Two Allen Lane books have won this year’s annual Wolfson History Prize.
National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963 by Richard Vinen and Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918 by Alexander Watson were announced as the winners of the prize at a reception at Claridge’s in London yesterday (Thursday 14th May), with both authors receiving a prize of £25,000.
The Wolfson History Prize, awarded by charity The Wolfson Foundation annually since 1972, aims to promote and encourage standards of excellence in the writing of readable and scholarly history suitable for a general audience. Previous winners have included Antony Beevor, Mary Beard and Andrew Roberts.
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “The Wolfson History Prize has for more than 40 years recognised historical writing of the highest quality: books based on brilliant scholarship written in a way that makes them accessible to a wide audience. Richard Vinen and Alexander Watson’s outstanding books are worthy winners in this long tradition. They write compellingly, providing fresh perspectives on important subjects.”
Vinen’s book looks at the impact of National Service on the nature of post-war British society. Vinen is Professor of History at King's College London and the author of books including A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century (Abacus), The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation (Penguin) and Thatcher's Britain (Pocket Books).
Ring of Steel is a history of the Great War which looks at all the major events of the war from the perspective of Berlin and Vienna, focusing the experiences and suffering of the German and East-central European peoples at war. It was chosen as the Sunday Times ‘History Book of the Year’ in 2014 and has also been awarded the 2014 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History and the Society for Military History's 2015 Distinguished Book Award. Watson is Lecturer in History at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has held previous posts at Cambridge and Warsaw Universities. His first book, Enduring the Great War (Cambridge University Press), won the Fraenkel Prize.
The Wolfson History Prize judges in 2015 were Sir Keith Thomas (chairman), Sir David Cannadine, Sir Richard Evans and Professor Julia Smith. Thomas has now retired after 20 years as chairman of judges and will be replaced by Cannadine.