Book Prize Winners 2018

The Social History Society has been encouraging and promoting innovative scholarship since founded in 1974. In 2018, we established a new Social History Society Book Prize. After reviewing all the submissions, the judges have unanimously decided on the inaugural winner.

The winner of the 2018 Social History Society Book Prize is:

Sleep in Early Modern England by Sasha Handley (Yale University Press)

The book, which was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize and the Longman-History Today History Prize, reveals that the way we sleep is as dependent on culture as it is on biological and environmental factors. After 1660 the accepted notion that sleepers lay at the mercy of natural forces and supernatural agents was challenged by new medical thinking about sleep’s relationship to the nervous system. This breakthrough coincided with radical changes shaping everything from sleeping hours to bedchambers. Handley’s illuminating work documents a major evolution in our conscious understanding of the unconscious.

The judges commented in particular on the book’s novelty, and on the rich and thoroughly researched study of an important part of everyday life to which historians have paid little attention. The readers described the book as a significant contribution to social and cultural history, and an interesting and thought-provoking volume.

Dr Handley said: “I am honoured to be the first recipient of the Social History Society Book Prize. Having been trained as a social and cultural historian at the University of Warwick, I couldn’t be more delighted that my book has been singled out as a valuable contribution to this dynamic field.”

You can find out more about the history of sleep from the latest issue of BBC History Magazine, the History Extra podcast and Sasha’s website at

The judges were also unanimous in their decision to name Jon Stobart and Mark Rothery, Consumption and the Country House (Oxford University Press) as runner up for the 2018 Social History Society Book Prize.

They agreed that the book sheds new light on the culture and internal structure of eighteenth-century country houses and on patterns of consumption and trade at a time when both were expanding. They were particularly impressed by the new insight offered into the everyday material culture of this vital social space, and the scholarly and original use of sources.

Professor Pamela Cox, Chair of the Social History Society, said: “We’re delighted to be able to launch our book prize with these two very worthy first and second prize winners.

The prize was awarded at the Social History Society conference in June 2018. You can watch the announcement and see an interview with the winners below.