Journalist and historian Giles Tremlett has won the 2018 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography for his work Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen (Bloomsbury).
In the title, Tremlett chronicles the life of the ruler of Spain in the late 15th century as she led her country out of the murky middle ages and harnessed the newest ideas and tools of the early Renaissance to turn her ill-disciplined, quarrelsome nation into a sharper, modern state with a powerful, clear-minded, and ambitious monarch at its centre.
According to the judges, Tremlett's biography "resoundingly struck all the notes which we look for in a historical biography".
Chair of judges Roy Foster said: "Tremlett creates a panoramic landscape of fifteenth-century Spain, on the brink of its Golden Age, and paints a memorable portrait of the powerful woman who helped bring it about. The stratagems of politics, marriage, war, dynastic calculation and religious oppression are carefully and deftly delineated, as is the tension between Isabella’s private and public lives.
"Above all, the impressive combination of scholarly authority and vivid accessibility establishes this biography firmly in the tradition of this Prize which was founded to celebrate the best in current historical biography."
Joining Foster on the judging panel were Antonia Fraser, Flora Fraser and Munro Price.
Giles Tremlett is contributing editor to the Guardian and Fellow of the Cañada Blanch Centre at the London School of Economics. He was Madrid correspondent for the Economist until 2016 and, before that, for the Guardian. He has lived in and written about Spain for the past 20 years, and is the author of Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII (Faber) and Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and Its Silent Past (Faber).
Tremlett will be presented with the £5,000 prize at the 2018 Authors’ Awards on 19th July.
Tremlett beat off competition from a shortlist which included Be Like The Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest For Freedom by Erica Benner (Allen Lane), The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner by John Keay (Kashi House), Lenin the Dictator: An Intimate Portrait by Victor Sebestyen (Weidenfeld and Nicolson), and Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi by Thomas Weber (Oxford University Press).
The Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography is sponsored by Flora Fraser and Peter Soros in memory of biographer Elizabeth Longford. The winner of last year’s prize was John Bew for Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee (riverrun/Quercus).