The Wolfson History Prize 2023

Published: 29th November 2023

On 13 November 2023 some of the HA team were fortunate enough to be in a glorious room at Claridge’s in Mayfair, London to hear the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Wolfson History Prize.

To a full room it was announced that the winner was independent historian Halik Kochanski, for her sweeping history of resistance in wartime Europe: Resistance: The Underground War in Europe, 1939-45. Bringing previously untold accounts of wartime resistance to light, Resistance is the first English language history of resistance to study the whole of Europe, uncovering powerful human stories that have been overlooked across the continent. The book delves into the reasons that people chose to resist the Third Reich and the methods they used, from partisan warfare in the occupied Soviet Union to dangerous acts of insurrection in the Netherlands. In Resistance Halik Kochanski reveals remarkable achievements of ordinary people and the formidable challenges they faced amid oppression.

Winning the prize makes you part of an exclusive club, putting your name on the list of some of the most engaging writers of history of the last 50 years. Awarded annually, the Wolfson History Prize is also the most valuable history writing prize in the UK,  with the winner receiving £50,000 and the shortlisted authors receiving £5,000 each. For the shortlisted authors it can also jet-propel a career into areas not before imagined.

The remaining 2023 shortlist is:

  • African and Caribbean People in Britain: A History, by Hakim Adi (Allen Lane)
  • The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe, by James Belich (Princeton University Press)
  • The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire, by Henrietta Harrison (Princeton University Press)
  • Vagabonds: Life on the Streets of Nineteenth Century London, by Oskar Jensen (Duckworth Books)
  • Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers, by Emma Smith (Allen Lane) 

The Wolfson History Prize is one of the rare opportunities that exist to celebrate top-class history research presented in accessible and readable volumes that cover wide and diverse episodes and themes of history. All of those shortlisted have provided excellent works which we plan to explore further through lecture invitations for our future events.

For the HA team there was the added bonus of catching up with friendly academics, meeting potential new speakers and collaborators and playing Medlicott bingo – there really were rather a number of Medlicott Medal winners in the room.