The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize
Nicholas Rogers, Crowds, Culture and Politics in Georgian Britain (Clarendon Press).
Crowds, Culture and Politics in Georgian Britain is a richly textured and brilliantly evocative study of the changing role of crowds in British politics in the period 1714-1821. In the tradition of Georges Rud and E.P. Thompson, but more extensively than either, it redefines the boundaries of the political sphere to include the pressures imposed by plebeian street activism. In this Dr. Rogers considers the popular uses of Jacobitism, the politics of war and dearth, resistance to the press gang, the instructive popularity of the court-martialed Admiral Keppel, the Gordon Riots, the celebration of political festivals, reactions to the French Revolution, questions of the gender of crowds and public space, and the popular demonstrations which accompanied the court’s rejection of Queen Caroline in 1820-21. To illuminate these incidents and issues Dr. Rogers marshals a body of evidence with both a light hand and great authority. But Crowds, Culture and Politics does more than illustrate more comprehensively than before the broad purchase of the crowd – or crowds – in Georgian politics. It examines with a wealth of sources the crowd’s quotidian and proto-nationalist, sectarian presence, as well as its more frequently explored radicalism. It places the actions of the crowd firmly in the context of the elite’s need of public affirmation. And it argues that in the 1790s changes in the popular organisation and mobilisation of crowds freed them from elite control and made their politics more self-consciously democratic. Dr. Rogers’ deftly argued, well paced and elegant book makes the study of the British crowd and British politics more convincingly nuanced, more subtly complex and more theoretically complete than its predecessors. Crowds, Culture and Politics is an original and exciting contribution to an important field of historical enquiry.
Victoria Dickenson, Drawn From Life : Science and Art in the Portrayal of the New World (University of Toronto Press)
Drawn From Life: Science and Art in the Portrayal of the New World is an innovative, lucidly written and beautifully illustrated account of how early modern European naturalists and their followers met the challenge of describing visually the plants and animals of the North American New World. It argues that they did so in ways that were, for them, quite new, and that the various aspects of this novelty, properly understood, can tell us much about the naturalists themselves and their world. Arguing that the style in which an image is produced and its historical meaning are not separable, and that an understanding of that style indispensably enriches historical understanding, Dr. Dickenson explores the significance of the particular images that constitute the work’s source materials. Thus, she considers the images found in early sixteenth-century maps of the northern New World, early travel books and records of voyages. She looks at a wide variety of botanical illustration and images of birds, beasts, fishes and flowers occurring and recurring from the sixteenth century to the early nineteenth in the wider European press. Throughout the work, she relates images to the texts in which they appeared, insisting that they can only be understood together.
Considering image and text together enables Dr. Dickenson to suggest what it meant to ‘draw from nature’ in the early sixteenth century and in the three centuries thereafter. It permits her to trace a transition – still incomplete – from interest in the natural world as a source of metaphor to interest in it as a real, magnificently-diverse ‘other’. She does so with a delicate ingenuity, an impressive grasp of the material history of the image, and a passionate conviction about the pertinence of her task.
Claire Dolan, Le notaire, la famille et la ville (Aix-en-Provence la fin du XVIe siècle) (Presses universitaires du Mirail)
Le Notaire, la famille et la ville (Aix-en-Provence la fin du XVIe siècle is a work of meticulous, methodologically acute scholarship that weaves urban and notarial history into an account of the family, the transmission of property, and the social processes of urban and professional life in the capital of Provence at the end of the sixteenth century.
Dr. Dolan’s book consists in part of an immensely valuable history of the early modern family as revealed in the disposition of family property. Here she offers many insights, including a convincing analysis of the history of the notaries themselves, tracing with great skill their careers, families, origins and social ascent. But the book also uncovers the broader patters of immigration, integration and social mobility in early modern urban life.
The Ferguson Prize Committee jurors were impressed not only by the extent of the research Dr. Dolan has undertaken and the number of fields in sixteenth-century French history that she explores and illuminates, but also by her careful reflective, and often innovative interrogation of her sources. They concluded that Le Notaire, la famille et la ville is a highly significant contribution to current scholarship on sixteenth-century France and to early modern European history in general.