Association Best Prize


Daniel Hershenzon’s book The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) is the winner of the 2019 Best First Book Prize.  The Captive Sea provides an innovative revision to the history of captivity and ransoming in the western Mediterranean Sea during the 17th century. Where traditional approaches treat the topic from the perspective of the existence of a long-standing clash between the Islamic and Christian civilizations, Daniel Hershenzon presents a more complex picture of the interconnections between Imperial Spain, Ottoman Algiers, and Morocco. Beyond conflict, Hershenzon discovers that piracy, captivity, and redemption created a system of social and economic connections through which agents from both civilizations and diverse social and cultural backgrounds shaped an integrated Mediterranean region. The book is exceptionally well researched with information extracted from a variety of unknown documents, many displaying astonishing personal experiences of the captives. In sum, The Captive Sea is an outstanding book that combines an original approach with solid argumentation that is well founded in never-before-used archival materials. The committee unanimously agreed that this essay deserves the ASPHS award for the best first book.

ASPHS thanks the prize committee: Dr. David A. Messenger (Chair), Dr. A. Katie Stirling-Harris, and Dr. Jesus Cruz, for their work in reviewing submissions.

On a three-year rotation, the Association offers a prize for the best dissertation, the best early career article, and best first book.  Applications are solicited each fall and the award is made the following spring, with an honorarium of $250. Authors must be active members of the ASPHS to be eligible for consideration. 

Schedule of upcoming awards:

2019-2020: dissertation

2020-2021:  article

2021-2022:  book