The Sir Martin Gilbert History Prize

325 words / 1 ½ minute read

A pilot project involving more than 15 schools in the UK has presented pupils an opportunity to compete for the first Sir Martin Gilbert History Prize based on Winston Churchill’s life and times. Allen Packwood, the Director of the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge describes the connection with Sir Martin:

It is a great pleasure to be asked to write a few lines about the connection between the Churchill Archives Centre and Sir Martin Gilbert. The Archives Centre, which is located in the grounds of Churchill College, Cambridge, houses Churchill’s personal papers which were used by Martin as the foundation for his monumental eight-volume biography of Sir Winston. Indeed, as official biographer he was one of the very few people who had access to the collection prior to the building of the Centre and played a key role in ensuring that the archive was properly preserved after the death of Winston’s son Randolph. It is entirely right therefore that his volumes have pride of place in the reading room library. They, along with their accompanying Companion Volumes, will remain the go-to reference work for all those interested in working on Sir Winston’s papers.

I had the honour of working with Martin on some major exhibitions and conferences and was always impressed with the quiet, open and friendly way in which he offered advice and encouraged discussion. He gave his time freely, whether you were a young archivist or a Prime Minister. The Sir Martin Gilbert Churchill History competition is a very fitting legacy as it encourages young people to think critically about history and to base their arguments on reading and research. Like Martin they are being given access to some of the Churchill Papers (albeit online) and encouraged to form their own opinions based on the raw material of history. It is just a shame that he is no longer with us to act as a judge and offer more of that quiet, open, friendly and wise advice.

The winners of the Sir Martin Gilbert History Prize for students is scheduled to be announced at the International Churchill Conference on October 23 and 24.

The conference will be online, free, but registration is required to zoom with the great and the good:

London 2020 Virtual Churchill Conference

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