Professor Henrietta Harrison shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2023


The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is delighted to announce that Professor Henrietta Harrison has been shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2023. She is one of three Oxford academics who were nominated this year. Their books, which were informed by research and written for a general audience, are:


  • The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe by James Belich (Princeton University Press
  • The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire by Henrietta Harrison (Princeton University Press)
  • Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers by Emma Smith (Allen Lane)

First awarded by the Wolfson Foundation in 1972, the Wolfson History Prize remains a beacon of the best historical writing being produced in the UK. The Prize rewards books which are judged to be "reflecting qualities of both readability for a general audience and excellence in writing and research". The overall winner will be announced on 13 November.

Professor Harrison said: I’m very excited to be shortlisted for the prize!  China is a massive issue right now, and I think that it is really important that people understand the history that lies behind our relationship with it. For The Perils of Interpreting to be shortlisted will tell people that this is a book they can read and enjoy … Language learning is in sad decline in the UK and it would be great if the book inspired young people to learn Chinese, but also French, Italian and even Latin, all languages I used for the research.”

Professor Dan Grimley, Head of Humanities at Oxford University, said: "I am delighted that Professors Henrietta Harrison, Emma Smith and James Belich have been shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize. Not only is this the UK's most prestigious history writing prize, it also honours academics who have made their excellent research accessible to a wide audience. This is at the core of the mission of Oxford's Humanities Division, so I am thrilled that three of our scholars have received this recognition."

The Wolfson History Prize is run and awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity that awards grants in the fields of science, health, heritage, humanities, and the arts. 

Read more about Prof. Harrison's prize-winning book, The Perils of Interpreting, in her interview here.