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Prize Essay Contest


The Society for the History of Discoveries announces its 2014 prize essay contest. Founded in 1960, the purpose of the Society is to stimulate teaching, research and publishing in the history of geographical exploration. We now call for essays on the topics embraced by the Society's name: the history of discoveries. Essays may deal with voyages, travels, biography, history, cartography, techniques and technology, or other aspects of discovery. The primary purpose is to enlighten the reader on some aspect of the exploration of our world.



Joshua Michael (Josh) Marcotte was selected as the 2013 SHD Essay Contest winner for his essay titled, "Culture, Contact and the Agency of Appropriation in a 1741 Map of Nagasaki”. Josh is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and he wrote this paper for a class taught by Maggie Ragnow. Josh received his B.A. and M.A. in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies from Brown University, where he completed an undergraduate thesis regarding the spread of the Portuguese language along the Indian Ocean in the 15th and 16th centuries and a Master's thesis regarding the use of symbols of modernity within advertising and museum exhibitions in Angola, the United States, Brazil and Portugal during the middle of the 20th century. He is currently enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Minnesota within the History Department and the Center for Early Modern History. His research interests include Portuguese-Japanese relations and the history of cartography in Japan. Congratulations to the winner and thanks to all the students who entered the contest.

ELIGIBILITY: A post-secondary (college or university) student from any part of the world who will not have received a doctoral degree before May 15, 2014 is eligible to enter the contest.

THE ESSAY: The essay (research paper) shall be original and unpublished, in the English language and of no more than 6,000 words, including footnotes or endnotes. Papers previously submitted for class assignments are encouraged. A reasonable amount of illustrative and tabular material will be welcome. The essay must be typed using a standard font (Times, Palatino, Century), double-spaced and printed on one side of the paper. Do not place the author's name on the pages of text. Include a cover page that lists the name, mailing address and e-mail address of the student, the college or university, and the student's current status, i.e., sophomore, junior, 1st year MA, etc.

SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: Essays must be postmarked on or before May 15, 2014.

By e-mail, send to: Professor Carol Urness, .

By post, send to: Dr. Marguerite Ragnow, SHD Prize Essay Contest, James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota, 309 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, U.S.A.

E-mail submissions are preferred.

Questions?: Contact Professor Urness

E-Mail: Tel: (612) 788-6570 Fax: (612) 626-9353

Professor Urness and Dr. Ragnow are the prize committee co-chairs. You also may reach Dr. Ragnow at or 612/624-6895.

The award-winning essay will be evaluated by a panel of judges from the Society for the History of Discoveries. The panel's decision will be announced after June 1, 2014.

JUDGING CRITERIA: Primary consideration will be given to the essay's originality and its contribution to new knowledge and insights. Other considerations will be the author's demonstration of the relevance of the subject, the cogency of the presentation and the documentation, and the stylistic quality of the essay. In the case of a tie, two awards may be given at the discretion of the judges. If no submission is judged to be either appropriate or sufficiently meritorious, the Society reserves the right to make no award.

NOTE: Submissions will be disqualified if: a) their subject is not relevant to the history of discoveries as outlined above or to the general history of geographic exploration; b) adequate and appropriate citations (foot/endnotes) are not included c) the author is not currently enrolled as an undergraduate or enrolled in or accepted to a graduate program at the time of submission.

THE AWARD. The winner will receive a prize of $600. The winner will be invited to make an oral presentation about the paper at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries. The 2013 meeting will be held in Tampa, Florida, from October 31 – November 2, 2013
. Additionally, the winner will be invited to submit the essay for publication in the Society's journal, Terrae Incognitae.

Recent essay award winners and papers include:

Paul W. Mapp, "French Reactions to the British Search for a Northwest Passage from Hudson Bay and the Origins of the Seven Years' War" (2000); published in Terrae Incognitae 33 (2001).

Carol A. Medlicott, "Re-thinking Geographical Exploration as Intelligence Collection: The Example of Lewis and Clark's 'Corps of Discovery'" (2002); published in Terrae Incognitae 35 (2003).

Robert D. Lukens, "Finding Themselves in the Arctic: Samuel J. Entrikin and the Peary Expedition of 1893-1895" (2003).

Christopher Slogar, "Polyphernus africanus: Mapping Cannibals in the History of the Cross River Region of Nigeria, ca. 1500-1985 (2004); published in Terrae Incognitae 37 (2005).

Alice Storey, "Layers of Discovery" (2005); published in Terrae Incognitae 38 (2006).

Matt H. Voss, "'In this sign you shall conquer.' The Cross of the Order of Christ in Sixteenth-Century Portuguese Cartography" (2006); published in Terrae Incognitae 39 (2007).

Antony Adler,  “Uncharted Seas: European Polynesian Encounters in the Age of Discoveries.” (2007); published in Terrae Incognitae 40 (2008).

Gabriel Hill, "French Merchants and Missionaries on the Early Modern Slave Coast." (2008); published in Terrae Incognitae 41 (2009).



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