Whitfield Prize

The Whitfield Book Prize has become one of the most sought after book prizes for early career historians. It was established by the Royal Historical Society in 1976 at the bequest of Professor Archibald Stenton Whitfield, who was a Fellow of the Society from June 1916 until his death in 1974. The prize offers an annual award of £1,000 for a work on British or Irish history that is the author’s first sole book publication.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the prize the book must:

  • be its author’s first solely written history book;
  • be on a subject within a field of British or Irish history;
  • be an original and scholarly work of historical research by an author who received their doctoral degree from a British or Irish university;
  • have been published in English during the calendar year 2021. Only printed and e-books bearing a 2021 copyright date are eligible for consideration in the current round. Books issued by publishers in the final weeks of 2021 which bear a copyright date of 2021 will be eligible for nomination in 2021.

Books focused on Atlantic World, British imperial, and trans-national contexts for British and Irish history should be entered for the Gladstone Prize. The Chair of the Whitfield Prize Committee will make the final decision as to the eligibility of each submitted volume. The Chairs of the Whitfield Prize Committee and the Gladstone Prize Committee will together decide which competition is most appropriate for any books falling between the criteria for each prize.

Publishers are invited to nominate their books. (Please note authors cannot submit their own work.)

The publisher should complete the Entry Form and submit one copy (non-returnable) of the eligible book by 31 December 2021. Books should be sent to the Administrative Secretary, Royal Historical Society, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT. Should the book be short-listed, two further copies will be required.

The prize-winners are announced at the Society’s Annual Reception.

All enquiries about the Prize should be addressed to the RHS Membership and Administration Officer at: membership@royalhistsoc.org

 

2021 Winners

The Whitfield Prize for 2021 was jointly awarded to Jackson Armstrong and Lauren Working.

 

Jackson Armstrong, England’s Northern Frontier: Conflict and Local Society in the Fifteenth-Century Scottish Marches (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Judges’ citation:

In this deeply researched and reflective volume, Jackson W. Armstrong has supplied the first book-length study of England’s far north in the fifteenth century: that, alone, is a major achievement. But by applying a sophisticated approach to frontiers, the book also reconsiders the idea of ‘north’ and its supposed lawlessness, breaking new ground in challenging received ideas that marcher society in this period was that of an exceptional—and exceptionally violent—‘marginal’ border region.

Using an impressive repertoire of approaches, and a wide range of published and archival sources, Armstrong shows that the Scottish marches were well integrated with the rest of the realm of England so far as governance was concerned.

 

Laura Working, England’s Northern Frontier: Conflict and Local Society in the Fifteenth-Century Scottish Marches (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Judges’ citation:

This masterful study of Jacobean political culture significantly shifts our understanding of its imperial nature. Lauren Working weaves together material history, political thought, and historical anthropology to show that settler colonialism was central to the self-understanding of Jacobean political actors. She deftly unpicks the connections between settler plantation and domestic estate management, and shows how metaphors of cannibalism were used to equate Catholics with Native Americans, while legitimating and masking the violence of the colonial project itself.

By placing America at the heart of the Jacobean polity, rather than on its periphery, Working reveals that the idea of English civility was expansionist and imperial from the outset. Elegantly written and compellingly argued, her book makes a major contribution to the field.

 
Past Whitfield prize winners