Professor Emma Smith shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2023

Portable Magic book cover

Congratulations to Professor Emma Smith who has been shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2023 for her book Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers (Allen Lane). The Wolfson History Prize is one of the UK's most prestigious awards for history writing. It recognises and celebrates books which combine excellence in research with readability.

Professor Smith said: “I’m delighted and humbled to be shortlisted (and, as someone trained in English Literature, a bit imposter-syndrome-y about claiming to be an historian!). Over the last months, I’ve loved discussing my book with readers, especially the ways it draws on and reflects back their own bookish experiences, so the shortlist feels a wonderful opportunity to have more of those conversations.” 

Out of the six books on the shortlist, three of the authors are from the University of Oxford's Humanities division. Alongside Professor Emma Smith, Professor Henrietta Harrison (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies) has been shortlisted for her book The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire (Princeton University Press), and Professor James Belich (Faculty of History) has been shortlisted for his book The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe (Princeton University Press).

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 winner will be announced on 13 November, 2023. You can find out more about the prize on the Wolfson History Prize website: