The Berkshire Conference Article Prize for the best article in the fields of the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality in 2012 by a woman who is normally resident in North America goes to Judith Bennett for “Death and the Maiden,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 42, no. 2 (2012): 269-305. Set in the context of the plague in 14th century England, Bennett’s article explores the chilling connection between death and virginity. Her wide-ranging selection of sources including paintings, saints’ lives, poems, and tomb brasses, illustrate the multiple meanings that medieval English people saw in this pairing: maidens as death dealers, as miraculous healers, as transcendent martyrs. Written with verve and clarity, “Death and the Maiden” convinces us that the 14th century is not so far from the 21st as we might have supposed.
The Berkshire Conference Article Prize for the best article published in all other fields of history in 2012 by a woman who is normally resident in North America goes to Ada Ferrer for “Haiti, Free Soil, and Antislavery in the Revolutionary Atlantic,” American Historical Review , 117, no. 1 (2012): 40-66. Ferrer explains how post-revolutionary Haiti deliberately intervened in the transnational history of slavery by offering “free soil” to any person of color who set foot on Haitian soil. This elegantly written article starts with a group of Jamaican slaves who escaped to Haiti in 1817, explains the constitutional principles and historical precedents that Haiti drew upon to defend its policies at a time when colonial slavery still flourished, and traces the lines of Haitian influence, from U.S. antislavery activists to Venezuelan revolutionaries. Ferrer’s subtle analysis draws upon an extremely wide array of sources to demonstrate persuasively that, as she writes, “No story of the rise of rights is complete without an engagement with the intellectual and political work done in Haiti.”