Congratulations to James Montgomery Baxenfield, recipient of the 2022–2023 Baumanis Grant for Creative Projects in Baltic Studies

Jul 21, 2022

The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies is pleased to announce that James Montgomery Baxenfield has been awarded the 2022-2023 Baumanis Grant for Creative Projects in Baltic Studies.

The Baumanis Grant is an award made to honor Velta Marija Baumanis of Mount Brydges, Ontario, who left a generous bequest to AABS at the end of her career as an architect. An award of up to $7,000 is available for any creative project (e.g., book, film, exhibit, etc.) that promotes Baltic studies. Preference is given to topics with a pan-Baltic or comparative aspect. Applicants must be members of the AABS at the time of application.

The 2022 applications were evaluated by the AABS 2021-2022 Grants and Awards Committee consisting of AABS VP for Professional Development Dr. Ineta Dabašinskienė, AABS President Dr. Daunis Auers, and AABS Director-at-Large Dr. Andres Kasekamp.

James wrote the following about his project: 

The purpose of the project is to investigate legends and folklore positing the Latgalian origin of the first and only Queen of Lithuania, and contributes towards the production of a manuscript for a book: Finding Morta: In Search of the Lost Baltic Queen (working title). The book will be a creative work with an academic core that focuses upon the life, identity, and fate of Queen Morta (c. 1210–1263), a historical figure little-known to international audiences. There will be three distinct components: 1) a comprehensive historiographical study; 2) a travelogue of expeditions to Latgale; and, 3) a piece of creative non-fiction that incorporates information from the first two sections. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, the project draws from fields including History, Archaeology, Folkloristics, and Literature. Incorporating three popular literary genres – History, Travel Writing, and Creative Non-fiction – Finding Morta transitions from an academic study into a creative work. Overall, the aim of the project is to produce a book that will appeal to both seasoned academics and newcomers to the broad field of Baltic Studies.

The Baumanis Grant for Creative Projects in Baltic Studies will be used specifically to undertake fieldwork expeditions in the Latgale region, in order to both collect and investigate folktales about Morta. These activities will primarily be presented within the travelogue component of the book that recounts the search for physical and anecdotal evidence of Morta within the Latgale region. The expeditions in Latgale will also be documented with photographs and other visual mediums (sketches, rubbings, etc.) that will provide illustration for the book. The focus on both a historical personality and distinctive region will provide a unique introduction to the story of Morta and the history of Latgale, while locating them within larger and more familiar narratives of Baltic history.

© James Montgomery Baxenfield

James Montgomery Baxenfield is a Junior Research Fellow at Tallinn University School of Humanities. He researches Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian history, with a particular focus on the concept of a Latvian-Lithuanian state. Baxenfield is currently completing his PhD with the Institute of History, Archaeology & Art History. His doctoral thesis, Footnotes to the Past: Forgotten Episodes of Latvian-Lithuanian Federation & Confederation, 1885–1984, examines various ideas of establishing a Latvian-Lithuanian state from the period of national awakening until the final decades of the twentieth century. Baxenfield completed his MA in Comparative History of Eastern, Central, and Southeastern Europe at Central European University, Budapest. He is currently the co-guest editor for a themed issue of Acta Historica Tallinnensia that marks the centenary of the 1922 diplomatic recognition of the republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by the United States of America. The special issue, entitled “Recognition: de facto & de jure”, is due to be published in December 2022.