Alexandra Shepard’s brilliant new book on the social order of early modern England Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford Univ. Press, 2015) has been announced as the Leo Gershoy Award winner for 2016. Accounting for Oneself makes a major new contribution to the scholarship on gender and work through its re-examination of women’s relationship to property, gendered divisions of labour, and early modern understandings of work. Examining over 13,500 witness statements made in English Church Courts between 1550 and 1728, this book examines how people from across the social spectrum assessed their place in the social order as well as how they supported themselves at different points in the lifecycle. Their testimony bears witness to the profound impact of widening social inequality that opened up a chasm between the middle ranks and the labouring poor between the mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries.
The Leo Gershoy prize is awarded to the author of the most outstanding work published in English on any aspect of 17th- and 18th-century European history. Shepard’s book was selected by a prize review committee of American Historical Association members including Magda Teter, Fordham University (chair); Jack R. Censer, George Mason University; James V. H. Melton, Emory University; Kathryn Norberg, University of California, Los Angeles; and Gabriel Paquette, Johns Hopkins University.
The prize was created in 1975 when Ida Gershoy made a gift to the Association in order to establish a prize in memory of her husband, Leo Gershoy. Professor Gershoy was a specialist in European history associated with the faculty of New York University for more than 35 years.