2021 IJBS Early Career Essay Prize

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The International John Bunyan Society is pleased to announce that its 2021 Early Career Essay Prize has been awarded to Michelle Pfeffer (@michpfeffer) for the essay: ‘Mortalism and the Social Consequences of Religious Heterodoxy in Yorkshire at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century’. The winner’s certificate and cash prize of £300 has been sent to Michelle by Professor David Walker, IJBS President. The selection panel was chaired by David Walker, and its members were Rachel Adcock, David Parry and Robert W. Daniel.

Michelle Pfeffer is a Fellow by Examination (Junior Research Fellow) at Magdalen College, Oxford and a historian of early modern religion, science, and culture. The research project that this essay derives from is her PhD dissertation, entitled ‘Mortalism and the Making of Heterodoxy in Seventeenth Century England’. The dissertation seeks to understand why a series of lay writers brazenly denied the doctrine of the soul’s immortality in seventeenth century England. Through analysis of newly discovered manuscripts, the thesis uncovers a culture of lay scholarship and religious radicalism, revealing that religiously motivated historical-critical scholarship, not science, was shaping the agenda of these ostensibly ‘modern’ debates. Although mortalist books were written in the vernacular by laymen, they must be studied alongside the high-level, pan-European scholarship they drew on and the creative ways in which they engaged with it. This thesis therefore illuminates the intellectual and scholarly lives of non-specialists, reconstructing their working methods and bookish communities. 

The annual IJBS Early Career Essay Prize is open to all international PhD students and to post-doctoral researchers within the first two years after their viva. Applicants must be members of IJBS. The prize is for outstanding scholarly work in the field of early modern religion and Dissent, including its literature, history and reception.