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PhD Candidates Alex Martinborough, Amelia Rosch, and Joe Borsato Awarded for their Presentations at the 2023 Northeast Conference of British Studies

PhD candidates Alex Martinborough and Amelia Rosch have each received the David Underdown Prize for the best graduate student paper delivered at the 2023 Northeast Conference on British Studies, and PhD candidate Joe Borsato was awarded an honorable mention. 

Alexander Martinborough’s paper “Responsible Government, Imperial Obligations, and the Politics of Intercolonial Comparison” uses crisis moments in late-nineteenth-century imperial governance to explore the fragility of “responsible” government in settler colonial settings.  The Committee was impressed with Martinborough’s deft handling of such a broad topic in a short paper, and how clearly he established the historiographical stakes of his argument.  Martinborough uses an innovative comparison, putting in dialogue the experiences of Métis Indigenous people of Red River with the Maori of Aoteoroa New Zealand.  In doing so, Martinborough demonstrates how Indigenous people appropriated and undermined the language of responsible government and the legitimacy of British settler legal claims.

Amelia Rosch’s paper “‘A Codpiece with a Charm’: Coffee and Demographic Anxiety in 1670s England,” offers a new interpretation of a well-known pamphlet. Drawing on the history of medicine and demographic history, Rosch demonstrates that the 1674 “Women’s Petition Against Coffee,” which claimed that coffee led to male impotence, was satirical in tone but serious in expressing its fears about English demographic decline.  By situating coffee in a discussion of the Galenic humours theory of medicine, Rosch shows the theoretical underpinnings of the pamphlet’s arguments, thus using a single document to cast light on many wider social issues in Restoration Britain.  The Committee was impressed with how Rosch carefully but confidently revised a traditional interpretation, and presented broad findings with clarity and humour.

Joe Borsato’s paper, “‘If We Plant By Composition’: Anglo-Arawak Relations and Roman Law in Guianan Colonization, 1609-1630,” is a fascinating account of how the Arawak people asserted their status as tenurial land-owners, thus subverting and confusing English attempts at colonization, since English use of both Roman and natural law traditions recognized such land claims.  The Committee appreciated Borsato’s careful methodology and the possibilities it opened for other scholars to consider the application of Roman legal traditions in colonization, as well as how Indigenous groups successfully re-interpreted colonial infrastructure and asserted their land rights.

See the Northeast Conference on British Studies website for more details. 

Congratulations Alex, Amelia, and Joe! 

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