The Rest Is History podcast awarded prestigious humanities prize for success in creating ‘a new generation of history enthusiasts’

5 Dec 2023

The British Academy – the national body for humanities and social sciences – has awarded its 2023 President’s Medal to a podcast: The Rest is History, for the first time ever. The prize, bestowed by Professor Julia Black on behalf of the Academy, is given in recognition of the podcast’s work to promote and popularise history to a global audience.

The President’s Medal – the Academy’s highest honour in its suite of prizes and medals – is awarded annually in recognition of services to the humanities and the social sciences. Previous recipients include historian and broadcaster David Olusoga, author Margaret Atwood, journalist Gillian Tett and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall. In 2022, the Medal was awarded to an organisation, marking the first time the prize has not been awarded to an individual.

2023 marks the first time the Medal has been awarded to a podcast or any type of broadcast programme, in recognition of The Rest is History’s work to present historical research in an engaging and accessible way to a wider audience and provide a platform for a range of academics to engage the public with their expertise. Since first airing in late 2020, The Rest is History has provided in-depth explorations into a diverse and complex set of historical topics ranging across time and place from antiquity and the ancient world to “the architect of Modern China”, Deng Xiaoping and the life and death of John F. Kennedy. Since its launch, the podcast has been downloaded 150 million times globally.

Each year, the British Academy recognises excellence in the SHAPE subjects (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy) by awarding a wide-ranging suite of prizes and medals, including the President’s Medal and the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding – a prize of £25,000 awarded annually to a work of non-fiction.

The Rest is History hosts, Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, will appear as part of the British Academy’s events programme in autumn 2024. More details will be unveiled next year, as the Academy is set to announce a new public programme as part of the launch of its transformed building at Carlton House Terrace, following a £9million redevelopment.

Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said: 

“In this era of contested histories, the need for rigorous and grounded historical insights is increasingly urgent. The Rest Is History has successfully tapped into this need. Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook’s combination of scholarly rigour, enthusiasm and sense of fun has proved a winning formula in connecting academic expertise with a curious public and is creating a new generation of history enthusiasts. They are exceptional hosts, supported by an excellent team. I offer them all my warm congratulations and hope this year’s award sparks reflections about the importance of independent, critical engagement with our collective histories.”

On receiving the British Academy’s President’s Medal, hosts Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook said: 

“It’s an enormous honour to be awarded the President’s Medal, and one we could never have anticipated when we began our podcast. At a time when historical debates are often so strident and simplistic, our goal has always been to share our enthusiasm for the past, with all its thrilling complexity, with the widest possible audience. We love history, and we love talking about it. But we’ve only been able to do that with the help of our brilliant young production team, and this award is for them, too.”

Photo by Chris Floyd

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