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Professor Timothy Garton Ash scoops prestigious Al-Rodhan book prize

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Annual British Academy award goes to Oxford professor and journalist for his book Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World

The British Academy is delighted to announce Professor Timothy Garton Ash as the recipient of the 2017 Al-Rodhan prize for global cultural understanding. The £25,000 annual prize, the Academy’s biggest annual prize, is awarded for outstanding scholarly contributions to global cultural understanding and is designed to illuminate the interconnections of culture and identity in world civilization.

Garton Ash’s work Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World, published by Atlantic, was awarded following critical acclaim. John Lloyd in the Financial Times praises the author for ‘[rising] to the task of directing us how to live civilly in our connected diversity,’ and the Guardian’s Nick Cohen noted that ‘Garton Ash has produced an urgent and encyclopaedic work.’

The judging panel comprised Professor Ash Amin CBE, Foreign Secretary of the British Academy and author of several books on the cultural importance of cities; Professor Rana Mitter, Chinese historian and author of the award winning A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (2004); Dr Edwina Moreton, former Economist journalist and Professor Dame Henrietta Moore, expert on gender and sexuality and the intersections of culture and globalisation. The panel was chaired by Professor Dame Helen Wallace former Foreign Secretary of the British Academy and expert on European integration.

Commenting on the award Professor Timothy Garton Ash says:

“A prize from the British Academy is in itself a great honour, but doubly so if it is for contributing to transcultural understanding of the importance of, and conditions for, free speech in connected world.”

Dame Helen Wallace describes why Garton Ash’s book was selected as the winner:

“This major work of scholarship addresses one of the most important transcultural questions of our era: how absolute is the right to free speech, and does that right change in different societies and cultures. The jury agreed that the prize should be given for both the publication and Professor Garton Ash’s online and interactive companion project freespeechdebate.com. Together they constitute a robust, timely and engaged defence of free speech and global transcultural dialogue even when, and especially when, societies clash and disagree.”

The award was founded in 2013 by distinguished writer, Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan. Professor Al-Rodhan is a neuro-philosopher, neuroscientist, geo-strategist, and author. He has written 20 books and more than 100 articles on the interplay between neuro-philosophy, international relations, disruptive technologies, outer space security, and future global security.

Commenting on his motivation behind launching the prize, Professor Al-Rodhan says: “I decided to initiate this prize for global cultural understanding because of the need to address certain perennial problems regarding the relations between different cultures, and to highlight the many ways in which apparently distinct cultures in fact overlap at numerous points. I am grateful to the British Academy and its distinguished leadership its support year on year.”

Previous winners of the prize have been Neil MacGregor of the British Museum, Karen Armstrong, scholar of religion, Professor Jonathan Jansen, the South African academic, and Professor Carole Hillenbrand of St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities.

Nominations for the 2018 prize are now open. Nominations can be made for any author of a book or comparable body of work that contributes to public understanding and debate on global cultural understanding and published in the past 5 years. Next year’s judging panel comprises, Professor Ash Amin (Chair), Madeline Bunting, Rana Mitter FBA, Henrietta Moore FBA and Patrick Wright FBA. Please visit the website for more details or follow us on twitter @britac­_news

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