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Black history book wins major award

ACCOLADE: David Olusoga (image credit: BBC)

HISTORIAN AND broadcaster David Olusoga has won a top award for a major book that chronicles black British history.

Olusoga’s book, Black and British: A Forgotten History, a re-examination of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean, won the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2017. The Hessell-Tiltman prize of £2,000 is awarded annually for a non-fiction book of specifically historical content.

The book was accompanied by a four-part television series, broadcast on BBC Two in November 2016.

The announcement was made at the recent inaugural Wimpole History Festival at the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, a collaboration between the National Trust and the Cambridge Literary Festival.

Awarding the prize, Jean Seaton, chair of the judges, said:

“David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History is a wonderful read, but it won because it was so surprising. It discovers unexpected stories of black people in Britain, but it is as much about the ebb and flow of how the British have made that story (sometimes negatively, sometimes positively) part of the national narrative.”

Seaton added:

“Above all, this story – sometimes shaming and chilling, but equally inspiring and strange – is told with a great calm and curiosity. The tone invites us all to reflect and become part of the reassessment. It is a tremendous achievement.”

Accepting the award Olusoga, whose previous books include The Kaiser’s Holocaust and The World’s War as well as contributing to The Oxford Companion to Black British History, said:

“It has been a bizarre and wonderful experience, to get all these other people’s histories and experiences and weave them together – with my own very personal stories, but also with a bigger story of this country.”

Critic and historian Frances Stonor Saunders and the 2016 winner of the Hessell- Tiltman Prize Nicholas Stargardt formed the judging panel along with Seaton.

Among those shortlisted alongside Olusoga were leading historians Sarah Bakewell, Jerry Brotton and Susan L. Carruthers.

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