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University of York hosts Wolfson History Prize 2020 celebration

Posted on 10 November 2020

Four of the UK’s top history writers will explore how the past can shine a light on the big issues we face today at a special Wolfson History Prize 2020 celebration hosted by the University of York.

Wolfson History Prize 2020 winner David Abulafia, and three of the shortlisted authors, Marion Turner, Toby Green and Prashant Kidambi, will examine subjects ranging from humankind’s relationship with the world’s oceans to Indian cricket, and from Chaucer to the kingdoms of West Africa.

The online event is presented as part of York Ideas, a year-long series of events led by the University of York to educate, entertain and inspire, which culminates in York Festival of Ideas in June each year.

Global stories

During the panel discussion on Tuesday 24 November, the four historians will look at what the fascinating global stories they have investigated can tell us about the world we live in today.

Joan Concannon, Director of External Relations, from the University of York said: “The University of York is delighted to host a Wolfson History Prize 2020 celebration as part of its York Ideas programme. We look forward to welcoming a global audience to what I am sure will be a fascinating discussion. The event will be introduced by our Head of History, Professor Laura Stewart, who will also pay special tribute to our beloved former colleague and renowned historian, Professor Mark Ormrod, who died recently.

“As a University for public good, and with a highly ranked Department of History, we are very pleased to be involved in an event which promotes the integral importance, and relevance, of the discipline of history to society. And in the spirit of city wide collaborations and partnerships, we’re also really honoured that Reyahn King, CEO of York Museums Trust will chair the event.”

Outstanding factual history

The Wolfson History Prize is awarded annually by the Wolfson Foundation to promote and recognise outstanding factual history written for a general audience. Books are judged on the extent to which they are carefully researched, well-written and accessible to the non-specialist reader.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive at the Wolfson Foundationsaid“Over the years, there have been close associations between Wolfson and York’s wonderful cultural and educational organisations, and we are delighted to have this involvement with York Ideas. We share their belief in the power of education and ideas. Within that context, history is more important than ever, and these are four insightful, erudite and inspiring thinkers.”

Human societies and cultures

David Abulafia’s book, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans, reveals the importance of the sea to all of our stories, highlighting how it has shaped human societies and cultures for millennia.

Toby Green’s A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution explores the history of pre-colonial West Africa. It dismantles the Western notion that Africa had little history before European colonisation and reveals the rich and complex history of the region over a thousand years.

In Chaucer: A European Life, Marion Turner shines a light on the distinctly European influences that shaped the life and work of The Canterbury Tales author. She reveals how the “father of English literature” was in fact a cosmopolitan figure influenced heavily by the Continent.

Prashant Kidambi’s Cricket Country: An Indian Odyssey in the Age of Empire explains how the first All India cricket tour of Great Britain and Ireland during the coronation summer of 1911 is a prism through which to explore colonial relations, the last days of the British Empire, and the beginning of Indian nationhood.

The event on Tuesday 24 November from 7pm to 8.15pm is free to attend, open to all and includes an audience Q&A. For details on how to book this and other University of York public events visit

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