There are only six books on the shortlist, so, given how many history books are published every year, it's a huge honour to be amongst them- especially as the judges are historians I greatly admire, particularly Diarmaid McCulloch, whose lectures I really loved at Oxford. It's also quite overwhelming to look back at the list of previous winners, that includes so many historians I revere.
The six books (with judges' quotes) are:
Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination by Robert Bickers (Allen Lane, Penguin Press)
“An ambitious book delivered in an animated, accessible style. Based on an impressive sweep of archival material, with brilliant vignettes on subjects such as pre-war Shanghai, Bickers demonstrates a clarity and depth of knowledge which helps to frame modern China.”
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris (Allen Lane, Penguin Press)
“A serious work of research from a first-time author. Written in a lively, engaging style – and with no gruesome detail spared – Fitzharris transports her reader to the pivotal moment at which Joseph Lister transformed the worlds of science and medicine.”
A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War by Tim Grady (Yale University Press)
“A brave and brilliant history that presents a new view of the German Jewish community during the First World War. Measured in style and magisterial in quality, this accomplished account sheds light on the enormous diversity of Jewish experience.”
Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (Oneworld)
“A remarkable and important first book which uncovers and explores a previously neglected area of British history. Kaufmann imaginatively uses material from a range of sources to bring to life the overlooked stories of Africans in Tudor Britain.”
Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall (Yale University Press)
“A beautifully judged account of the English Reformation. Marshall weaves a single narrative through a contentious century without loss of detail or depth of understanding. Full of wise and humane analysis, this is ambitious in scope and brilliant in execution.”
Heligoland: Britain, Germany and the Struggle for the North Sea by Jan Rüger (Oxford University Press)
“An engrossing and accomplished history that uses the island of Heligoland to trace the complex course of Anglo-German relations across two centuries. Rüger offers a daring account that brilliantly uses micro-history to find the bigger picture.”
Another wonderful thing about being shortlisted is that the judges look for books that combine scholarly research with readability, or as judge Professor David Cannadine puts it, books with a 'commitment to share careful research and a deep love of their subject with as wide an audience as possible' and what Wolfson CEO Paul Ramsbottom describes as 'books that sparkle with brilliance, breaking new ground in our understanding of the past – and which are written in ways that appeal to a wide audience' -and that's exactly what I was trying to achieve with Black Tudors!
I'll be joining BBC presenter, Professor Rana Mitter, and the other shortlisted authors for a debate about writing history and an insight into each of our books at a BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking event at the British Academy on the evening of Wednesday 9th May. You can read more about the event and book your free ticket here.
In the meantime, wish me luck: may the best book win!