"Pompeii" wins the Wolfson History Prize
Almost three months ago I got a letter saying that my Pompeii had won one of the Wolfson History Prizes for 2008 (and very handsome in financial terms it is too). And, so the letter went on, I was to keep this absolutely quiet till 9 June. This has been one of the most difficult secrets I have kept in my life. You cant imagine how I've wanted to spill the beans. But, terrified at the idea of the prize being removed for bad behaviour, I have kept absolutely quiet.
This hasn't made life easy. I gave a short list of those that I would like to invite to the ceremony, but I didn't dare tell them why. So in the event not many could go. All the same, lots of friends were -- as it happens -- there at the prize giving at Claridges this evening.
What was especially fun for me was the idea that no classical book had won this since 1974, when Moses Finley took the prize with The Ancient Economy. It's a brilliant book -- probably quite wrong, but a significant world shaker. As I said in my 'thank you' speech, Moses was writing this and getting the prize when I was listening to his undergraduate lectures on fifth-century Athens.
If someone had told me then that I would win the prize that Moses had just won (he was an inspirational and infuriating historian...and person) -- I wouldn't have believed them. I still don't, quite.
By the way the other winner was the excellent Margaret McGowan, with Dance in the Renaissance.