Longman-History Today Awards 2014

A great historian of Poland and a survey of British Intelligence were among this year’s winners.

Clockwise from left: Alex Smith of HistoryPin; Calder Walton; Paul Lay; Cathie Arrington; Sally Field; Norman DaviesThis year’s Longman-History Today Trustees Award was given to Norman Davies, Professor Emeritus at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. The leading authority on the history of Poland, Davies received that country’s highest civilian award, the Order of the White Eagle, in 2012, and is best known for his two-volume history of the Polish nation, God’s Playground (1979). Yet he has also found an audience for ground-breaking studies on a far wider palette, such as Europe: A History (1996) and The Isles (1999). The last was an especially significant, albeit controversial study of Britain and Ireland, which anticipated debates on devolution and the UK’s relationship with the Continent.

The award recognises a person or organisation that has made a major contribution to history. Davies, whose most recent book, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe (2012), is typically original – and readable – in its excavation of European polities previously lost to the past, has demonstrated repeatedly the importance to the historian of a mastery of languages and the questioning ability to see beyond borders, both literal and metaphorical. Vanished Kingdoms restores such marginalia as the Visigothic kingdom of Tolosa, the German region of Borussia, Etruria and the sub-Carpathian region of Ruthenia to the historical mainstream.

The Trustees Award was presented to Professor Davies by the editor of History Today, Paul Lay, at a reception held on January 14th at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, London, a venue rich in its associations with the 18th century and the great cultural figures of the Augustan age, such as Hogarth and Handel.

The Longman-History Today Book Prize, awarded to a first or second work of scholarship deserving of a wider audience, with a prize of £2,000, went to Calder Walton for Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire (Harper Press). The unanimous choice of the judges – Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University, Professor Miri Rubin of Queen Mary University of London, Taylor Downing, author and film-maker, and Paul Lay – it was described as a riveting, complex tale, demonstrating a remarkable grasp of recently released archive material.

The Longman-History Today Historical Picture Researcher of the Year prize is given 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 was awarded to Cathie Arrington for her work on the Folio Society edition of Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The judges, Sheila Corr, picture editor of History Today, and Paul Lay, thought Arrington had produced a beautiful selection of pertinent illustrations, which are both striking and illuminating.

A new prize was inaugurated this year, the History Today Digital History Award, which reflects the enormous growth in new technology and its already considerable effect on the discipline both within and without the academy. The winner, receiving a cheque for £250, was HistoryPin, a beautifully designed site on which historians and the wider public can share stories and resources to create a global perspective on the past. HistoryPin is especially notable, according to the judges – Helen Weinstein of Cambridge University, James Baker of the British Library, Melissa Terras of University College London and Paul Lay – for its collection of images. The popularity of HistoryPin is striking: more than 52,000 individual users and over 1,500 institutions are linked to the site.

The Undergraduate Dissertation Prize, worth £250, is given by History Today in association with the Royal Historical Society. This was an especially strong year for entries. Paul Lay, presenting the award, mentioned in passing the essay of Elizabeth Spencer of the University of York – ‘The Apron in the 18th Century: Representation and Reality’. But the winner was Anna Field of Cardiff University for ‘Masculinity and Myth: the Highway-woman in Early Modern England’. The judges – Kenneth Fincham, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Kent, Robert Baldock, managing director of Yale University Press, and Paul Lay – were unanimous in their praise, judging it a first-class piece of scholarship, which also happened to be an engaging encounter with one of history’s racier subjects.

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