by Dr Clare Jackson wins the Wolfson History Prize 2022

Dr Clare Jackson. Image: Alastair McCormick

Dr Clare Jackson. Image: Alastair McCormick

Dr Clare Jackson. Image: Alastair McCormick

A book about Britain’s tumultuous seventeenth century by Cambridge historian Dr Clare Jackson has triumphed in one of the most prestigious prizes for historical writing.

Dr Jackson, Senior Tutor and Fellow of Trinity Hall, was revealed as the winner of the UK’s most valuable history prize in London on 22nd June.

Jackson’s acclaimed book, Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 (published by Allen Lane) transports readers to an England in the grip of civil war, fire, plague and political division, leading European neighbours to refer to the country as ‘Devil-Land’.

Using first-hand accounts from foreigners living in England, Jackson builds a compelling picture of a nation in a near-constant state of radicalism and crisis, from the eve of the Spanish Armada through to the Glorious Revolution. Professor Sir David Cannadine, chair of the judges, described the book as “a masterpiece” and “gripping”.

Dr Jackson said: “One of Devil-Land’s aims was to draw attention to pervasive themes of anxiety and vulnerability felt by many seventeenth-century contemporaries about England’s relations with its British and Continental neighbours and, when we consider geopolitical relations around the world today, a similar sense of fragility and precarity remains resonant.”

“I’m delighted and deeply honoured to have won the Wolfson History Prize which recognises historical writing that combines academic scholarship with accessibility for a broad readership. It’s thrilling to join the hugely distinguished list of previous Prizewinners and to share in the celebrations of the Wolfson History Prize’s special 50th anniversary year.

“I’m so grateful, not only to the Wolfson Foundation, but also to the large numbers of undergraduates and postgraduates with whom I’ve discussed seventeenth-century England over many years, as well as colleagues at Trinity Hall and in the Cambridge History Faculty for endlessly stimulating conversations and encouragement.”

Dr Clare Jackson studied history as an Undergraduate at Sidney Sussex College and returned to complete a PhD on royalist ideas in late-seventeenth century Scotland. After a Junior Research Fellowship at Sidney Sussex, Jackson moved to Trinity Hall in 2000, where she is currently Senior Tutor and Walter Grant Scott Fellow, College Associate Professor and Director of Studies in History.

Now in its 50th year, the Wolfson History Prize is awarded annually by the Wolfson Foundation to a work of historical non-fiction which combines excellence in research and writing with readability for a general audience.

Previous winners have included Mary Beard, Simon Schama, Eric Hobsbawm, Antonia Fraser and, in 2020, David Abulafia, Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean History and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College.

Jackson’s Devil-Land was part of a shortlist of six history books covering a wide range of subjects. David Cannadine said:

“Devil-Land is a masterpiece of historical writing: a gripping book that brings to life the drama of 17th-century England, a time of rebellion, regicide and civil war.

“By looking at England from the perspective of European observers, Clare Jackson gives us a wider lens through which to view the period, helping us to see ourselves through the eyes of others. Devil-Land is a fitting winner of the Wolfson History Prize in this our fiftieth year”.

Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said:

“Clare Jackson’s engrossing book demonstrates how history can bring fresh insights to familiar events and shed new light on the narratives of our past.”

A virtual winner announcement can be viewed here.

Celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Wolfson History Prize include a series of free events, which will see expert panels discuss key themes in history.

Published: 23rd June 2022

The text in this work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Front cover of Clare Jackson's book Devil-land, published by Allen Lane
Dr Clare Jackson holding her book Devil-land