Studentships and Essay Prizes

Lancaster's Department of History offers a number of prizes and studentships at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level throughout the year. These include two undergraduate essay prizes: the Lancaster Prize in Digital Humanities and the Merriman Prize (on the topic of International and/or Military History). The Merriman Prize 2018-19 was awarded to James McHale of the University of Huddersfield.

Merriman Essay Prize

The Merriman Prize (named in honour of Lancaster’s Dr Marcus Merriman) is awarded for an outstanding undergraduate essay on any topic in the fields of international and/or military history from the ancient world to the present day. Offered by the Department of History at Lancaster University, it is open to current undergraduates at any UK or overseas university. The successful candidate is awarded a prize of £250.

The winner of the Merriman Prize for 2018-19 is James McHale of Huddersfield University for his essay ‘“Saladin’s delaying tactics gave the Crusaders little choice” – Jonathan Phillips. Is this a valid conclusion to draw about the massacre of the Muslim prisoners at Acre?’. The essay investigated the sources for and historiographical debate surrounding the killing of 2,700 prisoners by Richard the Lionheart (King of England 1189-99) at the Siege of Acre in 1191.

The judging panel – Dr Sophie Thérèse Ambler, Professor Michael Hughes and Professor William Pettigrew – praised the ‘extensive and careful use of primary sources’ in James’s essay, and his ‘strong critical engagement with a broad range of secondary literature, as well as the conceptual sophistication of his approach and nuance of his analysis. The essay demonstrated a remarkable rigour and quality both in its attention to detail and in its broader argument.’

James McHale said, ‘I am so utterly delighted to have been awarded the inaugural Merriman Prize from Lancaster University for my essay relating to Richard I's execution of Muslim prisoners at Acre in the summer of 1191 during the Third Crusade. The interplay of ideologies, strategies, intelligence and diplomacy were inherent to why negotiations between Richard and Saladin over the crusaders' captured Muslim prisoners broke down and ended in their massacre. In order to understand and interpret events, it was incredibly fascinating to analyse extensive primary source material, including both western and Arabic eyewitness accounts. I would like to express my very best wishes to the panel, Dr Sophie Ambler, Professor Michael Hughes and Professor William Pettigrew. Most of all, I'd like to express my immense gratitude to my family, but also to Dr Katherine J. Lewis, my Personal Tutor, who has always supported and encouraged me as a student and medievalist.’

The Merriman Prize 2018-19 attracted a number of very strong submissions from across the UK and USA, with essays investigating a range of topics in international and military history broadly defined, from the seventh to the twenty-first century, across Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Europe. As the panel noted, the quality and originality of research on display is a testament to the strength and vibrancy of the fields of international and military history. The panel would like to thank all entrants for participating, and for preparing their essays to such a high standard.

Notice of the Merriman Prize for 2019-20 will be announced in the autumn.

Merriman Prize  image

Digital Humanities Essay Prize

The Lancaster Prize in Digital Humanities  is awarded for an outstanding undergraduate essay on any topic in a humanities discipline—such as history, archaeology, literature, theology, religious studies, anthropology and philosophy—that uses or critiques digital technology. Offered by the Digital Humanities Hub at Lancaster University, it is open to current undergraduates at any UK or overseas university. The successful candidate will be awarded a prize of £250, and the offer of the Lancaster Digital Humanities Masterclass: the opportunity to spend a week training with Lancaster’s leading digital humanities scholars.

Possible themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Mapping and special technologies
  • Data visualisation and design
  • Blogging and web technologies
  • Text analysis
  • Coding for humanities research
  • Digitisation projects
  • Image processing
  • Humanities gaming
  • Debates in digital literacy or digital humanities

Essays, of 2,500 to 3,000 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography), should be submitted to Professor Ian Gregory,, by 15 March 2019, together with a brief covering letter, which must include the name of your university and title of your degree, signed by a member of your faculty. confirming that you are a current undergraduate.

For details of Lancaster’s MA Digital Humanities, see