The Wolfson History Prize has been awarded annually since 1972. It was established largely on the initiative of Leonard Wolfson, backed by Trustees of the Wolfson Foundation and other advisers, including (Sir) Isaiah Berlin and George (Lord) Weidenfeld. Alan (Lord) Bullock later recalled that "when we set up the prizes, the object was to encourage British historians to write in such a way that they would reach a general public and not barricade themselves behind their scholarly expertise to conduct a private debate."
The winners of the Prize span the full range of historical enquiry: from biography to social, cultural and economic history to books about politics, war and international relations. All periods and geographic regions are represented. The roll call of winners - and the announcement of the Prize each year - is a public statement of the importance of historical writing within British cultural life. The former Chair of judges, Sir Keith Thomas, argued that "the culmination of historical writing remains a major work of narrative, analysis or interpretation, carefully composed and memorably expressed. This is the kind of book which the Wolfson History Prize seeks to recognise."
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Prize, Sir Keith Thomas wrote The Wolfson History Prize 1972-2012: an Informal History. An electronic copy of this publication is available for download here.