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Book by York professor shortlisted for Wolfson History Prize

Posted on 15 April 2019

The story of Queen Victoria’s relationship with India by a University of York professor has been shortlisted for a prestigious prize celebrating the best new historical non-fiction books in the UK.

The cover image of 'Empress: Queen Victoria and India'.

The Wolfson History Prize is run and awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity that awards grants in the fields of science, health, education, arts and humanities.

Empress: Queen Victoria and India by Miles Taylor, Professor of Modern History in the Department of History, University of York,  is an original account of Queen Victoria’s relationship with India, highlighting not only her cultural, political and diplomatic influence on India, but also how passionately involved with the country she was throughout her reign.

Each of the six books shortlisted for the award combine excellence in historical writing and research with readability for a general audience.


The judges of the Wolfson History Prize 2019 Shortlist said: “It is hard to write something new and original about Queen Victoria, but Miles Taylor succeeds triumphantly. An engaging and impeccably researched account that throws fresh light onto the British Raj. Victoria will never seem the same after this.”

The 2019 Shortlist will be showcased at a live recording of BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking, hosted at the British Academy in London, on Tuesday 7 May. Chaired by Professor Rana Mitter, the shortlisted authors will debate history writing and offer an insight into each of their books.

The winner of the prize will be named at a ceremony at Claridge’s Hotel, London, on Tuesday 11 June. The winner will be awarded £40,000, with each shortlisted author receiving £4,000.

Understanding the past

Miles Taylor said: “Taking Queen Victoria as a case-study, I wanted to show how India affected the mindset and politics of Britain during the time of the Empire. Then I made several trips to India, to do my fieldwork, and became much more aware of the resonance of Queen Victoria in India, in particular in the popular print culture and in the public life of the country. That made me realise there was also a missing story to be told about Queen Victoria in India, as well as back in Britain”.

Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive at the Wolfson Foundation, said: “The Wolfson Foundation awards the Wolfson History Prize to make a public statement about the importance of history writing to society. The Prize celebrates wonderful books – books that break new ground in understanding the past and which are written in an engaging and accessible style, attributes which each of this year’s shortlisted works skilfully demonstrate.”

First awarded by the Wolfson Foundation in 1972, the Wolfson History Prize remains a beacon of the best historical writing being produced in the UK. Previous winners include Mary Beard, Simon Schama, Eric J. Hobsbawm, Amanda Vickery, Antony Beevor, Christopher Bayly, and Antonia Fraser.