Alumna wins £50,000 Wolfson History Prize

Tuesday 14 November 2023
Cover of Resistance: the Underground war in Europe, 1939-45 by Halik Kochanski

Halik Kochanski (Balliol 1985) has won the Wolfson History Prize 2023 with her book Resistance: The Underground War in Europe, 19391945 (Allen Lane, 2022). The prestigious £50,000 prize is awarded annually to a work of historical non-fiction which combines excellence in research and writing, with readability for a general audience.

The judges said of Dr Kochanksi’s book: ‘Unveiling lesser-known acts of defiance, this is a remarkable history of pan-European resistance to the Nazis. Through diverse sources and captivating storytelling, it presents a compelling exploration of this critical era.’ The chair of the judges, David Cannadine, said: ‘Resistance is impressive in its breadth, blending macro and micro history into a single narrative. This book does more than recount the past; it breathes life into forgotten voices and untold tales of bravery, illuminating the spirit of ordinary people who challenged oppression. Through meticulous research and powerful writing, Halik Kochanski highlights the indomitable courage of those who resisted the Nazis.’

Halik Kochanksi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and member of the British Commission for Military History, and has taught history at several universities. She is also the author of The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War (Penguin, 2023).

While at Balliol, she was taught by — among others — the late Maurice Keen (Fellow and Tutor in Modern History 19612000), whose book on Chivalry (1984) won the Wolfson History Prize in 1984. She came to Balliol the following year.

Also in this year’s Wolfson shortlist was Balliol’s Professor James Belich (Beit Professor of Global and Imperial History, and Professorial Fellow) with his book The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe (Princeton University Press, 2022).

Another Balliol author, Sudhir Hazareesingh, (CUF Lecturer in Politics and Tutorial Fellow in Politics), won the Wolfson History Prize 2021 for his book Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Allen Lane, 2020). He was one of the judges on this year’s panel.