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Winners of the Dr Greg Wells Undergraduate Essay Prizes, 2019

At the summer graduation of July 2019 the CSR awarded for the third time its Greg Wells Prizes for the best undergraduate intermediate-year and final-year essays and dissertation. We would like to thank all of our colleagues who submitted essays for entry into the prize this year, and to those who acted as adjudicators - Catherine Bates, Bobby Xinyue, Felicita Tramontana, Brenda Hosington, Giacomo Comiati and Stephen Bates, to whom we are most grateful for giving their time. We received 16 (pre-selected) entries and the winners were:

Intermediate year essay, Charity Culley (History of Art), with her essay entitled: ‘Compare how the visual arts were used as instruments of self-promotion in Northern and Southern centres.’ The adjudicators in this category said,

“This essay is a good piece of research work in terms of originality, quality of research, writing skills, and breadth of its ambition. The candidate made a clear and impressive attempt to cover both the differences between Northern and Southern Renaissance art and the pros and cons of various art mediums in self-promotion, by taking into consideration both patrons and artists in their conception of ‘self’. The essay was helped by a concise, well-judged introduction and a clear structure. Paragraphs were coherent, although greater sign-posting could have assisted the reader. The employment of primary source quotes was particularly pleasing and there was some critical engagement with secondary material. The overall style was clear and, coupled with the essay’s organisation, it was a pleasure to read”.

Final year essay, Francesca Farnell (History) with her essay entitled: ‘Martyring Margaret Clitherow: The Significance of Gender, Catholicism and the State in an Elizabethan Martyrdom.’ The adjudicators in this category said,

“This essay on Catholic martyrdom in Elizabethan England, “Martyring Margaret Clitherow: The Significance of Gender, Catholicism and the State in an Elizabethan Martyrdom”, shows an excellent knowledge of the subject matter and an impressive degree of critical acumen, and is therefore worthy of this year’s Greg Wells Essay Prize. Relying on Foucauldian theory, the essay provides a brilliant analysis of Margaret Clitherow’s virtuous life and violent death. Highlighting the symbiotic relationship between her femininity and her martyrdom, it offers an original contribution to the existing literature in the field, demonstrating the importance of gender in the construction of Catholic martyrdom. Through an attentive analysis of the sources, the author convincingly argues that Elizabethan restrictive gender norms could paradoxically facilitate women’s resistance and that, more broadly, the female body constituted a battlefield upon which notions of politics, religion and patriarchy confronted one another. The author displays a thorough knowledge of the political and social context, a solid critical approach to the primary source, and a remarkable ability to engage critically with secondary literature. The essay is well and authoritatively written and the argument is clear and well-constructed. In short, this is an impressive essay worthy of formal recognition of academic excellence.”

Final year dissertation, Alex Verge (History) with his dissertation entitled: ‘What do the ties between Venice and Persia during the early modern period teach about ‘East-West’ narratives?’ The adjudicators in this category said,

““The dissertation provides a compelling, revisionist account of relations between the two states, substantially nuancing simplistic binary models of Muslim East/Christian West, and arguing persuasively against any ‘clear-cut dichotomy that suggests Europe and the Middle East evolved separately in their respective systems’ (p.3). Drawing on hitherto under-examined diplomatic records dating from the mid-fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries, it considers rather how two international ‘sub-systems’ interacted to form part of a larger geo-political whole. While the relation between Venice and the Ottomans has already been analysed in these terms, the dissertation usefully extends the model to include the more distant but equally important Persian Empire. Taking full account of the cultural differences between them, the dissertation uncovers how much the two states had in common: above all, a calculated self-interest that goes a long way toward explaining apparent failures (e.g. to agree to make war on their common enemy, the Turks, where commercial interests were at stake). Countering Eurocentric arguments that attribute different levels of political and economic development to East and West, the dissertation shows that both shared a common political reasoning, the origin of today’s ‘world system’ of international relations. It thus successfully makes the case for a ‘more integrated view of Eurasian politics and state development’ It is a highly intelligent piece of writing, well-argued and well–supported. It asks important, interesting, and timely questions and gives genuinely revisionary answers”