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The University of Southampton
Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research

Winner of the best postgraduate conference paper 2018

Published: 24 October 2018

We offer our warmest congratulations to PhD student Leonard Baker (University of Bristol) whose paper ‘ “West Country Scum”: Nineteenth-Century National Politics, Local Ritual and Space in the English South West’ has been awarded the prize for best postgraduate paper presented at our recent ‘Regionalism Across the World in the Long Nineteenth Century’ conference. Thanks to sponsorship from the British Association for Victorian Studies, Leo wins £100. A revised version of his paper will also be submitted to the first issue of our new online Open Access PGR-run journal, Romance, Revolution and Reform.

The judges were Professor Isobel Armstrong and Professor Michael Wheeler. After selecting Leonard’s paper from among a strong field following a rigorous blind-judging process, they commented: ‘We felt that this entry fulfilled all the criteria. It was original, well-researched and capable of being amplified to become a longer article. The paper was written with verve, energy, and a sense of the drama of the events described in the analysis of the politics of a number of hustings incidents in the west country. The writer sought to make two important paradigm changes: first, to change a common centre/periphery dichotomy, arguing that elections in the post Peterloo period were as much concerned with larger parliamentary issues as with regional affairs. Secondly, the writer argued that the rituals and civil disturbance round elections were not always the work of an illiterate and ignorant rural populace - ‘West Country scum’ - but there were ways of interpreting them as motivated by reason and analysis on the part of the populace. Archival research and the use of online material was handled in an accomplished way. It was an enjoyable as well as an accomplished paper.’

On hearing news of his win, Leo wrote to us to say 'I am incredibly grateful to both SCNR and BAVS for this award and for their support of all the postgraduate presenters who attended. The standard of papers and research presented during the conference was outstanding so this must have been a tough decision. I would also like to thank the conference attendees for their kind and constructive comments on my paper and I hope to build upon this in future. As a whole, the conference presented a unique opportunity to discuss my research with those working beyond the bounds of my discipline so I am deeply thankful for the opportunity.'

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