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Longman-History Today Awards 2010

A groundbreaking project that points the way to the future of the discipline was recognised at our annual celebration of excellence in history.

The Longman-History Today Trustees Award was given to Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker creators of the digital projects Old Bailey Online and London Lives. The award recognises a person or organisation that has made a major contribution to history. Professor Hitchcock of the University of Hertfordshire and Professor Shoemaker of the University of Sheffield have made an unparalleled impact on the way that history can be researched, taught in universities and enjoyed by the general public. Old Bailey Online is a monumental database containing the records of tens of thousands of trials which took place from 1674 to 1834. Previously such detailed information could only be retrieved through painstaking reading in a handful of libraries, requiring months or even years of research. Thanks to Hitchcock and Shoemaker, it can now be called up in seconds anywhere in the world.

Hitchcock was presented with the award by the Editor of History Today, Paul Lay, at a reception on January 12th at the Museum of London’s new Sackler Hall.

The Longman-History Today Book of the Year, with a prize of £2,000, went to Alan Allport for his Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War (Yale University Press), a moving account of the pressure on Britain’s armed forces and their families, often culminating in tragedy. It is reviewed in the March 2010 issue of History Today by Taylor Downing.

The runner up in the book prize was James Mather for Pashas: Traders and Travellers in the Islamic World, also published by Yale. It tells the story of the men of the Levant Company, British merchants who became the main conduit for Anglo-Islamic encounters from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It is a timely plea for greater cross-cultural understanding.

Three other books were highly commended: Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine and Emotion by Fay Bound Alberti (Oxford University Press); Victoria Harris’ Selling Sex in the Reich: Prostitutes in German Society, 1914-45 (OUP); and Bomber County: The Lost Airmen of World War Two by Daniel Swift (Hamish Hamilton).

The judges were Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University, film-maker and historian Taylor Downing, Professor Miri Rubin of Queen Mary, University of London and Paul Lay.

Among the other awards was the Longman-History Today Historical Picture Researcher of the Year prize, given in memory of the late History Today picture researcher, Jackie Guy. It is awarded to a researcher who has done outstanding work to enhance a text with a creative, imaginative and wide-ranging selection of images.

This year the prize and a cheque for £500 went to Julie McMahon for her work on the Folio Society’s illustrated edition of Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad. The judges, Sheila Corr, Picture Editor of History Today and Paul Lay, thought her selection of photographs thoughtful and frequently surprising, with an emphasis on the bleak experiences of the ordinary soldiers.
Steve Behan was highly commended for his work on The Battle of Britain by Richard Overy (Carlton Books), which gathered together a hugely diverse range of visual material.

The Undergraduate Dissertation Prize, worth £250, is given by History Today in association with the Royal Historical Society. This year’s winner was Alexander Baggalay of the University of Edinburgh for his dissertation, Myths of Mau Mau Expanded: The Role of Rehabilitation in Detention Camps During the State of Emergency in Kenya, 1954-1960. The judges – Jill Lewis, Reader in History at Swansea University, and Professor Chris Given-Wilson of the University of St Andrews – thought it excellent in structure and in its use of primary sources. Overall it was sharp, substantial and a thoroughly good read.

The runner up was David Kenrick of the University of Liverpool. His dissertation, Identity and the Politics of Survival: White Rhodesia, 1965-1980, was judged to be comprehensive and perceptive. His examination of the role of both the local and the foreign press was particularly well expressed.

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