Varied shortlist for Wolfson History Prize revealed

Prestigious award picks its nominees that includes histories of working women and the Haitian Revolution, from ancient cities to modern lives.

We’re always impressed with the Wolfson History Prize shortlist when it comes around each year and the 2021 contenders are as admirable as ever.

Once again we have a wide selection of topics, authors and outlooks represented, offering some of the most revealing and dynamic new historical analysis around.

“This year’s shortlist shows us that, despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year, the diversity and quality of history writing in the UK continues to endure,” stated chair of the judges and President of the British Academy, David Cannadine, “As judges we were absorbed and impressed by these six books and the commitment of their authors to uncover some of the lesser-known narratives of the past. It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the shortlist for 2021.”

Here are the nominees for the Wolfson History Prize this year along with the Judge’s comments on each:

Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh:

“Erudite and elegant biography of a courageous leader which tells a gripping story with a message that resonates strongly in our own time.”

Survivors: Children’s Lives after the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford:

“Original and engrossing, this book delicately unpicks the myth of post-war survivor silence and restores a voice to the children of the Holocaust.”

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin:

“An illuminating history of Europe from the 5th to 8th centuries as seen through the lens of an Italian city. This book is magisterial and fascinating.”

Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood by Helen McCarthy:

“A stylish, lively account of the emotionally-charged issue of working mothers. Based on intensive research, it displays a deeply-felt respect for the subject’s significance.”

Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden:

“A call to arms to protect and preserve knowledge. A fine and moving book which ranges widely across time and acts as a reminder of the importance of libraries to our culture.”

Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution by Geoffrey Plank:

“A sobering and compelling study of Atlantic warfare which take pains to incorporate indigenous perspectives.”

The winner of Wolfson History Prize for 2021 will be announced on Wednesday 9 June 2021 in a virtual ceremony. The winning author will receive the most valuable non-fiction writing prize in the UK of £40,000 and each shortlisted writer will get £4,000.

Keep an eye out for upcoming issues of All About History as we interview some of the authors about these titles.

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