The President of The British Academy, Professor Sir David Cannadine, has delivered the 2019 Holberg Prize Banquet speech.
The banquet was held in Bergen, Norway, in honour of this year’s Holberg Prize winner, Professor Paul Gilroy FBA. The Holberg Prize is awarded annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the arts and humanities, social science, law or theology, either in one of these fields or through interdisciplinary work.
A cultural historian, Professor Gilroy received the award in recognition of his contributions to a number of academic fields, including cultural studies, critical race studies, sociology, history, anthropology and African-American studies.
Praising Professor Gilroy’s work, specifically on inequality, Sir David said:
“Paul Gilroy deserves all the recognition and acclaim that you are giving him and bestowing on him. Much of Paul Gilroy’s work has been devoted to exploring and making plain some of these many and multifarious, interlocking and interconnected hierarchies of inequality. And if inequality is to be lessened, and opportunities improved, then his work, along with that of many other practitioners in the humanities, the social sciences, the law and philosophy, is crucial to those endeavours.”
Sir David also thanked the Norwegian government for establishing and funding the Holberg prize and for recognising the social, economic and cultural value of the humanities and social sciences.
He said: “There is something particularly heartening about the fact that twice a year, with the Holberg Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize, Norway gives itself over to honouring and celebrating those men and women who have enhanced and enriched our lives, by opening up new perspectives on what it means to be human, and by working to promote humanity’s most precious and priceless goal, namely peace itself.
“It is to Norway’s credit, and indeed to its lasting glory, that you give time and effort and support to these great causes and high endeavours, by providing such splendid forms of recognition and acclaim.”
Professor Gilroy is the fourth Fellow of the British Academy to win the Holberg Prize in its 16-year history, following Professors Ronnie Dworkin, Marina Warner and Onora O’Neill. A further eight winners have been corresponding Fellows of the Academy, based in North America or Europe.