Hazel Carby’s history of the British Empire has won the British Academy’s £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding.
Her book Imperial Intimacies: A Tale Of Two Islands tells the story of the empire through her family story.
Ms Carby, who grew up in south London, is the daughter of a mother from Wales and a father from Jamaica who was recruited to serve in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
Commenting on behalf of the jury, Professor Patrick Wright said: “This is a beautifully achieved demonstration of what can happen when the child of a mixed-race family takes her memories of growing up in post-war England and Wales, and treats them as the basis for an exploration of the history that made that experience and continued to weigh so heavily upon everyone involved.
“Imperial Intimacies reveals so much that should be remembered about the British Empire: the extent to which it shaped Britain and its attitudes, its cruelties and the opportunities it offered even to poor Britons looking to improve their situation at the expense of their slaves or indentured workers.
“It is exceptional both in the tenacity with which Carby builds up historical worlds to give reality to ancestors only remembered as names, and in the way she manages to convert pain into understanding without becoming reconciled to the attitudes and circumstances that cramped her parents lives and, to an extent, continue to exist in the present.”
The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize was established in 2013 to recognise works of non-fiction which contribute towards the cultural understanding of connections and divisions which shape identities across the world.
Last year’s winner was Toby Green for A Fistful Of Shells: West Africa From The Rise Of The Slave Trade To The Age Of Revolution.