David Abulafia’s ‘The Boundless Sea’ wins Wolfson History Prize 2020!

A global history of humankind told through our relationship with the world’s oceans has been announced as the winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020, the most prestigious history prize in the UK, with David Abulafia taking home the £40,000 top award for his book The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans.

The winner was announced in a virtual ceremony featuring guest appearances from previous Wolfson History Prize winners including Mary Beard (2009), Peter Marshall (2018), and Mary Fulbrook (2019).

The Wolfson History Prize is awarded annually to a work of historical non-fiction which combines excellence in research and writing, with readability for a general audience. It is the most valuable non-fiction prize in the UK.

The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans, published by Allen Lane, reveals the importance of the sea to all of our stories, highlighting how it has shaped human societies and cultures for millennia. Abulafia takes readers around the globe and through thousands of years of history, exploring the earliest Polynesian seafarers, who navigated by stars; Viking raids in Northern Europe; piracy in the Caribbean; the Atlantic slave trade; naval skirmishes; through to the realities of modern-day super-shipping.



David Abulafia, Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge, said upon winning:

“Winning the Wolfson History Prize I see as a tribute to all of us who have been trying to communicate history to the public, writing in an accessible way without jargon, and making sure that people see the past as an essential part of our human experience.”



David Abulafia is Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and a former Chairman of the Cambridge History Faculty. His previous books include Frederick II, The Western Mediterranean Kingdoms and The Great Sea, which has won numerous awards and has been translated into a dozen languages. In 2003 he was made Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana in recognition of his work on Italian and Mediterranean history. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and chair of its Medieval Studies section.

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