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Birkbeck PhD student wins London History Prize

Aaron Columbus won the 2018 Curriers’ Company London History Essay Prize for his research into the plague-endemic experience of a suburban London parish.

Professor Vanessa Harding, Aaron Columbus and Peter Estlin (Lord Mayor of the City of London)
L-R: Professor Vanessa Harding, Aaron Columbus, Peter Estlin (Lord Mayor of the City of London)

Aaron Columbus, a second year PhD candidate in Birkbeck’s Department of History, Classics and Archaeology has won the 2018 Curriers’ Company London History Essay Prize. He is the first Birkbeck student to win the prize, worth £1000, and his essay will be published in the London Journal later this year.

His winning essay was drawn from wider research towards his thesis, looking at plague and the poor in the suburbs of early modern London, particularly focusing on the non-epidemic plague experience of St Bride Fleet Street following the minor city-wide epidemic of 1636. As he explains, “this was a period where plague was endemic in the suburban parishes, up to 1648. In a number of those years St Bride experienced elevations above normal mortality equal or exceeding that of the 1636 epidemic in the parish.

“This period of plague has received scant attention from historians, yet periods of plague-endemicity in the suburban parishes contributed much to hardening views of plague as a disease of both the suburbs and the poor.”

Aaron was presented the prize, which is administered by the Institute of Historical Research, by the Lord Mayor of London at a ceremony at Guildhall.

He said: “I am humbled to win the prestigious Curriers' London Essay Prize for 2018 in my first year of the research degree. It was very rewarding to win the prize and validation of sorts that the work I was doing was going in the right direction.

“I am very grateful to the Curriers' Company for the generous prize and opportunity to publish the essay in the London Journal later this year.

“The support of my supervisor, Vanessa Harding, was hugely important. Our stimulating and challenging discussions and her support were integral to the development of the essay and its final form and argument.”

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