Shortlist announced for Wolfson History Prize 2021!

The shortlist for the Wolfson History Prize 2021, the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize, has been announced today, celebrating the best historical non-fiction titles from the past year.

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.

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; the impact of warfare on human experience around the Atlantic in the early modern period; and the city of Ravenna, a beacon of creativity in Europe during the early Middle Ages.


The books shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2021 are:

  • Survivors: Children’s Lives after the Holocaust (Yale University Press) by Rebecca Clifford
  • Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Allen Lane) by Sudhir Hazareesingh
  • Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (Allen Lane) by Judith Herrin
  • Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood (Bloomsbury) by Helen McCarthy
  • Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack (John Murray Press) by Richard Ovenden
  • Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution (Oxford University Press) by Geoffrey Plank

Chair of the judges and President of the British Academy, David Cannadine, said of the 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 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 be announced.

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