RHS Publication, Research and Teaching Awards, 2021

by | Jul 23, 2021 | General, RHS Work | 0 comments

In a video ceremony at 5PM on Friday 23 July, the Royal Historical Society announced its Publication, Teaching and Fellowship Awards for 2021.

The ceremony also included the Society’s annual joint fellowships with the Institute of Historical Research, along with the IHR’s annual prizes for research. The Awards are an opportunity to recognise and celebrate just some of the excellent work in research, publishing and teaching undertaken by historians in 2020-21.

Thank you to everyone who submitted entries for the 2021 Awards, and especially to the judges — from History departments across the UK — who gave their time to review hundreds of high-quality books, articles and teaching projects.



Award Ceremony Video

The 2021 Awards ceremony is available to watch here. Thanks to all who contributed to the video — especially our host for the evening, Dr Andrew Smith (University of Chichester and RHS Hon. Director of Communications), and our video editor, Amelia Lampitt.


This Year’s Awards: winners and runners-up

Full details of all the 2021 Awards appear below by prize category. Many congratulations from the RHS to this year’s winners, runners-up and all those who were shortlisted.  



For the best published scholarly journal article or essay on a subject dealing with Scottish history

Awarded to: Dr Stuart McManus (Chinese University of Hong Kong) for Scots at the Council of Ferrara-Florence and the Background to the Scottish Renaissance’, The Catholic Historical Review (Summer 2020)

Judges’ citation: Stuart’s article offers the first study of the Scottish presence at the Council of Ferrara-Florence. It aims to show that educated and well connected Scots were present in one of the premier cultural centres of the early Renaissance such that the flowering of classicising culture in Scotland a generation later comes as no surprise. This is a strikingly original piece of work originality, based on painstaking research using very limited sources.

The results of this research are impressive, first, for setting in better context the emergence of Renaissance ideals in Scotland and, second, in underlining the importance of ecumenical councils like that of Ferrara-Florence in understanding the longer history of European cultural integration.




For the best published scholarly journal article or an essay in a collective volume based upon original historical research

Awarded to: Matthew Birchall (University of Auckland) for History, Sovereignty, Capital: Company Colonisation in South Australia and New Zealand, Journal of Global History, 16 (2021).

Judges’ citation: The panel members agreed that this was an exceptionally thoughtful paper, beautifully written and critically incisive. Not only does virtual show us that private enterprise and capital investment shaped British settlement and immigration to South Australia and New Zealand during the 1830s, but he also shows that associated colonial initiatives in North America had set important precedents that legitimised these capital-driven projects.

We admired its ambition and scope and noted that as a scholarly exercise in lateral thinking and critical research this article is an exceptionally strong contribution.




For the best dissertation submitted as part of a one-year full-time (or two-year part-time) postgraduate Master’s degree in any United Kingdom institution of Higher Education

Awarded to: Tom Parkinson (University of Cambridge) for ‘Space, Time and the Body: Muharram in Nineteenth-Century Singapore’ 

Judges’ citation: This was an outstanding study of Islamic practice in Singapore which explored the various cross-cutting influences on the island and the city, looking at culture and the economic and political pressures which were reflected in changing religious practice. This was a clear-cited and well-written analysis throughout which made for an excellent read, separating the chapters into themes of space, time and body was a skilful and elegant way of exploring this topic.

An excellent dissertation which reflected meaningfully on race, gender, power and place using the rhythms and rights of religious observation to explore and unpick the intersecting tensions of empire during a period of profound change for Singapore.


  • Amy Smith (University of Bristol) for ‘A Rise of the Spirit of Individualism? Group petitioning and the performance of neighbourliness in early modern Worcestershire’ (MA, 2020, Bristol)



For a first monograph on a subject not primarily relating to British or Irish History, published in the UK during 2020

Awarded to: Dr Tom Stammers (Durham University) for The Purchase of the Past: Collecting Culture in Post-Revolutionary Paris, c.1790–1890 (Cambridge University Press)

Judges’ citation: ‘In this erudite survey of the culture of collecting in post-Revolutionary Paris, Tom Stammers demonstrates how the private trade and acquisition of historical artefacts was used to access and (re)imagine the recent French past. Exploring the complicated relationships between private collectors, public institutions, and the various post-revolutionary regimes, the book exposes the vital role played by material culture in the construction and contestation of historical consciousness in this tumultuous era.

Much like the nineteenth century collectors who are the subject of his book, Stammers has gone to impressive lengths to track, collate and display a wealth of evidence in support of his arguments. The result is a richly detailed and fascinating study that ranges widely in terms of chronology, historical actors, and type of artefact.

Watch Tom Stammers introduce his winning book.



For a first monograph on a subject relating to British or Irish History, published in the UK during 2020

Jointly awarded to: Dr Jackson Armstrong (University of Aberdeen) for England’s Northern Frontier: Conflict and Local Society in the Fifteenth-Century Scottish Marches (Cambridge University Press)

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. 

Watch Jackson Armstrong introduce his winning book.

Jointly awarded to: Dr Lauren Working (University of Oxford) for The Making of an Imperial Polity: Civility and America in the Jacobean Metropolis (Cambridge University Press)

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.

Watch Lauren Working introduce her winning book.



Awarded to: Dr Lucinda Matthews-Jones (Liverpool John Moores University)

Judges’ citation: Lucinda Matthews-Jones has introduced forms of learning and assessment which develop enquiry and communication skills in her undergraduate modules which the judges deemed to be both innovative and inspirational. Teaching sessions give students the opportunity to handle and interpret a broad range of archival materials and go on to develop their skills in Public History and heritage through the creation of exhibits, exhibitions and other creative ‘outputs’ such as songs, children’s books, podcasts, radio shows, documentaries, film, newspapers, blogs and so on.

Lucinda’s approach is based on careful research of a range of educational theories which have investigated the value of active learning and authentic assessment as vehicles for empowerment, inclusion and relevance to professional practice and lifelong learning. Her pedagogic model has been recognised by her own University with a prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s award; it has been adopted by other higher education institutions in the UK; and is also supporting best practice in Sixth-Form colleges. We commend her work for the excellence and enjoyment it is bringing to teaching, learning and assessment not only in history, but also in other disciplines.


Dr Nicholas Evans (University of Hull)

Judges’ citation: Dr Nicholas Evans conceived and developed the ‘Hull History Network’ in 2019, to provide students with opportunities to enhance their employment prospects in a part of the country where there is a shortage of graduate jobs. In that time, even during lockdown, he has created links with local business, heritage and educational organisations; and through bespoke work placements, has given scores of students an opportunity to simultaneously deepen their knowledge of history and their understanding of the world of work. Nicholas’ work on this project is rooted in his deep commitment to giving students from all walks of life the ability to learn beyond the classroom.

His support is wide-ranging, from the writing of CVs and completing application forms, to team working and public engagement. It is no surprise that his work has already been recognised with several awards by his own students and colleagues. The panel of judges were in full agreement that his inspirational work was also worthy of recognition by the RHS.




Awarded to: Dr Jamie Wood (University of Lincoln)

Judges’ citation: Reading is a core activity for historians, yet we spend very little time teaching our students how to do this in a way which specifically develops their disciplinary expertise. However, Dr Jamie Wood, of the University of Lincoln has recognised the issues that some of his students particularly have in reading ‘difficult’ secondary texts and primary sources and taken innovative steps to address them. His strategic deployment of Talis Elevate software to devise an online environment which allows students to read, annotate, comment on, share and discuss texts in an online environment impressed all the judges.

In evaluating the impact of his work, Dr Wood has found that consistently high levels of student engagement have been accompanied by academic improvement. Moreover, the dissemination of his innovative practice has not only had an impact across his home institution, but also beyond and, notably, beyond our discipline.


Dr Charlotte Crouch and Mr Will Bailey-Watson (University of Reading)

Judges’ citation: History PhD students often have a very limited awareness of pedagogy when they begin teaching. Will Bailey-Watson and Charlotte Crouch, both from the University of Reading, carefully theorised, designed and implemented an innovative two-way developmental model of collaborative learning between PhD and Secondary Education PGCE students, to foster mutually beneficial approaches to what they call ‘critical curriculum thinking’.

Operating since 2018, and systematically evaluated and refined each year, their work with several student cohorts has caught the attention of universities, the OCR exam board and even (for all the right reasons!) Ofsted. We commend them for creating this innovative and effective community of practice.



For the best paper presented at an Institute of Historical Research seminar by a postgraduate student or by a researcher within one year of completing the PhD

Awarded to: Dr Merve Fejzula (University of Missouri) for ‘Toward a history of intellectual labor: gender, negritude, and the Black public sphere’, given at the ‘IHR Political Thought and Intellectual History Seminar’

Judges’ citation: The judges agreed that this is a fantastically insightful thought piece on visibility in what we might call public intellectualism, with a focus specifically on women and their roles as organisers and also black intellectuals. The primary source analysis comes from personal archives interviews, FBI files and structural analysis of the congresses and publications of negritude.


Lucy Clarke (University of Oxford) for ‘”I say I must for I am the King’s shrieve”: magistrates invoking the monarch’s name in 1 Henry VI (1592) and The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntingdon (1598)’, given at the ‘IHR Tudor and Stuart History Seminar’

Judges’ citation: The judges described Lucy’s paper as an excellent multi-disciplinary study which really used the plays as sources in relevant ways. It’s a very sophisticated examination of the intersections between literary form and everyday experience, soundly theorised and with careful attention and extensive consideration of primary sources.




For an essay on a theme related to the history of early modern Britain

Awarded to: Eloise Davies (University of Cambridge) for ‘Reformed but not converted: Paolo Sarpi, the English mission in Venice and conceptions of religious change’.

Judges’ citation: At its core Eloise Davies’ essay is a life of William Bedell, chaplain between 1607 and 1611 to Sir Henry Wotton, English ambassador to Venice. The overall argument is that ecumenically-minded Englishmen had a good deal in common with anti-papal Venetians such as Paolo Sarpi. This is a thoughtful and wide-ranging essay that develops our understanding of early modern religious belief and confessional allegiance. The concepts of ‘conversion’, ‘reform’, reformation’ and ‘refuge’ are subtly assessed. This is a worthy prize-winner.




Awarded to: Dan Armstrong (University of St Andrews) for research on Anglo-Papal Relations, c.1066-c.1135

Dan aims to make the first comprehensive reassessment of the relationship between the kingdom of England and Rome since Z.N. Brooke’s book written 90 years ago. Dan’s thesis therefore intends to dismantle this anachronistic scaffolding of conflict between church and state, arguing that any Anglo-Papal friction was situational as opposed to structural, with the norm being consensus and compromise.

Awarded to: Petros Spanou (University of Oxford) for research on ‘The Crimean moment and crucible: just war, principles of peace and debates in Victorian wartime thought and culture, 1854-1856’.

Petros’s doctoral research examines the complex ways in which the idea of just war and the principles of the British peace movement framed important, yet hitherto overlooked, religious, intellectual, political and cultural debates during the Crimean War.
Where earlier historians have studied the war intensively as an episode in diplomatic and military history, Petros’s research seeks to advance fresh perspectives on the war’s cultural impact and place in Victorian consciousness.




Awarded to: Humaira Chowdhury (University of Cambridge) for research on: ‘Hanging By a Thread: A Social and Economic History of Muslim Tailors (Darzis) in Calcutta, 1947-1967’

Humaira is working on Muslim artisanal communities in Bengal and India after partition in 1947. Her research aims to bring together two different strands of literature on immobility and artisan agency in the context of Muslim stayers-on in West Bengal.

Awarded to: Sonali Dhanpal (University of Newcastle) for research on: ‘Contested Bangalore: Caste, colonial and princely politics’.

Sonali is studying the city of Bangalore, south India, in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Breaking new ground on colonial urbanism in South Asia, her research focuses on Bangalore, a capital of a princely state, examining residential extensions and housing between the late 19th and early 20th century.

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