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Jan Ruger - Author

About the Author

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018

Jan Ruger is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of The Great Naval Game: Britain and Germany in the Age of Empire and joint editor of Rewriting German History.

On Heligoland: Britain, Germany and the Struggle for the North Sea:

How to write the history of two nations divided but also inextricably linked by their shared past was at the heart of my interest in Heligoland. From early on I thought of this outpost in the North Sea as a prism through which to view the long history of Anglo-German rivalry, conflict and, eventually, reconciliation. In making a small island the main character of the book, I tried to engage with both the large-scale conflict between the two nations and the small-scale history of how this relationship manifested itself in the everyday lives of people and their places.

For generations this cliff-bound island expressed a German will to battle Britain; and it mirrored a British determination to prevent Germany from establishing hegemony on the Continent. I wanted to explain this struggle while not losing sight of those caught in between, amongst them the Heligolanders.

I am delighted to see that this approach was seen as persuasive enough for the book to be shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize. It is a tremendous honour to be in the running for a prize that has been awarded to so many historians whom I greatly admire. And it is hugely encouraging to see that books based on a close reading of the sources and a critical dialogue with fellow historians can find a broader audience.

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