History Reclaimed Book of the Year 2023,
History Reclaimed Prize for the Promotion of History and Historical Studies
In The Wife of Bath: A Biography, Marion Turner examines, in several different contexts, Chaucer’s most famous woman, the subject and star of one of the best-loved stories in The Canterbury Tales. She considers Chaucer’s sources for his characterisation of the Wife of Bath, comparing the fictional Wife of Bath to real medieval women of the 14th century. She examines the continuing literary fascination with this protean figure, an interest shared by writers as diverse as Shakespeare, Dryden, Voltaire and Joyce, and demonstrates the Wife’s continuing place in popular culture today. In a book that straddles literary, historical and cultural studies generally, and which entertains and instructs throughout, one of the most remarkable and rollicking characters in all of literature is given centre stage. What else would we expect of a woman who ‘had five husbands at the church door’? History Reclaimed congratulates Marion Turner for writing a book of the widest interest.
We have also made a second award this year, inaugurating a new prize ‘for the Promotion of History and Historical Studies’. The intention is to reward someone who has supported and upheld the study of objective and unbiased history, based on the evidence and sources. The prize could be won by anyone – writer, teacher, publisher, official, politician, academic – who has striven to maintain the highest scholarly standards and been faithful to the past. Our inaugural winner is Professor Nigel Biggar, Professor Emeritus of Moral and Pastoral Theology in the University of Oxford, for his book, Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning (William Collins, 2023) and for his staunch defence of reasoned history, based on the evidence, despite facing waves of politically-motivated criticism for daring to re-examine the ethical record of the British empire. Nigel has not only published his own study of this subject, but has led a group of historians who, over the past five years, have reconsidered the history of empire. History Reclaimed congratulates Professor Biggar on his personal achievement and on his defence of the essential academic freedom to think again, and think differently.
We thank readers for participating in our competition for the History Book of the Year Prize. All five of the shortlisted authors will be facing the camera to talk about their books in the coming weeks and we shall make these videos available on the HR website.
Lord Sumption (Chairman)