At the 11th ESSHC conference Valencia 2016
The award was established by the ESSHC in July 2012 on the occasion of Jan Lucassen’s mandatory retirement as professor of international and comparative social history at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and as senior researcher at the IISH. He happily accepted this present as well as the chair of the jury.
The original award consisted – as announced in the official conference programme - of a cash prize of € 500 and a one year subscription to the International Review of Social History, available for the winning paper, but subsequently an anonymous donator enabled the ESSHC to double the sum for this as well as for the upcoming conferences to € 1000. We will explain in a minute how we have decided to spend this sum.
This award is for “the best paper at the ESSHC by a PhD student”, which should be written in English with a maximum length of no more than 8,000 words. Besides, the paper should be submitted digitally to the jury, accompanied by a short letter of recommendation by the PhD supervisor by 1 February 2016.
1) The paper should be based on original research;
2) It should be innovative;
3) It should explicitly strive to explain historical phenomena using the methods of social sciences;
4) Papers with an international comparative approach are preferred.
The jury 2016
Prof. Dr. Jan Lucassen, emeritus-professor international and comparative social history Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, honorary fellow IISH (chair)
Professor Dr. Christine Moll-Murata, Fakultät für Ostasienwissenschaften, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Prof. Dr. Peer Vries, Universitätsprofessor Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte Universität Wien (because of health problems he could participate only partially)
The work of the jury
The award was advertised as follows: “When you register for the conference you can select the box in the registration form that you wish to enter your paper if accepted in the program, or you can send an e-mail to the conference organizer to apply.” Initially the jury feared to become overwhelmed by papers as there were some 75 pre-registrations for the award but when February 1st 2016 came nearer, it turned out that only 6 papers meeting all formal requirements had to be assessed. If it is accepted that this is the result of a natural pre-selection, the members of the jury can only be grateful. On the other hand the jury sincerely hopes that its work will increase substantially in 2018.
First, the jury members have assessed all 6 papers independently and given a maximum of 5 points for each of the four main criteria. Their individual rankings turned out to be reasonably compatible and by comparing and discussing their results the jury members have come to a unanimous decision. In this process Els Hiemstra has been a great help, for which the jury would like to thank her.
Three papers distinguish themselves from the others, which is not to say that the others are not good or not interesting. They all are in one way or another. However, this is a competition which means comparing and finally ranking.
The jury is happy to see that the geographical and thematic scope of the papers is as wide as two years ago, and also that applications study in many different countries, though the chronological scope is more narrow than two years ago;
chronologically: only one on the Early-modern Period and the nineteenth century and five on the twentieth century, even stretching up to 2008;
geographically: China, Sweden, the Ukraine, Spain, the Spanish and the British colonies in Africa;
thematically: women’s resistance against colonialism and paternalism, the relation between weather shocks, cash crop production and social upheaval, Mediterranean and especially catholic and fascist ideas about the Welfare State, the spread of child psychiatric and psychological expertise, and the long run relation between economic development and population density;
the candidates are based at the universities of Cambridge (2 x), Leeds, Linköping, Utrecht, and Wageningen (2 nominations, 3 candidates).
Nearly all applicants have sufficiently met the first two criteria (“The paper should be based on original research” and “It should be innovative”). We conclude that the other two criteria offer much more problems to most of the authors. Our request “to explain historical phenomena using the methods of social sciences” is obviously not an easy one. Most candidates, however, do meet that criteria by carefully considering conceptual issues, less so however as regards research methods. Obviously – and as remarked two years ago - the most difficult requirement is our criteria that “Papers with an international comparative approach are preferred.”
The Honourable Mentions
In a strictly alphabetical order the two “Honourable Mentions” are:
1. Joanna Allan (University of Leeds; supervisors Manuel Barcía Paz and Richard Cleminson): “Women’s Intersectional Resistance in Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea under Spanish Colonialism”
The author is interested in the relationship between constructions of gender and strategies of resistance in Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara under Spanish Colonialism . Based on late-colonial sources from the Franco era and on interviews she concludes that subaltern women, on top of anti-colonial struggles, resisted inequalities that had their roots in pre-colonial gender and racial norms, although to a certain extent they went well together with patriarchy and racisms that the Spanish imported. Therefore, she concludes, “we should not just read the subaltern through a gendered and raced lens, but gender and race Subaltern Studies itself.”
2. Paco Ruzzante (Affiliation, University of Cambridge, Trinity Hall College; supervisor Pedro Ramos Pinto ): “Beveridge Calling: The Report and the Spanish Social Catholicism, 1942-1948”
This paper draws our well-deserved attention to the Mediterranean, more in particular the Iberian and Spanish models of welfare and the Welfare State. Far less known and studied than its northwest-European sisters (esp. those in England and Germany) they are nevertheless part and parcel of the European legacy. Paco focuses on the impact of the famous Beveridge report of 1942 (Social Insurance and Allied Services) on both Catholic thinkers and bureaucratic elites in Spain. Its impact was considerable because Beveridge accepted an invitation to come to Spain in person in order to discuss his plan.
The Jury would like to take the opportunity to make a footnote as William Beveridge not only was a prominent figure in the politics and public debate of his times, but that he also is one of the founding fathers of our academic field of interest and – in a way – of the ideas behind the ESSHC. In 1929 he personally took the initiative to set up the International Scientific Committee for the History of Prices and Wages, together with Nicolaas Posthumus, Henri Hauser and others.
By sheer coincidence here in Valencia the jury has selected two honourable mentions which happen to be strongly related to Spain, though the first prize is located geographically somewhere else. Not in Spain, not even in Europe although the topic cannot be seen without its European entanglements.
The First Prize
Kostadis J. Papaioannou (Wageningen and Utrecht University) & Michiel de Haas (Wageningen University), supervisor Ewout Frankema
This is a well-written paper with a wide scope. Kostadis and Michiel investigate the effects of weather shocks on social upheaval among African smallholders in British colonial Africa between 1920 and 1939. They use primarily quantitative, but also, luckily, qualitative sources. The former ones are, first, weather statistics (rainfall deviation, i. e. extreme rainfall as well as extreme drought) as a proxy for harvest failure and as a consequence economic misfortune among smallholders. The second set of quantitative sources are prison statistics as a proxy for social tension, including increased frequency of petty crime as well as livestock raids and thefts.
The paper is innovative as it offers not only climatic and economic explanations for social phenomena, but also because it takes the argument one step further by discussing the impact of agricultural commercialization on smallholders. Those who cultivated cash crops experienced lower levels of social upheaval in years of abnormal rainfall. Here we are at the heart of one of the biggest debates in our field.
The authors are careful and wise enough not to claim the final solution for this problem. They make clear that many questions have to be answered now: is the effect of cash crops on resilience primarily channelled through higher private household income or through public infrastructure and food aid programs? Does it matter which cash crops are adopted? Do we see here long-term or short-term effects? And what about alternatives for smallholder agriculture, like settler agriculture, mining and industrialization?
The paper is exceptionally strong in the international comparative approach, since it the statistical relations between these two series are tested for no less than 151 districts across West, South-Central and East Africa, which may be considered to be representative for the entire sub-Saharan continent.
As with all good work, it raises new questions. The jury in particular thinks that the relation between social upheaval and imprisonment rates needs more careful thinking – as the authors mention already themselves. For example, the strategies involved in seeking out imprisonment as a last resort to obtain food and basic health care deserve more attention.