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The Katharine Briggs Award 2023

— Posted on 7th November 2023

We are delighted to announce that the winner of The Katharine Briggs Award 2023 is

Una McIlvenna

for her book

Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe, 1500-1900

published by Oxford University Press

Congratulations Una!

Una was unable to join us from Melbourne for the award presentation on 7 November, so she has sent us a recording of her acceptance speech. Click here for the recording

Judges’ report on the Shortlisted entries for The Katharine Briggs Award 2023

The Winner

Una McIlvenna

Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900 published by Oxford University Press

‘A rich, meticulously researched and highly readable survey of execution ballads from England, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Extensive primary source material is thoughtfully interpreted in order to highlight the role of song in communicating news, social values and shifting mores in early modern Western Europe.’


Michael Heaney

The Ancient English Morris Dance

published by Archaeopress

‘A detailed study of the Morris and its ups and downs as a cultural form since the fifteenth century, when the earliest records of it first appear. Particular attention is paid to the relationships between Morris and other popular customs, such as rushcarts and Whitsun Ales, and to the role of wider social and cultural forces in shaping the Morris over time and place.’

Honourable Mention

Rachel McKenna

Traditional Architecture of Offaly

published by Offaly County Council

‘This book’s title belies what turns out to be a much wider, deeper and altogether rich material, social and cultural history of the community of Offaly. Production values are first class, with detailed present-day photography combined with clear illustrations and well selected historical sources.’

Also Shortlisted:

Catherine Bannister

Scouting and Guiding in Britain: The Ritual Socialisation of Young People

published by Palgrave Macmillan.

‘A solidly researched academic monograph, reminding the reader of the enduring and ever-evolving presence of ritual in contemporary British childhood and its role in shaping wider society. The author demonstrates commendable reflectivity, on a topic which will surely resonate with many readers’ own experiences too.’

Marion Gibson,

The Witches of St Osyth: Persecution, Betrayal and Murder in Elizabethan England

published by Cambridge University Press

‘This “felt microhistory” (p.280) of a series of witchcraft accusations in one Essex village in 1581-82 well demonstrates the potential of social history’s “emotional turn,” together with the (re)reading of landscapes as a historical method, in order to forge affective—and effective—resonances between the past and present.’

Ioan and Ştefana Pop-Curşeu,

Witchcraft in Romania

published by Palgrave Macmillan

‘Addressing a significant gap in the historiography of this subject, this erudite study covers concepts and treatments of witches and their craft in the politically, socially and culturally diverse territories of Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania, which together comprise modern Romania and Moldova. Archival and visual sources are well employed, with the illustrations of witches being punished in hell being particularly original.’

The Folklore Society would like to thank all the authors and publishers who supported The Katharine Briggs Award by entering their books into the competition.