Book Prize Results

The Social History Society Book Prize rewards the best original works of social and cultural history by established authors. The prize is awarded by an independent panel of judges commissioned by society.

We are delighted to announce that this year’s prize has been awarded to Professor Laura Gowing for Ingenious Trade: Women and Work in Seventeenth-Century London (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

The book recovers the intricate stories of young women who came to London to earn their own living. The judges praised her use of legal records to reveal the complexity of women’s working lives from adolescence to old age.

Laura Gowing is Professor of Early Modern History at King’s College, London, and the author of numerous books and articles on sex, language, the body and other aspects of women’s history in early modern England. She is also one of the editors of History Workshop Journal.

She told us:

I’m delighted and honoured to receive this prize. It also recognises all the important new feminist research on early modern women’s work, demonstrating the centrality of labour, business, employment, training and skill to women’s lives. Alongside the compelling stories of legal records, I drew heavily on digitised data to uncover women’s part in the economic and social networks of early modern communities. Thinking about the human relationships involved in skilled work, and the overlap of household and labour relations, was particularly pointed during the isolations of the pandemic.

This year’s runner up was Professor Simon Morgan of Leeds Beckett University for Celebrities, Heroes and Champions: Popular Politicians in the Age of Reform, 1810-67 (Manchester University Press, 2021).

Simon told us:

The idea for this book came when I realised that by the nineteenth-century, popular political culture overlapped with and fed into broader practices of celebrity and hero worship that had been little studied. I decided that the only way to examine these connections properly was to look across a diverse range of extra-parliamentary causes usually studied in isolation, and I’m thrilled that the prize committee enjoyed the result.

Laura Gowing and Simon Morgan were presented with their prizes at the society’s annual conference. Professor Naomi Tadmor, chair of the Social History Society, congratulated both authors for their impressive research and creative use of archival sources to open up new avenues for social and cultural history.