Allen Lane and Yale University Press (YUP) both have two books apiece on the £40,000 Wolfson History Prize 2018 shortlist, which recognises and celebrates books which combine excellence in historical research with readability for a general audience.
From Allen Lane are Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination by Robert Bickers, an "ambitious book delivered in an animated, accessible style", and The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris, described as a "serious work of research from a first-time author".
Shortlisted from Yale University Press are A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War by Tim Grady, a "brave and brilliant" history that presents a new view of the German Jewish community during the First World War, and Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall, a "beautifully judged" account of the English Reformation.
Rounding out the six-strong shortlist are Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (Oneworld), a "remarkable and important" first book which uncovers and explores a "previously neglected" area of British history, and Heligoland: Britain, Germany and the Struggle for the North Sea by Jan Rüger (Oxford University Press), an "engrossing and accomplished" history that uses the island of Heligoland to trace the complex course of Anglo-German relations across two centuries.
The shortlist was selected by a panel of four historians. Expert in Islamic history, Professor Carole Hillenbrand, of the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, joined the judging panel this year alongside Professor Sir David Cannadine (Chair), Professor Sir Richard Evans and Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Cannadine said: “This year’s shortlist is a testament to the strength of writing on history in the UK today. It brings together established academics with first time writers, spanning a huge variety of times and places. What unites the authors is a commitment to share careful research and a deep love of their subject with as wide an audience as possible. As judges we found ourselves engrossed, challenged, and delighted by our reading. It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the shortlist for 2018.”
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation which awards the Prize, said: “The Wolfson History Prize is a public expression of the importance of history to the cultural life of the country. It recognises books that sparkle with brilliance, breaking new ground in our understanding of the past – and which are written in ways that appeal to a wide audience. The Prize is awarded by the Wolfson Foundation as part of a number of wider programmes of support for history and heritage –ranging from museums to historic buildings to university research.”
All six shortlisted authors will be speaking at the British Academy on Wednesday 9th May for BBC Radio 3’s "Free Thinking" programme.
The overall winner will be announced on Monday 4th June at a reception at Claridge’s, London. The winner will receive £40,000 and each of the shortlisted authors will receive £4,000.
Christopher de Hamel won the prize in 2017 with his book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Allen Lane, Penguin Press) which presented 12 medieval manuscripts in the form of a ‘conversation’ with the reader. Other past winners have included Mary Beard and Simon Schama.