History Professor Lisa Cody wins National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

Professor Lisa Cody has won a joint Huntington Library National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant of $50,000 for historical research. From September 2011 to June 2012, she’ll be in residence at the Huntington Library.

Cody won the senior fellowship to continue work on her upcoming book, Divided We Stand: Divorce and Female Independence in the Age of the American Revolution.

Her research explores 18th-century beliefs about marriage and changing marital and household patterns including a growing number of disputes and divorces from the 1750s forward. She’ll explore how these changes shaped political rhetoric and arguments about individual rights and freedom.

Regarding the book and time period, Cody explains, “Laws in regards to women’s rights within marriage actually changed very little in this period, but wives’ perception of what their natural rights were did change quite dramatically by the 1750s. Wives and their advocates developed a new vocabulary about their status and rights, for instance, insisting that they had a natural right to happiness within the home. This was an argument that simply was not made before the second quarter of the 18th century.”

About exploring the War of American Independence and her path as researcher, Cody said, “I never cease to be surprised what shows up in the archives, but reading love-letters (and sometimes hate-letters) between ordinary people in the 1700s who could barely write and wrote phonetically so you can almost hear their regional accents has been extremely moving emotionally. It is also chilling to realize at that moment in the archives when I untie the ribbon holding manuscripts together, unfold them, and the blotting sand falls out that I am the first person who has read these personal stories since they were submitted to the court.”

Divided We Stand will be Cody’s second book, and will likely come out by early 2014.

Her first book, Birthing the Nation: Sex, Science, and the Conception of Eighteenth-Century Britons, (Oxford University Press, 2005) won several national awards, including the Berkshire Conference Best First Book Prize, the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize, and the Phi Alpha Theta Best First Book Prize. In 2008, the History News Network named Cody one of its Top Young Historians.

“This is a great and well-deserved honor for Lisa Cody, who is an extraordinarily gifted scholar and writer,” states Hilary Appel, professor of government and associate dean of the faculty. “This book will break new ground in the study of marriage and gender politics in 18th century Great Britain and the Americas; and just like her first book, this work will require historians to consider a more expansive and nuanced conceptualization of the political.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs.