British Academy Opens Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize Submissions, Adds New Jurors

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The 2021 season for the Al-Rodhan Prize opens at a moment of transition in the program’s field of world understanding and relations.

On Leicester Square in London, generally teeming with pedestrians in non-pandemic times, January 5. Image – iStockphoto: VV Shots

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Cannadine: ‘Society, Humanity and Our Shared Values’
Another push-off for one of the United Kingdom’s many book and publishing awards: The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding has today (January 19) opened for submissions with a deadline of March 31.

The academy’s £25,000 prize (US$34,040) is awarded annually for a book that contributes to “public understanding of world cultures.”

It’s meant “to illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide,” as its media messaging has it, based in the work of the award’s sponsor, Nayef Al-Rodhan, an honorary fellow at St. Antony’s Oxford, and program director with the Geopolitics and Global Futures Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

Needless to say, the eve of the inauguration Tuesday (January 20) of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their new Democratic administration of the American government, is a particularly timely moment for the opening of this award program with its stress on international understanding.

As James M. Lindsay is writing at the Council on Foreign Relations, “Biden comes to office with five decades of foreign policy experience. He has stacked his foreign policy team with smart, veteran policy hands who know the issues and how to make government work. And numerous foreign leaders are willing to help him where they can and to give him a pass where they can’t.”

He cautions, however, “It is easy to blame Donald Trump for weakening America’s position in the world. And he did. But the challenges presented by the likes of Iran, North Korea, and Russia predated his presidency.”

(Lindsay is the co-author with Ivo H. Daalder of The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership (Hachette / Public Affairs).)

Patrick Wright Welcomes Sands, Al-Rasheed, Catherine Hall

Jurors working this year with chair Patrick Wright on the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize are, from left, Philippe Sands, Madawi Al-Rasheed, Catherine Hall, and, from the 2020 jury, Fatima Manji

King’s College literature and history professor emeritus Patrick Wright will again head up the jury. He took up the post last year from the previous chair, Ash Amin.

Three new jurors will join Wright and the journalist Fatima Manji for this year’s program.

  • Philippe Sands of University College London and the firm Matrix Chambers. He is president of English PEN and won the Baillie Gifford Prize in 2016 for East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (Penguin Random House / Vintage)
  • Madawi Al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. She’s an author and editor of several books on Saudi Arabia and is a regular contributor of content to various news and information media. A recent piece from Al-Rasheed was “US Election: Mohammed bin Salman Braces for the Loss of a Key Ally” for Middle East Eye as Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden loomed.
  • Catherine Hall, professor emerita of modern British social and cultural history and chair of the Centre for the Study of British Slave Ownership in the department of history, University College London. She’s a leading social and cultural historian known for her work on gender, class, race, and empire in the 19th century

Patrick Wright

In a prepared comment, Wright is quoted, saying, “The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize exists to reward the best works of nonfiction which help us to understand world cultures and the way they interconnect with one another.

“It’s a great pleasure to welcome the new jury members who each bring exceptional expertise to the table. We look forward to reading and discussing the books which compel us with new stories and will inspire readers to develop a deeper understanding of the world around us.”

David Cannadine

David Cannadine

And British Academy president, the historian Sir David Cannadine, says, “The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize is an important way of recognizing new, well-researched works of nonfiction which enable us to adopt a global view on society, humanity and our shared values.

“This year we offer a warm welcome to new members of the jury, who are each highly distinguished in a wide range of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences.”

Previous Al-Rodhan Prize Winners

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the 2020 winner of the Al-Rodhan Prize was Hazel V. Carby for her Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands (Verso).

In Imperial Intimacies, published by Verso, the award organizers said, Carby weaves her family’s story into the history of Britain and that of Jamaica as it was shaped under the British Empire.

Prior wins include:

  • Toby Green for A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (2019)
  • Kapka Kassabova for Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe (2018)
  • Timothy Garton for Ash for Free Speech (2017)
  • Carole Hillenbrand for Islam: A New Historical Introduction (2016)
  • Neil MacGregor for A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany: Memories of a Nation (2015)

The eponymous Al-Rodhan’s own writings include Emotional Amoral Egoism (LIT Verlag, 2008); Neo-Statecraft and Meta-Geopolitics (LIT Verlag, 2009); Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Al-Rodhan’s site is called Sustainable History. The prize now “for Global Cultural Understanding,” was established in 2013 and originally was called the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding. This will be its third year with the “Global Cultural Understanding” moniker.

The Coronavirus in the United Kingdom

At this writing, the 7:22 a.m. ET (1222 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 3,3443,350 cases in the UK’s population of 67 million, with 90,031 fatalities.

These numbers place the UK at fifth in the world today both for caseload and death toll. Countries with more cases are the United States, India, Brazil, and Russia. Countries with more COVID-19 fatalities are the States, Brazil, India, and Mexico.

An estimated one in eight people in England had antibodies against the coronavirus during December, Reuters London is reporting, suggesting they have had COVID-19 previously.

And the BBC reports that today the British health secretary Matt Hancock, West Suffolk’s MP, has announced that he’s self-isolating, having been alerted by the National Health Service’s app of an exposure to someone who had tested positive.

Hancock said he learned from the app he had been “in close contact with somebody who’s tested positive” and so self-isolating was “how we break the chains of transmission.” The NHS app tells a person if they have been in close contact with someone who has later tested positive for coronavirus and tells them to isolate for 10 full days from their last contact.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book award programs is here, and more from us on the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize is here

And more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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