Article on Old English Bede, Book on Frankish Formulae, win Royal Historical Society prizes

The Royal Historical Society announced their awards for outstanding historical scholarship and achievement earlier this summer, and two young medievalists came out as winners. George Molyneaux of Oxford University won the Alexander Prize for his article “The Old English Bede: English Ideology or Christian Instruction?”, while Dr. Alice Rio of King’s College, London, received the Gladstone History Book Prize for her volume Legal Practice and the Written Word in the Early Middle Ages. Frankish Formulae, c.500-1000.

These and other awards were handed out on June 30th during the Royal Historical Society’s annual Prothero Lecture. The prizes were all based on works published in the 2009 calendar year.

The Alexander Prize is awarded for a published scholarly journal article or an essay in a collective volume, and is open to doctoral candidates and early career historians. George Molyneaux’s article, which was published in the English Historical Review, deals with Old English Bede, a vernacular version of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica, which was written sometime before c.900 and has abbreviated or excluded large portion’s of Bede’s original work.

The judges noted in their decision that, “George Molyneaux’s article subjects the Old English translation of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica to close scrutiny. By studying the strategies adopted by the translator, not least his numerous omissions or abbreviations, doubt is cast on the notion that the English were believed to be a single chosen people who enjoyed a special relationship with God. Learned, penetrating and unfailingly lucid, this is a highly impressive article. The author analyses with great skill a body of material that is diverse, fragmented and technically very difficult to master, expressing the fruits of his scholarship in a clear, elegant, narrative voice. His conclusions will contribute much to the debate about the nature and political significance of English consciousness in the ninth and tenth centuries.”

Dr. Alice Rio was also given the Gladstone History Book Prize, which goes to a history book published in Britain on any topic that is not primarily British history. To be eligible for the prize the book must be its author’s first solely written book on a historical subject which is not primarily related to British history.

In handing out the award, the judges said, “This work is a formidable achievement on many levels. It is methodologically innovative, forging a new path for our understanding of early medieval Merovingian and Carolingian society. Written in a crisp and readable style, it adopts an engaging approach which renders its subject relevant for historians of any period. Drawing upon meticulous research in French, German, Italian and Latin, Alice Rio asks us to rethink the utility of a source often dismissed as unusable: legal formulae, the compilations made by scribes in which data about historical context were stripped out to create instructive case studies for contemporaries or later generations. While critiquing the way these sources were catalogued by nineteenth-century German scholars, Dr Rio provides an ambitious alternative methodology. She then demonstrates the rewards of a flexible approach, testing her theories in a case study of early medieval slavery or ‘unfreedom’. The judges felt that the book engaged with major historical questions and was also highly reflective about the practice of history as a whole. In short, it is a work which transcends its time period and offers salutary lessons for any historian.”

Dr Paul Readman, head of the History Department at King’s College, commented, “I was delighted to see Alice Rio win the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize. This award provides yet further demonstration of the strength of medieval history at King’s, and of the College’s commitment to outstanding scholarship for scholarship’s sake. Alice is a young historian who is fast establishing a formidable reputation; this is in fact the second time she has been honoured by an award from the Royal Historical Society!”

Click here to access the article “The Old English Bede: English Ideology or Christian Instruction?

Click here to read a review of Legal Practice and the Written Word in the Early Middle Ages: Frankish Formulae, c.500-1000

Sources: Royal Historical Society, King’s College London

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