Longman-History Today Awards 2015: The Winners
The Longman-History Today Trustees Award for 2015 was given to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). From its beginnings in the wake of the Great War, the CWGC has maintained the simple dignity and true equality of the 1.7 million graves and memorials it tends, in 23,000 locations across 153 countries, visited by around 1.6 million people a year. It has employed some of the 20th century’s greatest architects, such as Reginald Blomfield, creator of the first great memorial at Ypres, the Menin Gate, and Edwin Lutyens, whose Thiepval memorial on the Somme commemorates 72,000 dead. Among its early advisers, when it was the Imperial War Graves Commission, was Rudyard Kipling, who knew the tragedy of war all too well and whose magnificent short story, The Gardener, remains so evocative of such places. The CWGC still employs 850 gardeners. In 1949, its regrettable but necessary task began again with the completion of the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery. After last year’s commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War and this year’s remembrance of the end of the Second, it seemed an especially appropriate and deserving recipient.
The CWGC performs three crucial tasks: it remembers with eloquence the events of the past; it acknowledges the relationship of one generation to another – the debts owed, the continuing bonds, the similarities, the differences, the common humanity – and it demonstrates a serious commitment to public history.
The Trustees Award was presented to Victoria Wallace, director general of the CWGC, by the editor of History Today, Paul Lay, at a reception held at the Old Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, London, the inspiration and setting for the opening scene of Dickens’ Bleak House. Wallace, accepting the award, called on historians to keep telling the stories of those lives the CWGC commemorates.
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 Alban Webb for London Calling: the BBC World Service and the Cold War (Bloomsbury). It was described by 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 – as ‘scholarly and accessible, a resonant, brilliantly researched tale that grows more pertinent by the day’.
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 Laura Canter for her work on the Folio Society edition of Paul Fussell’s 1975 classic, The Great War and Modern Memory. The judges, Mel Haselden, picture researcher of History Today, and Paul Lay, thought Canter had produced a breathtakingly original array of images, which enhanced an already outstanding work.
The History Today Digital Award and a cheque for £250 was given to Eleanor Parker for her website A Clerk of Oxford, a wonderful, scholarly and accessible evocation of the enchanted world of 11th- and 12th-century England, the time of the Danish Conquest, with a particular focus on the reign of Cnut.
The Undergraduate Dissertation Prize, worth £250, is given by History Today in association with the Royal Historical Society. As has been the case in recent years, the shortlist of six entries was very strong. Paul Lay, presenting the award, commended the dissertation of Patrick Hoffman of the University of Cambridge, De Administrando Imperio in the Context of 10th-century Byzantine Diplomatic, Political and Literary Culture. But the winner was Rebecca Pyne-Edwards Banks of the University of Derby for Cutting Through the Gordian Knot: The British Military Service Tribunals During the Great War. The judges – Professor David Feldman of Birkbeck, University of London and Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism; Dr Alan Thacker, Reader and Executive Editor of the Victoria County History at the Institute of Historical Research; and Paul Lay – thought it a ‘rich, rigorously researched panorama of attitudes of and towards conscientious objectors, both in Derbyshire and nationally’.