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Winners of the Dr Greg Wells Undergraduate Essay Prizes, 2023

During July 2023 the CSR awarded for the seventh time, its Greg Wells Prizes for the best undergraduate intermediate-year and final-year essays and dissertation. Thanks again to all of those who nominated essays for the prize this year – once again, the standard was very high. Thanks also to our adjudicators, Sophia Li, Giorgio Lizzul, Aidan Norrie, Maria Pavlova, Margaret Shewring and Simona Valeriani, to whom we are most grateful for giving their time. The winners were:

Intermediate year essay: Robert Couchman (SMLC) for an essay entitled: ‘Describe Florence with regards to its distribution of wealth and explain to what extent this was unique or not in Italy.’ The adjudicators in this category said,

"The essay is based on considerable research, is well argued, and has moments of genuine originality. The author should be commended for drawing on a range of methodologies from the humanities, social sciences, and economics, and for combining economic enquiry with thorough contextual analysis. We were impressed to see a willingness to engage with quantitative analysis, in particular comparing Gini coefficients, which is all too often shied away from. As befits an essay submitted for a Centre for the Study of the Renaissance award, the author has drawn on sources in a number of languages and has shown a good awareness of a range of historiographical traditions. We appreciated the author’s comparison of much less studied urban centres of the Italian Renaissance, such as Bergamo and Verona, alongside the much better-known case of Florence and its catasto. The connections between the inequalities of Florence in the early fifteenth century and those facing the world today make for stark reading, and it is particularly encouraging to see the author demonstrate the value of studying the past in the present."

Final year essay: Daisy Shead (History) for an essay entitled: ‘Alice of Antioch’s 1130 coup d'état as described by William of Tyre: A Close Reading’. The adjudicators in this category said,

"The adjudicators thought that this was an extremely well-researched, well-thought-out and well-written piece of work. It stands out from the other submissions due to its exceptional clarity of analysis and excellent structure. Within the constraints of a short essay, the student made a compelling case for reassessing the reliability of William of Tyre’s chronicle, convincingly showing that William’s treatment of Alice of Antioch reveals a number of biases. The essay makes an important point about the need to reassess our assumptions about women’s role in medieval history by re-examining and recontextualizing the available (mostly male-authored) sources. The student’s detailed and sophisticated analysis of her primary source is underpinned by a robust methodology, which one does not see very often in undergraduate work. The essay shows excellent awareness of secondary literature and the student is capable of independent thinking and engaging with secondary works in a critical and analytical way. In a nutshell, this is a very impressive undergraduate essay and as such it deserves to be acknowledged with a prize."Final year dissertation: Caitlin Garner (History) for a piece of work entitled ‘How and why has Elizabeth I’s image influenced representations of English monarchs and the formation of national identity during the modern period, c.1792-2022?’ The adjudicators in this category said,

Final year dissertation: Caitlin Garner (History) for her work entitled: 'How and why has Elizabeth I’s image influenced representations of English monarchs and the formation of national identity during the modern period, c.1792-2022?'

"In the opinion of the judging panel, taking into account the breadth, depth, originality, quality of research, intellectual rigour, and writing style, this dissertation deserves the essay prize. The quality and variety of the primary and secondary sources deployed to construct a convincing argument is truly impressive, encompassing different genres such as visual sources, state papers and a variety of printed primary materials. This dissertation also offers a good historiographical overview. The three case studies that probe the symbolic visual communication of the representations of Queen Elizabeth I at three critical historical moments – during the Napoleonic threat to Britain, during Queen Victoria’s reign, and after the demise of Elizabeth II – demonstrate the author’s ability to meaningfully engage with different historical periods, providing new insight and building a cohesive argument which makes a contribution to Tudor iconographical studies of queenship and beyond. Throughout the piece, footnotes, citations, and bibliography are also meticulously presented and the analysis of visual sources is insightful. We wholeheartedly congratulate the author on winning the essay prize."