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World History PhD student, Steph Mawson, wins 2017 Alexander Prize

last modified Aug 08, 2017 04:07 PM

Steph Mawson picSteph Mawson, PhD student in World History, has won the prestigious Alexander Prize 2017. The Royal Historical Society awards the prize for an essay or article based on original historical research, by a doctoral candidate or those recently awarded their doctorate, published in a journal or an edited collection of essays.


The prize was awarded for her article, ‘Convicts or Conquistadores?: Spanish Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Pacific,’ Past and Present, Vol. 232, No. 1 (2016), 87-125.


Further details on Steph’s research is available here:

The prize citation is as follows:


This ambitious and important article examines the ragtag army which colonized the Spanish East Indies during the seventeenth century. Its deep archival research reveals ordinary soldiers to have been quite unlike their stereotypical depiction as conquistadores. They were a motley collection of criminals, vagrants and fugitives, many conscripted and mostly from New Spain, who seldom shared the spoils of conquest with their commanding officers.

The author at once restores agency to these historical figures and displays its narrow limits. Mutiny and desertion were among the few pathways open to the conscripted and the mistreated. Such a small, impoverished and volatile force could not be relied upon to achieve Spain’s imperial ambitions, resulting in the recruitment of increasing numbers of indigenous troops.

The article offers a compelling portrait of the early modern Philippines. Its intertwining of social and military history makes it distinctive among submissions dominated by intellectual history. Its success in ‘[h]umanising and complicating the face of imperialism’ invites historians of empire to take account of the conflicting interests and motives of the colonisers and their correspondingly diverse relationships to the colonised.”