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21 April 2021

Professor Judith Herrin's book nominated for the Wolfson History Prize 2021

King’s Visiting Research Fellow Professor Judith Herrin’s book, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, has been nominated for the Wolfson History Prize 2021.


King’s Visiting Research Fellow Professor Judith Herrin’s book, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, has been nominated for the Wolfson History Prize 2021.

The shortlist for the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize has been announced today, celebrating the best historical non-fiction titles from the past year.

In Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, Professor Herrin of the Classics department draws on the latest archaeological and documentary discoveries to bring to life the early Middle Ages through the dazzling city and creative hub of Ravenna. As she traces the lives of Ravenna's rulers, chroniclers and inhabitants, Herrin shows how the city became the pivot between East and West, and the meeting place of different cultures.

One of the judges said of the book: “An illuminating history of Europe from the 5th to 8th centuries as seen through the lens of an Italian city. This book is magisterial and fascinating.”

Chair of the judges and President of the British Academy, David Cannadine, said of the overall shortlist: “This year’s shortlist shows us that, despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year, the diversity and quality of history writing in the UK continues to endure. As judges we were absorbed and impressed by these six books and the commitment of their authors to uncover some of the lesser-known narratives of the past. It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the shortlist for 2021.”





The Wolfson Foundation has awarded the Wolfson History Prize for nearly fifty years but its mission – to champion the importance of high-quality, accessible history writing – is as critical now as it has ever been. This past year has revealed much about how history is valued (and contested) in today’s society and why it is vital for us to engage carefully and thoughtfully with the experiences of those who came before u us. These six books offer the opportunity to hear often forgotten or neglected voices from the ancient world to the modern day. The Wolfson History Prize serves as a reminder of the importance of historical research and writing to British society – a reminder that is as important as ever in these turbulent times.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, which awards the Prize

The 2021 shortlist reflects the range of topics tackled by historical writing, with titles exploring the histories of important locations around the world appearing next to intimate studies of individual lives and groups that shed light on modern experiences

With discussions around historical legacy and context growing louder over the past twelve months, this year’s shortlist highlights the importance of careful analysis of our past. The six shortlisted titles showcase how key historical figures and events can help shape our understanding of the concerns and conflicts facing us today.

Other topics featured in the shortlist include: an exploration of working motherhood; the child survivors of the Holocaust; the crucial role of Haitian Revolutionary leader, Toussaint Louverture; a history of the fight for the preservation of knowledge; and the impact of warfare on human experience around the Atlantic in the early modern period.

The winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2021 will be announced on Wednesday 9 June 2021 in a virtual ceremony. The winner of the Wolfson History Prize, the most valuable non-fiction writing prize in the UK, will be awarded £40,000, with each of the shortlisted authors receiving £4,000.

The Wolfson History Prize 2021 shortlisted authors will discuss their books and historical writing in a special edition of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking. The shortlisted authors will also discuss their writing at an inaugural Wolfson History Prize event at Hay Festival on Wednesday 2nd June at 1pm, with further details to follow.

The Wolfson History Prize is run and awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity that awards grants in the fields of science, health, heritage, humanities & the arts. The Wolfson History Prize 2020 was won by David Abulafia for his global history of humankind told through our relationship with world’s oceans, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans.

Dr Toby Green, Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture in the History department, was nominated for the prize in 2020 for his book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution.


In this story

Judith  Herrin

Constantine Leventis Senior Visiting Fellow