Nicholas Stargardt’s The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-45 (Bodley Head) has won the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize 2016.
The £2,000 prize, endowed by former PEN member Marjorie Hessell Tiltman’s bequest, celebrates the best non-fiction on a historical subject.
The winning book was hailed by the Guardian as a "superb study" of the "complex feelings of ordinary Germans under the Nazi regime”. The judges described it as an "elegant and eloquent" account of ordinary people who lived through Hitler's Germany.
Shortlisted for the prize were SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (Profile), The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan (Bloomsbury), If This is a Woman – Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm (Abacus), The Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War by Raghu Karnad (HarperCollins) and 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear by James Shapiro (Faber & Faber).
The judging panel was chaired by Lara Feigel, senior lecturer in English at Kings College London. Feiggel was joined on the panel by two former winners of the prize: Jessie Childs and David Reynolds.
Feigel said: “It was almost impossible to choose between six such brilliant books, especially given their very different strengths, but we are delighted with our winner. Nicholas Stargardt's The German War is a bold attempt to understand why and how the German people supported Hitler's war for as long as they did. It expertly combines analysis of the bigger picture with a more intimate focus on the experiences of a diverse selection of individuals. And it fulfils the aims of the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize in blending this all into an elegant and eloquent whole.”
Tiltman was a member of English PEN during the 1960s and 1970s. On her death in 1999 she bequeathed £100,000 to the PEN Literary Foundation to found a prize in her name.