Wolfson History Prize 2018 Shortlist

By Charlotte Walker on 16th April 2018

Britain’s foremost history prize, the Wolfson History Prize was first established in 1972 to recognise and reward the best historical writing to be produced each year in the UK. The winner of this prestigious prize is selected for best combining readability and excellence. The shortlist for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 is chosen by a panel of four distinguished historians. Professor Carole Hillenbrand, expert in Islamic History from the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews joined the judging panel this year with Professor Sir David Cannadine (Chair), Professor Sir Richard Evans and Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch. This year’s shortlist has just been announced, so keep reading for a first glance at the candidates for this year’s prize. Robert BickersOut of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination tells the extraordinary history of China, and how it has become the powerful country that it is today. Described by the Wolfson History Prize Judges as “An ambitious book delivered in an animated, accessible style”, Robert Bickers’ study of Chinese history is the first to fully detail the long struggle faced by China at the end of the 20th century to regain control of her own country. Out of China demonstrates why history and heritage is vital to Beijing's current rulers, with Chinese nationalism firmly linked to memories of the nation’s degraded past. Next to feature on the Shortlist, The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris. Already shortlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize, this has been praised by the Judges as “A serious work of research from a first-time author”. The Butchering Art tells the story of a visionary British surgeon who focused on uniting science and medicine. Joseph Lister’s work helped to deliver us into the modern world of medicine and the safest time to be alive in human history. Lindsey Fitzharris has curated this book with a novelist’s eye for detail while recreating the grisly world of Victorian surgery. Tim Grady’s book has been chosen by the Judges as it holds “A brave and brilliant history that presents a new view of the German Jewish community during the First World War”. A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War contains a full account of the contributions made by the German Jews to Imperial Germany’s endeavours during the Great War. An in-depth look into the roles played in German warfare, historian Tim Grady explores the dangerous legacy created by all involvement in World War I, which no-one foresaw would enable Hitler to rise to power, and the horrific events thatfollowed. Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufman is Book of the Year for the Evening Standard and the Observer and is next on the Wolfson History Prize Shortlist. Kaufmann’s book has been praised by this year’s Wolfson History Prize Judges for “imaginatively using material from a range of sources to bring to life the overlooked stories of Africans in Tudor Britain”. The untold stories of the Black Tudors who were paid wages and christened, married and buried by the Church has been brought to life in this fascinating book and will transform how we see one of the most intriguing periods in history. Peter Marshall’s Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation is a people’s history of the English Reformation, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished. The Wolfson History Prize Judges have said Peter Marshall “weaves a single narrative through a contentious century without loss of detail or depth of understanding”. Marshall covers the experiences of all parts of Tudor England society, from heads of states to ordinary families while also offering a backdrop of such significant change that it transformed the meanings of religion itself. Described by Joanne Owen, our Editorial Expert as “An absolutely engrossing work of micro-history exploring how one tiny North Sea archipelago played an improbably large role in defining modern Europe”. Heligoland has stood for generations as a symbol of the Anglo-German conflict. On the 18th April 1947, British forces targeted this small island thirty miles off the German coast for the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. Jan Rüger’s Heligoland: Britain, Germany and the Struggle for the North Sea is “an engrossing and accomplished history that uses the island of Heligoland to trace the complex course of Anglo-German relations across two centuries” according to Judges. Rüger draws on a wide range of archival material in order to explore how Britain and Germany have collided on the larger stage, as this North Sea Enclave, once Britain’s smallest colony, turned into the naval stronghold under the Kaiser and Hitler, fought over in both World Wars, and re-taken by the Royal Navy in 1945. The winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2018 will be announced in 4 June this year, with the winner taking home a prize of £40,000 and the other five shortlisted writers awarded a prize of £4,000 each.