Latest Prize Winners
Winners of the Wolfson History Prizes (for books published in 2014) awarded at a reception at Claridge's on 14 May 2015:
Richard Vinen, National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963
In this “exceptionally original work of historical reconstruction”, Richard Vinen unpicks the myths surrounding National Service in Britain: a unique period of peacetime conscription from the end of the Second World War until 1963. Vividly recounting the experiences of some of its 2 million conscripts, whether on military bases in Britain, or in far off places ranging from Korea to the West Indies, Vinen challenges comfortable assumptions about this extraordinary institution.
In his speech at the award ceremony, History Prize judge Professor Sir David Cannadine praised the author for not only evoking “a vanished period in our relatively recent past, with the help of reminiscences and recollections of many survivors from those times” but also opening up “many new vistas on the broader social, political and international history of post war Britain.”
Richard Vinen is the author of a number of highly-praised books, including A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century, The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation and Thatcher's Britain. He is Professor of History at King's College London.
Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918
In a book that "takes us to the very heart and epicentre of the First World War" Alexander Watson has written a wide-ranging history of the war from the perspective of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Despite early successes and expectations of a rapid victory, the Central Powers’ war plans soon unravelled. Germany’s attack on France failed, Austria-Hungary suffered catastrophic losses, and Britain’s naval blockades strangled Germany and Austria of war supplies, bringing their soldiers and civilians to the brink of starvation.
In awarding the Prize, History Prize judge Professor Sir David Cannadine described the book as a “superbly orchestrated history encompassing military strategy and the battles and campaigns on the eastern and western fronts; the high politics of war in Berlin and Vienna and the popular politics of belligerence and disenchantment among the peoples of both empires; and the inexorably damaging consequences of the allied blockade in terms of deprivation and famine.”
“The result”, he added, “is an enthralling, multi-layered account, which for many readers opens up wholly new perspectives on a period of modern history about which you might mistakenly think there was nothing new to write.”
Alexander Watson is Lecturer in History at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has held previous posts at Cambridge and Warsaw Universities. His first book Enduring the Great War won the Fraenkel Prize. Ring of Steel has also been awarded the 2014 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History and the Society for Military History's 2015 Distinguished Book Award.
The Prize winners both received an award of £25,000. The judges for the prize were Sir Keith Thomas (Chairman), Professor Sir David Cannadine, Professor Sir Richard Evans and Professor Julia Smith.