A judge in a prestigious history competition has called for a boost in funding for the subject at new universities after their students took two of the top awards.
Charmian Brownrigg of the University of Central Lancashire and Sami Abouzahr of University College London were joint winners of the dissertation of the year award. Andrew Syk of Derby University was highly commended at the Longman- History Today awards last week.
Judge Peter Furtado, editor of History Today , said the result highlighted the need for continued funding for new universities and lower-rated departments, in contrast to plans to further concentrate research funding.
History was rated 4 at Central Lancashire and 3 at Derby in the 2001 research assessment exercise.
The judges - Mr Furtado; Janet Nelson, president of the Royal Historical Society, and Margo Finn, a senior lecturer at Warwick University - said Ms Brownrigg's dissertation had used wills to show how the social and economic situation of mariners in Lancashire and Cumberland in the mid-18th century differed from that of farmers in the same period.
She made imaginative andsensitive use of the traditional methods of quantitative analysis to produce a "compelling and vivid picture of life in the mariner community in and around Whitehaven and Lancaster", they said.
The judges said Mr Abouzahr had studied a wide range ofofficial sources and memoirs to construct a "masterly account, ranging across the world, of the dilemmas faced by the American State Department, with regard to France, in the late 1940s".
Mr Syk had looked at how during the first world war the 46th North Midland Division on the western front learnt from the mistakes made at the Somme.
He entered the historical debate about the quality of leadership in the British military during that war and demonstrated convincingly that the division's commanders showed a real ability to learn from the disasters they suffered in 1915-16, the judges said.
Four other awards were presented at the ceremony in London, including book of the year, which went to the late Alan Bray for The Friend (Chicago University Press).
The judges called the work a "subtle and groundbreaking study" of the role of intimate same-sex friendships that can be found in English history from medieval times until the 19th century.
Mr Bray, who died aged 53 in December 2001, was a senior civil servant as well as a scholar and gay activist. He was a fellow of Birkbeck College, London, and his first book, Homosexuality in Renaissance England , published in 1982, is still in print.
The award for history was presented to the National Archives, formed last year by the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission.
It is one of the largest archival collections in the world, spanning 1,000 years of British history.