David Abulafia wins Wolfson History Prize for work on the history of the oceans

The winner is one of the world's leading authorities on Mediterranean and medieval Italian history


Sephardi Jewish historian David Abulafia has been awarded the prestigious Wolfson History Prize for his book The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans.

An Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge, Mr Abulafia's book won the £40,000 prize from a shortlist of five other works.  

The Boundless Sea seeks to highlight how the oceans have shaped human societies and cultures, and to underline the importance of the seas as channels for trade and exchange throughout history.

Mr Abulafia's book explores, among others, the stories of Polynesian seafarers, Viking raiders and modern super-shipping.

The Boundless Sea is Mr Abulafia’s second well-received work on the seas, having previously authored an award-winning history of the Mediterranean that has been translated into a dozen languages.

Mr Abulafia said that winning the Wolfson History Prize was “a tribute to all of us who have been trying to communicate history to the public, writing in an accessible way without jargon, and making sure that people see the past as an essential part of our human experience”.

The Wolfson History Prize is run by the Wolfson Foundation, a charity that awards grants in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts.

David Cannadine, who chaired the judging panel, said: “The Boundless Sea tackles a world-encompassing subject: humanity’s constantly changing relationship with the seas that cover most of our planet and on which our very lives depend.”

He added: “This is a book of deep scholarship, brilliantly written and we extend our warmest congratulations to David Abulafia”

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