Log in



SHD Student Prize

Have you written a research paper for your college or graduate school class that centers on the history and impact of geographic discoveries?

If so, we invite you to submit your research paper for consideration for the Society for the History of Discoveries Student Prize. 

SUBMISSION DEADLINE:  1 June of each year

Areas of eligible research include:  Voyages of exploration, travel narratives, biography relevant to the history of geographical discoveries and exploration, history, cartography, the technologies of travel, impact of travel and cultural exchange, and other aspects of geographic discovery and exploration.

Who is Eligible:  Students from any part of the globe currently enrolled in a college or university degree program and who will not have received a doctoral degree prior to 1 June of the submission year.  Note: Graduating high school or college students accepted into a program but who do not begin classes until fall of the submission year are NOT eligible.

The Research Paper:  An eligible research paper must be original and unpublished, written in English, between 3,000 and 8,000 words, plus footnotes or endnotes.  Papers written for college or university class assignments are encouraged, but students may write specifically for this prize.  A reasonable amount of illustrative and tabular material will be welcome, but is not required. 
Paper formatting:   The paper should be typed using a standard font (Times, Palatino, Calibri, Arial) and double-spaced.  All pages should be numbered in the upper right-hand corner.  All papers should include either endnotes or footnotes.  Papers should not have parenthetical references, that is, citation information in parentheses in the body of the paper.  Do not include your name anywhere but on the cover sheet.
Cover Sheet:  All papers must have a cover sheet that includes the following information:  Full name, postal address, e-mail address, phone number, the name of the college or university you attend, your academic department, and your current student status – for example:  2nd year undergraduate; 1st year MA; PhD candidate; ABD.


Submission Deadline:  1 June
Electronic submissions only to:
Dr. Mylynka Cardona, Committee Chair,
Subject line:  SHD Student Prize

Questions?  Contact Dr. Cardona.

Send an email 

Evaluation Criteria:

All papers will be evaluated by a panel of judges from the Society for the History of Discoveries. The Society will award two prizes one for the best graduate student research paper and one for the best undergraduate research paper.  The panel’s decision will be final and will be announced on the SHD website after July 15.  The committee reserves the right to not award a prize if the quality of submissions does not warrant it, and in the event of a tie, the committee may decide to award additional prizes.

Specific judging criteria:

•    Originality
•    Contribution to new knowledge or insights
•    Relevance to the subject
•    Cogency of the argument and appropriateness of the documentation
•    Quality of writing (including grammar and spelling, as well as style)

Note:  Submissions will be disqualified if a) the author is not eligible per the criteria noted above; b) the paper is not relevant to the history of discoveries as outlined above or to the general history of geographic exploration; c) the ideas and quotations in the paper that are not the authors’ own are not adequately cited (footnotes/endnotes). Due to the number of submissions, we will not make notifications of disqualifications without enquiry.

The awardee in the graduate student category will receive a prize of $500.00 (US) and the awardee in the undergraduate category will receive a prize of $250.00 (US).  Both awardees will be invited to present a version of the paper at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries.  Information about participation in the conference will be provided to the awardees upon notification of the award, including details concerning costs and travel funding.  Acceptance of the prize is not contingent upon your ability to attend the conference.  Additionally, the awardees will be invited to submit the winning papers to the society’s peer reviewed journal, Terrae Incognitae, for which they will undergo the usual review process prior to formal acceptance for publication, of which there is no guarantee.

Student Prize Winners

Madeline Grimm - 2019

“Early Modern History Writing and English Perception of the Mughal Empire”

In the early seventeenth century, several travelers initiated contact between Jacobean England and the Mughal Empire. Funded by the newly formed East India Company, these men attempted to negotiate commercial partnerships with Emperor Akbar and his son, Emperor Jahangir. They carefully documented their journeys in letters and journals, reflecting the desire of early modern Englishmen to supplant mythic medieval travelogues with firsthand information about the world. To further this end, travelers’ accounts were published in Purchas his Pilgrimes, a collection of travel writing produced by Samuel Purchas. He hoped that recent discoveries would resolve the inconsistencies of his ancient sources and reveal that English people were destined to spread across the globe. My paper considers the tension between Purchas’s triumphant vision of English expansion and travelers’ descriptions of India. Examining these sources concurrently reveals the range of ideologies shaping English writing about India. I argue that travelers’ diverse representations of the Mughal Empire undermined Purchas’ imperialist project in the Pilgrimes.

Madeline Grimm is a Ph.D. student in history at the University of California, Los Angeles. She works on the administrative and intellectual culture of the East India Company during the eighteenth century. She completed an M.Phil. at the University of Cambridge in early modern history in 2016. Madeline graduated summa cum laude from the College of William and Mary in 2015.

Daniella McCahey - 2018

“The Traveling Rocks”

This essay, a chapter of my dissertation, follows a specific set of geological specimens gathered by British and New Zealand geologists during the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE; 1956-58) in the Ross and Falkland Island Dependencies.  I argue that these specimens provide a lens into several different issues in Antarctic science and exploration including gender, colonialism, non-human agency, and debates in earth sciences. First, while the TAE is often characterized as not having truly scientific goals, several papers were published regarding these specimens, both by the men who gathered them, but also by geologists around the world.  The extreme conditions and the publicity surrounding the TAE speaks to ideals of masculinity in polar research. But additionally, two women wrote papers using these specimens, showing how the narrative of masculinity often erases women in science, but also how the mobility of specimens allowed women to participate in research in a part of the world where they would never travel. One of these women, Dr. Edna Plumstead, used these specimens to present a biogeographic argument for continental drift theory, at a time when this theory was dominated by paleomagnetism and oceanography.  While in her possession, the rocks also began to ooze unexpectedly, demonstrating the instability of specimens removed from their native environment. Finally, once these specimens had been gathered and initially analyzed, they were an immediate source of conflict between the British Museum of Natural History and the New Zealand Geological Survey, both of whom desired their possession, revealing tensions in the relationship between scientists in Britain and those in their former colonies.

Bio: Daniella McCahey completed her PhD in History at the University of California, Irvine in June 2018, training in Modern European and World History, with specializations in Science and Technology Studies, Environmental History, and the British Empire.  Her dissertation, “Extreme Environments and the Production of Scientific Knowledge: The History of Modern Science in Antarctica,” examines various aspects of the history of science in Antarctica in the 1950-60s, particularly surrounding the events of the International Geophysical Year (1957-8). She completed an MA in the History of Science from the University of Oklahoma in 2012, and a BA in Political Science from Northwestern University in 2009.  In the 2018-19 school year, she will be working as a lecturer in the history of science at the University of Idaho.

Noam Sienna - 2017

Noam Sienna is a graduate student in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota. He also is a henna artist, studying its history and traditions. He is interested in Jewish history in the Mediterranean world, Jewish-Muslim relations, and Mediterranean culture in the early modern period, including the history of the book and the transmission of knowledge.  

His prize-winning paper, “The Ways of the World: Thomas Hyde’s 1691 Printing of Farissol’s Iggeret Orḥot ‘Olam,” discusses how this important 16th-century Hebrew manuscript came to be published by Oxford University in Latin translation. Iggeret Orḥot ‘Olam (The Ways of the World, 1534) is a geographic compilation, and includes discussions of the seven climatic zones and the continents, speculations on the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden and of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and descriptions of Italian and Portuguese explorations in the Indian Ocean, as well as the information about the new discoveries in the Atlantic and sailing directions for traveling from Italy to Egypt and also to northern Europe.  Avraham Farissol was a rabbi and philosopher; Sienna sees this work as an attempt to open the new developments of secular Renaissance science and geography to a Jewish reading public.

Prior Student Award Winners

2016 No prize awarded

2015  Felipe Fernandes Cruz, University of Texas, Austin

“Napalm Colonization: Indigenous Peoples and Exploration in Brazil’s Aeronautical Frontiers.”

2014 Josephine Benson, Brown University

“New Worlds, New Germs: The Role of European Expansion in the Development of Germ Theory.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 47.1 (2015).

2013  Joshua Michael Marcotte, University of Minnesota

“Culture, Contact and the Agency of Appropriation in a 1741 Map of Nagasaki.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 46.1 (2014).

2012  Justin T. Dellinger, University of Texas, Arlington

“La Balise: A Transimperial Focal Point.”

2011 No prize awarded

2010 Scott Vincent Hatcher, Memorial University, St. John’s Newfoundland

“The Birth of the Monsoon Winds: On the Existence and Understand of Hippalus, and the ‘Discovery’ of the Apogeous Trade Winds.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 45.1 (2013)

2009 No prize awarded

2008 Gabriel Hill, University of Minnesota

“French Merchants and Missionaries on the Early Modern Slave Coast.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 41 (2009).

2007 Antony Adler, University of Washington

“Uncharted Seas: European Polynesian Encounters in the Age of Discoveries.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 40 (2008).

2006 Matt H. Voss, University of Minnesota

“‘In this sign you shall conquer.’ The Cross of the Order of Christ in Sixteenth-Century Portuguese Cartography.”  Published in Terrae Incognitae 39 (2007).

2005 Alice Storey, University of Aukland

“Layers of Discovery.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 38 (2006).

2004 Christopher Slogar, University of Maryland, College Park

“Polyphernus africanus: Mapping Cannibals in the History of the Cross River Region of Nigeria, ca. 1500-1985.”  Published in Terrae Incognitae 37 (2005).

2003 Robert D. Lukens, Temple University

“Finding Themselves in the Arctic: Samuel J. Entrikin and the Peary Expedition of 1893-1895.”

2002 Carol A. Medlicott, University of California, Los Angeles

“Re-thinking Geographical Exploration as Intelligence Collection: The Example of Lewis and Clark’s ‘Corps of Discovery’.”  Published in Terrae Incognitae 35 (2003).

2001 No prize awarded

2000 Paul W. Mapp, Harvard University

“French Reactions to the British Search for a Northwest Passage from Hudson Bay and the Origins of the Seven Years’ War.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 33 (2001).

1999 Neil Safier,  The Johns Hopkins University

“Mapping Myths: The Cartographic Boundaries Between Science and Speculation in La Condamine’s Amazon, 1743-44.”  Published in Terrae Incognitae 33 (2001).

1998 Ken Mitchell, University of Minnesota

“Science, Giants & Gold:  Juan de la Cruz Cano’s Mapa Geographic de American Meridional.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 31 (1999).  

1997 Please contact the Society if you have any information about the award for this year.

1996 Lynn Guitar

“Francisco Chicorama: A North American Indian in King Charles V’s Court.”  Published in Terrae Incognitae 29 (1997).

1995 Please contact the Society if you have any information about the award for this year.

1994 José Delgado

“A Cartographic view of the Falkland Malvinas Sovereignty Problem.”

1993 Christian Brannstrom, University of Wisconsin, Madison

“The River of Silver and the Island of Brazil.” Published in Terrae Incognitae 27 (1995).

1992 Please contact the Society if you have any information about the award for this year.

1991 Please contact the Society if you have any information about the award for this year.

1990 Carol Sparks

“England and the Columbian Discoveries: The Attempt to Legitimize English Voyages to the New World.” Published in Terrae Incognitae  22 (1990).  

1989 Please contact the Society if you have any information about the award for this year.

1988 First Year.  No prize awarded, but two papers received honorable mentions.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software