It is our great pleasure to share the news that Liam Mannix, PhD’18, has been awarded this year’s Richard Saller Dissertation Prize for “The Catholic Agricultural Enlightenment in France.” The Saller Prize is awarded annually for the most outstanding dissertation in the Division of the Social Sciences.

Through a meticulous investigation of clerical accounts and records, Mannix upends a long-held belief that the ancien régime Catholic Church was a backward, heartless, and inefficient landowner. The church in these decades was challenged by anticlerical writers to prove its social utility, and its agents worked assiduously to improve the farms under their oversight. They adopted creative measures to develop infrastructure and assist tenants as they sought to increase agricultural output. Thanks to Mannix's work, we now have for the first time a good picture of the relationship between the church, land-holding patterns, and agricultural progress in the prerevolutionary years—and it is one that will force historians to revisit their cherished opinions about the economic, agricultural, and religious history of the period.

Jan Goldstein described Mannix’s dissertation as “a stunning intervention in a long-studied field.” History's Fellowships Committee noted that this vibrant dissertation would become essential reading for scholars of early modern Europe. Liam Mannix’s scholarship distinguished itself through technical virtuosity and precise reading of clerical sources. It disrupts old assumptions about the origins of agricultural capitalism and the Enlightenment-era Catholic Church. Mannix’s remarkable argument and creative research honors the economic and social history of Richard Saller. 

We are delighted to extend hearty congratulations to Liam, and also to his dissertation committee chair, Paul Cheney, and committee members Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Jan Goldstein, and Robert Morrissey.

Johanna Ransmeier, Fellowships Committee chair
Adrian Johns, department chair
Department of History