Winners of the 2023 Janette Harley Prize announced

The British Records Association is delighted to announce the winners of the 2023 Janette Harley Prize. The Prize is shared between two entries as follows:

Dr Ian Forrest and Christopher Whittick (translators and editors), for The Visitation of Hereford Diocese in 1397 (Canterbury & York Society, vol. CXI, 2021)

Dr Imogen Peck (Birmingham University), for “‘Of no sort of use’?: Manuscripts, Memory, and the Family Archive in Eighteenth Century England” (Cultural and Social History, vol. 20:2 for 2023, pp.183-204), and the accompanying blog series and online resources, part of the ‘Family Archives in Early Modern England’ research project supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

These contrasting prize-winners show the breadth and value of archival records, and the different ways in which they can be studied and made more accessible.

Forrest and Whittick: Bishops learn about their dioceses through visitations. Surviving medieval visitation records are rare and of great value to historians. Bishop John Trefnant’s visitation of his diocese of Hereford in 1397 is contained in Hereford Cathedral Archives (HCA) 1779. The visitation offers unparalleled insight into social life, sexual behaviour, religious belief and practice, and gender relations during a period of religious and political turmoil, revealing how the clergy were disciplined, how English- and Welsh-speakers interacted, and how the congregation experienced worship. It is also a treasure trove of information about the fabric of local churches and the administration of parishes before the Reformation. The document is a major early source for Welsh naming practices – indeed Bishop Trefnant himself came from a Welsh area, had a Welsh name, and employed Welsh-speaking scribes in his household.

This edition is designed for the non-professional reader, being the first of the Canterbury and York Society’s 111 volumes to be published in the original Latin with a facing English translation. Conscious attempts have been made to preserve the word-order of the original as far as is consistent with fluency of translation, and to avoid technical vocabulary. The edition has greatly increased the accessibility of the manuscript, which now is consulted as a matter of course by the Diocesan Advisory Committee on questions of church fabric.

Imogen Peck: Dr Peck’s work explores the role of family archives during Britain’s long eighteenth century, especially in the formation of memory and identity. This was a period of growing archival consciousness, yet the archives curated by families have hitherto been almost entirely overlooked. This research establishes their significance. It also challenges the tendency to value the institutional and formal (and often patriarchal) over the informal and domestic.

Tracing the curation of three family collections across several generations, the article in Cultural and Social History shows how the creation and transmission of family archives played a significant role in the memory and identity of relatively modest families. The article is supported by blog posts by the author and by undergraduate and A-level students which highlight other family archives held in record offices across the country. The author has also established a ‘Family Archives’ network where historians, archivists, and members of the public working on family collections can share their work. The recordings from the network’s online workshops are available on the project website.

Highly Commended

Prof. Steven King (Nottingham Trent University) and Paul Carter (TNA), and others, In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor Law, 1834–1900 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022).

The prize was established in memory of Janette Harley, a member of the British Records Association, who died in 2015. It is intended to raise awareness of research and achievements in the world of archives, and is awarded for the best or most original piece of published work which reflects the aims of the Association: to promote the preservation, understanding, accessibility and study of our recorded heritage for the public benefit.

A call for entries to the 2024 Janette Harley Prize will be made in April.