Theme: Political Ideas | Content Type: Blog

Robert Saunders Announced as Winner of This Year's Crick Prize

Anya Pearson


Dmitrij Paskevic

| 3 mins read

We are delighted to announce Robert Saunders worthy winner of the annual Bernard Crick Prize for Best Article 2023 for 'How Do We Write the History of Brexit?' (94/2).

Accepting the award, Robert Saunders said: "I really admire the way that Political Quarterly brings together academics, politicians and citizens, so I'm delighted to receive this award. Writing the history of Brexit offers an exciting challenge, but also poses big questions about how we explain political change, how we bring together different forms of history, whether we need to rethink our assumptions about Britain before Brexit, and how we engage with our own political preferences. So I'm grateful for the chance to set out a manifesto for the history of Brexit, which I hope will stimulate debate and further discussion on the big political transformation of our time."

This year's judges, Tom Clark and Gavin Kelly, said:

" From the very off, with its sizzling introduction (“Brexit consumed two prime ministers, pushed both main parties to the electoral precipice and overturned the central economic and diplomatic strategy of every government since 1961. It established new political identities…”) Saunders' piece passes the Orwell test, of being written in good, clear English. Indeed, it’s a lucid and engaging piece that any reader will want to finish.

Saunders earns an obvious tick, too, on the scholarship test, drawing on deep knowledge of British political history to suggest parallels between such wildly improvised Brexit wheezes as the “Malthouse compromise” and the way that Disraeli busked his way through the crisis that ended with the Second Reform Act. There were plenty of flashes of originality – witness Saunders highlighting the way that the Brexit saga was shaped by the shift towards party members picking leaders. Consciously addressed to future writers of history, and shot through with considered thought on how the disciplines of politics and history should relate to each other, durability shouldn’t be a problem. Nor indeed is breadth of insight (what we call the “Gamble test”). As the author of Yes to Europe, a book on the 1975 referendum, Saunders does not rely on the lazy assumption of many despairing Remainers, that “British exceptionalism” was bound to lead to Brexit, but instead asks how and why such exceptionalism could acquire such a particular charge in the specific circumstances of the 2016 referendum and its aftermath.

We have, we hope, said enough to establish that the piece is also memorable (thereby passing the Alzheimer test) and, last but not least, the Crick test. That is to say we have not merely a hope, but a real hunch that Bernard would have approved."

The prize was given at the Orwell Awards on 27th June 2024 in London. Read the full article here.

Read the winning article on Wiley

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