Webb and Dr James Baker (University of Sussex).

The judges commented:

‘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’.

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

The judges commented:

‘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).

The judges commented:

‘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’.