Joanna Bourke appointed Chair of 2018 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize panel

Birkbeck historian and orator Professor Joanna Bourke will chair the judging panel for a prize that recognises an exceptional work of historical non-fiction, published in Britain.

Professor Joanna Bourke, from Birkbeck's Department of History, Classics and Archaeology.

History Professor and prize-winning scholar Joanna Bourke will chair the judging panel for the prestigious PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for 2018, awarded by English PEN for an exceptional work of historical non-fiction.

Professor Bourke, who is also the College’s orator, is known for her own published works, including War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict (2017) and The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers (2014). Her research focuses on the history of sexual violence, pain, fear and armed conflicts.

She said: “I was thrilled to be asked to chair the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, which provides me with an opportunity to read some of the best history books published in 2017. The prize is an attempt to celebrate historians and what their writings contribute to our understanding of the past and its impact on the present.”

English PEN was established in 1921 as the founding centre of PEN International, the worldwide writers' association. The organisation promotes freedom of expression and literature across frontiers, matching writers with marginalised groups including people in prisons, refugee or detention centres and young people in disadvantaged areas.

Professor Bourke will be joined on the panel by John Bew, Professor of History and Foreign Policy at King’s College London and writer, cultural commentator and Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, Ekow Eshun.

The PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize was established in 1999 in memory of Marjorie Hessell-Tiltman, a longstanding member of English PEN. The winning book must be a work of historical non-fiction, excluding biographies, academic publications and translations; it can be on any period of the past but it must be published in Britain and in English. 

Professor Bourke said: “The only problem is that there are too many fantastic historians out there! Birkbeck’s Department of History, Classics, and Archaeology is a prime example of a university with a flourishing intellectual culture – our students are some of the most historically-engaged scholars in the country.

“Indeed, history is one of the most dynamic and innovative genres around at present. I wish we could give out a dozen of these prizes,” she added.

The shortlisted works will be announced in March, with the winner of the £2000 prize revealed in summer.

Further Information