Friday, 20 July 2018

JEH 69/3: World Christianities Prize revisited

My usual practice with a new issue of JEH is arbitrarily to single out one article, but this is a special occasion. Since I took up the co-editorship in 2014, one of our concerns has been to balance out our coverage of the global history of Christianity. We are very strong on European and especially British history, which is wonderful, but there is more to the subject than just that and we’re hoping to encourage historians with a different geographical focus to think of us for placing their best articles. So amongst various other things, we decided to launch a prize, running parallel to the longer-standing Eusebius Prize for early church history. The World Christianities Essay Prize of £500 (partly sponsored by the estimable Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide) is awarded to the best essay on any subject relating to the history of Christianity outside Europe and North America since the year 700. Naturally we expect that the majority of submissions will concentrate on the last couple of centuries, but we are very open to early items too.

Anyway, we ran the competition in 2017 for the first time, had a very pleasing 14 entries, and the five-member panel agreed to award the inaugural prize to Pedro Feitoza for his essay on the Imprensa evangelica, a Protestant newspaper in Brazil which ran from 1864-92. It’s a lovely piece on how Brazil’s tiny Protestant minority managed to insert itself into the public sphere and present a particular, modern image of itself during crucial decades in Brazilian history (covering, amongst other things, the abolition of slavery, a subject on which the Imprensa evangelica remained deliberately silent until the debate was almost over). That first prize essay is now in print in the July number of the Journal.

Just as pleasing is the fact that it was a close-run thing. Two other outstanding essays were serious contenders for the first prize, both of them due to appear in forthcoming numbers – Laura Rademaker’s study of the Catholic mission to the Tiwi islanders off Australia’s north coast (or, as she would have it, of the islanders’ mission to their Catholic priests), and Jason Bruner’s article on hearing voices in the East African Revival. Either of them could have won.

And while I’m enjoying myself, I think I also notice an uptick in general submissions with a global outlook – I’ve not seen the stats for the current year yet so I may be imagining things, but it looks that way to me.

BUT ... one thing is inescapable: the submission rate for the 2018 prize (the result will be announced soon) was quite sharply down. So please, anyone who is interested in getting a prize on their CV and £500 in their pockets, and also with helping the Journal achieve our noble purpose, get writing. The deadline for the 2019 prize is 31 March.

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