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The British Academy President's Medal

The President’s Medals are awarded annually, designed to recognise outstanding service to the cause of the humanities and social sciences, and are awarded for academic-related activity rather than academic achievement alone.

Service may be to one or more disciplines, but preference may be given to breadth of service.The Medals were first awarded in 2010.


There is no defined limit on what may qualify as outstanding service. Examples could include accurate and insightful journalism contributing to public understanding; meritorious use of research-based advice within the policymaking process; public leadership concerning the value and interests of research in humanities and social science; creative forms of support for humanities and social science within an institutional context; providing or securing resource to invest in research in these disciplines. Recipients of the medal may be anyone (likely to be UK-based, but overseas candidates are not excluded) who has done or achieved something suitably meritorious, either recently or over a longer period, which the Academy sees fit to recognise and reward. Recipients cannot be Fellows of the British Academy but could be individuals (academics, members of the media or business worlds, or policymakers) or organisations (universities, corporations, charities). 

How to nominate

Nominations may only be made by Fellows of the British Academy. Nominations for the 2019 Medal have now closed. 

2018 Winners 

Zeinab BadawiZeinab Badawi was born in the Sudan - her family moved to London when she was two years old. She studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and took a Masters Degree (awarded with a distinction) on Middle East History and Anthropology at SOAS London University.  In 2011 Zeinab was awarded an honorary doctorate by SOAS, London University for her services to international broadcasting. In 2015 she received a second honorary doctorate for journalism from the London College of Communications - University of the Arts London. 

Zeinab has extensive experience in television and radio, working on a range of programmes. She is one of the best known broadcast journalists working in the field today.   Her awards include International TV Personality of the Year ( the Association of International Broadcasters) and she has been named several times in Powerlist as one of Britain’s top 100 most influential members of the black community. In 2018 she was one of the top 50 most influential African diaspora members according to African Leaders Magazine.

She is the current Chair of the Royal African Society, a Queen’s appointment to the Board of the Historic Royal Palaces, a trustee of BBC Media Action (the charitable arm of the BBC), a Vice-President of the United Nations Association UK, and a trustee of Hampstead Theatre. 

Zeinab is a former trustee/board member of the National Portrait Gallery, the British Council, the Centre for Contemporary British History, the Overseas Development Institute, the African Union Foundation, the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council for Africa and is a former Chair of the London based freedom of speech campaign organisation, Article 19.

"I was delighted, moved and deeply grateful that a body as august as the British Academy should confer on me such an award. To receive a President’s Medal is truly a great honour. Thank you."

John HemmingJohn Hemming's eighteen books are based on much research and travel in Peru and Amazonia, including visits to over forty indigenous peoples (four at first contact), three expeditions into unexplored terrain, and leading a large rainforest research project with two hundred scientists and technicians. He was Director of the Royal Geographical Society for twenty-one years, during which it flourished in every way.  He built up and then chaired Hemming Group Ltd., a company publishing trade periodicals and organising trade fairs. He has served on many charity councils, and have received a fair number of medals and awards.

"I am deeply honoured and delighted by this medal, because it is for my writings about Peru and Brazil where over the years I have enjoyed so much kindness and so many adventures, and particularly because it recognises the remarkable indigenous peoples of the Amazon."

Andreas GestrichAndreas Gestrich read history and Latin at Berlin's Free University and at Tubingen University from where he also received his PhD in modern history. He started his academic career as a lecturer in modern history at Stuttgart University in 1983 and was appointed to a chair for Modern European History at Trier University in 1997. From 2006 to 2018 he served as Director of the German Historical Institute London. He has published widely on German and British history, in particular the history of childhood, youth and the family, the history of poverty and poor relief as well as the history of the media and the political public sphere. As director of the German Historical Institute London it was his aim to facilitate and encourage close cooperation within British and German academic research in the humanities and social sciences in the wider context of a globalising academic world.

"As a German scholar and the Director of the German Historical Institute London I feel greatly honoured and deeply moved by the award of the President's Medal of the British Academy. The promotion of high-class research and international collaboration in the field of history is the driving force behind the work of the German Historical Institute London. For this reason the fact that the British Academy has chosen to recognise my efforts to further the study of German and European history while working in Britain is most rewarding and encouraging. I am extremely grateful for this honour."

William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple is the author of nine books about India and the Islamic world, including City of Djinns, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India and Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839-42. He has just published a short history of the Koh-i-Noor, co-written with Anita Anand. 

He writes regularly for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and the Guardian, and is one of the founders and a co-director of the Jaipur Literary Festival, now the world’s largest literary festival.  He curated a major show of Mughal art for the Asia Society in New York, Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi 1707-1857 and is currently working on an exhibition of Masterpieces of Indian Painting for the East India Company which will open at the Wallace Collection in London next September.

He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Literature has honorary doctorates of letters from the universities of St Andrews, Aberdeen, Bradford, Lucknow and Edinburgh and recently took up visiting fellowships at Princeton and Brown. For most of the year he lives on a farm outside Delhi with his wife Olivia and his three children, Ibby, Sam and Adam.

“I am completely thrilled to win the President's Medal from the British Academy. As a historian who has, unusually these days, chosen to pursue his craft outside academia, as a writer rather than a teacher, the award gives a most welcome endorsement from the heart of the academic establishment and is an immense encouragement as well as a great honour”  

Dame Frances Cairncross

Dame Frances Cairncross is chair of the Court of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a Trustee of the Natural History Museum. she is currently undertaking a review of the future of high-quality journalism for DCMS. She was previously Rector (ie, head) of Exeter College Oxford, and before that a Senior Editor on The Economist. She is married to the journalist Hamish McRae, and is the daughter of the late Sir Alec Cairncross, FBA. She is awarded the British Academy Medal for her outstanding contributions to economic journalism. 

“I am thrilled and astonished to be given a medal by the British Academy. I am especially moved to receive this wonderful distinction because it is almost exactly 20 years since I lost my father, Sir Alec Cairncross, who was a Fellow of the Academy.” 


Previous Winners

2017  Claudia Hammond, BBC Radio 4

2017  Katie Mitchell OBE

2017  Jimmy Wales, Wikimedia Foundation

2017  Professor James Stevens Curl, University of Ulster

2017  Professor Helga Nowotny, ETH Zurich

2016  Dr Roger Bland OBE, University of Leicester

2016  Dr Leofranc Holford-Strevens 

2016  Dame Hilary Mantel DBE 

2016  Professor Sir Stanley Wells CBE, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

2015  Dr Peter V Addyman, formerly York Archaeological Trust and Jorvik Viking Centre

2015  Darren Henley, Arts Council England

2015  Dr Elizabeth Livingstone

2015  Professor Michael Wood, University of Manchester

2014  Peter Brook, Centre International de Créations Théâtrales

2014  Sir Paul Collier, University of Oxford

2014  Dame Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall Institute

2014  Clive James

2013  Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

2013  Baroness Jean Coussins, House of Lords

2013  Sir Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement 

2013  Lord Williams of Oystermouth FBA, Magdalene College, Cambridge

2012  Professor Warwick Gould, Institute of English Studies, University of London

2012  The Right Reverend Professor Lord Harries of Pentregarth

2012  Professor Lisa Jardine CBE, University College London

2012  Professor Sir John Vickers FBA, University of Oxford

2011  Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican Centre

2011  Dr Gillian Tett, Assistant Editor, Financial Times

2011  Ms Sharon Witherspoon, Deputy Director of the Nuffield Foundation

2010  Dr Sarah Tyacke, Distinguished Research Fellow, School of Advanced Study, University of London

2010  Professor Michael Worton, Vice Provost (Academic and International) and Fielden Professor of French Language and Literature, University College London

2010  Rt Hon Peter Riddell, Institute for Government