NCH Historian wins prestigious US essay prize

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Dr Suzannah Lipscomb’s winning essay focuses on women’s gossip, insults and violence in sixteenth century France.

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, Convenor and Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at New College of the Humanities, has been awarded the Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize at the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her prize-winning essay, ’Crossing boundaries: Women’s Gossip, insults and violence in Sixteenth-Century France’ was selected by a committee of three judges including Dr Karen Spierling (Denison University), Professor Jeffrey Watt (University of Mississippi), and Professor Stuart Carroll (University of York).

In the winning essay Dr Lipscomb reviews sixteenth century written sources and argues that the “evidence of pernicious gossip and violent disputes suggests that Early modern French women were often outspoken, objectionable and troublesome. Women were not shy in spreading malicious rumours and scandal, and their assumption of the right to judge others volubly, often through a colourful and varied vocabulary of invective, testifies to their vocal participation in community life.”

She continues: “In addition to uninhibited speech, women could often be physically aggressive, and violence was easily sparked as a common part of everyday dispute. The cantankerous, spirited and pugnacious nature of all these interactions and responses suggest a world in which confrontational self‐defence was necessary, and women were far from meek and submissive, despite the best efforts of the consistory to suppress such effrontery.”

Professor A C Grayling, Master of NCH, said, “This is a brilliant achievement, really wonderful, and I warmly congratulate Suzie.”

The Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize, which is awarded annually by the Sixteenth Century Society Conference, is named for Professor Roelker of Boston University, author and translator of many works of excellent scholarship, doctoral advisor and friend to many scholars in early modern studies. The Prize is given for the best article published in English on sixteenth century French history.

The Sixteenth Century Society Conference committee assesses submitted essays on the quality and originality of research; methodological skill and their innovation; the development of fresh and stimulating interpretations or insights; and literary quality.

The winning essay is online at:

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