The Journal of the History of Ideas awards the Selma V. Forkosch Prize ($750) for the best article published in the journal each year.

The Selma V. Forkosch Prize committee has unanimously agreed to award the prize for the best essay published in the Journal of the History of Ideas in 2020 to Sharon Achinstein, for “Hugo Grotius and Marriage’s Global Past: Conjugal Thinking in Early Modern Political Thought” (volume 81, number 2, pages 195–215).

The judging committee provides the following statement:

The committee has agreed to award the prize for the best essay published in the Journal of the History of Ideas in 2020 to Sharon Achinstein, “Hugo Grotius and Marriage’s Global Past: Conjugal Thinking in Early Modern Political Thought” (vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 195–215). In an extensive examination of the Dutch early modern political theorist, Hugo Grotius, Achinstein traces how the “gendered logic” of marriage, which positioned wives under the guardianship or tutelage of their husbands, extends to political theory and theories of the state. In stunning detail, Achinstein describes how the power dynamics of marriage structure secular political dichotomies; among them, marriage explains unequal relations in contracts, the right of resistance, for example, and more abstract questions of freedom and autonomy. As Grotius’s work had considerable influence on international law, Achinstein provides an impressive discussion of the manner in which conjugal power dynamics structure the framework for colonial law.


For a list of the Selma V. Forkosch prize winners click here.


The Journal of the History of Ideas awards the Morris D. Forkosch Prize ($2,500) for the best book in intellectual history each year.

The winner of the JHI’s Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the best first book in intellectual history (2020) is Hannah Marcus, for Forbidden Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and Censorship in Early Modern Italy, published by University of Chicago Press.

The judging committee provides the following statement:

A work of deep erudition and methodological breadth, Hannah Marcus’s Forbidden Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and Censorship in Early Modern Italy (University of Chicago Press) is the winner of the 2020 Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the best first book in intellectual history.
In this elegant monograph, Marcus expertly guides us past the bright line of book burning and banned authors to explore the complex landscape of medical learning in early modern Italy under conditions of ecclesiastical censorship. Deftly navigating the indexes of prohibited books issued from Rome by Paul IV (1559) and Clement VIII (1596); Paul V’s theologian, Giovanni Maria Guanzelli (1607); and Alexander VII (1664), Marcus tells a story of institutional ambition complicated by varying forms of resistance, engagement, and negotiation within Counter-Reformation Italy.
The “paradoxes of censorship” Marcus brings to light in her study are telling and legion. Lists of forbidden books did double duty as author advertisements and guides for library acquisitions. Compilations of offensive passages to be expurgated from books and removed from intellectual circulation inverted the humanist commonplace book in which readers copied out notable passages for reuse. Learning to read like ecclesiastical censors, physicians monitored their own writing and contributed to crowd-sourced expurgations, yet also strategically and successfully sought permission to read prohibited titles. On Marcus’s account, processes of prohibition, both explicit and tacit, created in turn a discursive space in which Catholic physicians articulated why they wanted to read banned books, as well as a set of material practices—slicing out authors’ names, overwriting offensive text, covering expurgated passages with slips of paper—that signal their reading of what was supposed not to be read.


Eligible submissions are limited to the first book published by a single author, and to books published in English. The subject matter of submissions must pertain to one or more of the disciplines associated with intellectual history and the history of ideas broadly conceived: viz., history (including the histories of the various arts and sciences); philosophy (including the philosophy of science, aesthetics, and other fields); political thought; the social sciences (including anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology); and literature (including literary criticism, history and theory). 


No translations or collections of essays will be considered. The judges will favor publications displaying sound scholarship, original conceptualization, and significant chronological and interdisciplinary scope. 

Submissions (three copies of each nominated book) are accepted directly from publishers or directly from authors. The deadline to submit books published in 2021 is March 1, 2022.  

If you wish to nominate a book, please contact the JHI's managing editor, Ida Stewart, at for a shipping address and additional information. 

For a list of the Morris D. Forkosch prize winners click here.