Sudhir Hazareesingh has won the £40,000 Wolfson History Prize for Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture, with the award clinched for a second year in a row by an Allen Lane title.
Hazareeinsgh was announced as the winner of the prize on Wednesday evening (9th June) in a virtual ceremony. The Wolfson History Prize, now in its 49th year, is awarded annually by the Wolfson Foundation to a work of historical non-fiction which combines excellence in research and writing with readability for a general audience.
“Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture provides an intimate study of the life of a revolutionary leader whose experiences speak to many of the debates about history and heritage currently taking place,” the prize's organisers said. “Through a wealth of archival material, much of which has been left uncovered by previous biographers, Hazareesingh creates the portrait of a former slave who confronted some of the dominant forces of the age: slavery, settler colonialism, imperialism and racial hierarchy.”
Hazareesingh, a fellow and tutor in politics at the University of Oxford, triumphed over a shortlist "which balanced vast historical explorations with individual narratives", the organisers added. The five shortlisted authors were each awarded £4,000: Rebecca Clifford for Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust (Yale University Press), Judith Herrin for Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (Allen Lane), Helen McCarthy’s Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood (Bloomsbury), along with Richard Ovenden for Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge (John Murray Press) and Geoffrey Plank’s From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution (Oxford University Press).
David Cannadine, chair of the Wolfson History Prize judging panel, said: “Black Spartacus vividly re-creates the extraordinary career of the leader and hero of the Haitian Revolution, which reverberated far beyond that island and far beyond the Caribbean. This is an erudite and elegant biography with a message that resonates strongly in our own time, and we extend our warmest congratulations to Sudhir Hazareesingh.”
Wolfson Foundation c.e.o. Paul Ramsbottom said: “For nearly 50 years the Wolfson History Prize has highlighted history that is not only carefully researched but which is accessible and elegantly written. Never have the aims of the prize been more necessary than in these days of challenge and uncertainty. Sudhir Hazareesingh’s remarkable book is a sparkling example of the role history can play in society today and, in particular, the importance of shining a light on the often-overlooked experiences of the past.”
In 2020, the Wolfson History Prize was awarded to another Allen Lane book, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia.
The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that awards grants in the fields of science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts.