Roderick Beaton, a retired Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Culture, has been awarded the Runciman Award for his book “Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation,” published in 2019, the Anglo-Hellenic League, which gives the award, announced Thursday.
The Award is normally given every year to the best book on Greece, on any subject, published during the previous year, but there was no such award in 2020. Books published in 2019 and 2020 were eligible for the Award in 2021.
Beaton is the first person to be given the Runciman Award for the fourth time. The Award was conceived in 1983, as an initiative of Earl Jellicoe, the then chairman of the League, in honor of Sir Steven Runciman , the distinguished historian of Byzantium whose 1932 book, “Byzantine Civilization” is still a reference work, and longest-serving chairman of the League (1951-1967). It was first awarded in 1986 and has been awarded most years since then.
Beaton previously won the award in 1995 for “An Introduction to Modern Greek
Literature” (Oxford: OUP 1994); in 2004 for “George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel – A Biography” (New Haven: Yale UP 2003); and in 2014 for “Byron’s War: Romantic Rebellion, Greek Revolution” (Cambridge: CUP 2013).
“On behalf of the League I warmly congratulate Roddy Beaton for winning this year’s Runciman Award. In its 35-year history Roddy is the only person to have won the award four times: a tremendous achievement. In relaunching the award under new sponsors in this year of the bicentenary of the Greek revolution, we are delighted that the judges have chosen to acknowledge the timely relevance of this great book,” John Kittmer, chair of the Council of The Anglo-Hellenic League, said.
The Runciman Award is sponsored by the A. C. Laskaridis Charitable Foundation and the A. G. Leventis Foundation.
The panel of judges for the award in 2021 comprised: Peter Frankopan (chair), Dionysis Kapsalis, Naoise Mac Sweeney, Judith Mossman and Sofka Zinovieff. The judges announced their long list of 21 titles on 14 January and their short list of 7 titles on 9 April (www.runcimanaward.org)
“We were lucky enough to read some breath-takingly good books this year – including many that are both brave and ambitious, including re-tellings of stories that are well-known and investigations of real originality about topics rarely, if ever, looked at. Roddy Beaton’s book is a combination of all these qualities.
It is not easy to write broad history for wide readership, and to do so well takes real skill. Covering recent centuries of Greece’s history requires courage too, as many have strong opinions about what should be written about – and how. What makes Beaton’s book stand out above all, however, is that just as Sir Steven
Runciman’s books opened doors through which new generations of readers and scholars have since walked, so too will ‘Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation.’ As a jury, we felt that this wonderful book captured the spirit of the Runciman Award perfectly,” said Frankopan.
The announcement of the winner of the Runciman Award 2021 was made on Thursday, at a Zoom event, because of Covid-19 restrictions. Professor Stathis Kalyvas (University of Oxford) gave the keynote address on “Why the Greek Revolution still matters today.” Frankopan surveyed the field of longlisted and shortlisted books on behalf of the panel of judges. The event closed with an acceptance speech by the winner.
Beaton, born in 1951, graduated from Cambridge University with an English Literature degree in 1973. He was awarded a PhD for his thesis, “Myth and tradition in modern Greek folk poetry: a study of non-literate tradition, its technique and aims, in the context of lyric and ballad, rather than epic poetry.”
Beaton spent three years as the Ouranis Foundation Fellow in Modern Greek at the University of Birmingham (1977-80), before joining King’s College, London in 1981 as a lecturer. From 1988 to his retirement in 2018, he was Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Culture at King’s. In 2013 he was elected a fellow of the British Academy and, in 2018, fellow of King’s College. In September 2019, then-Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos appointed him Commander of the Order of Honor for his lifelong contribution to the promotion of medieval and modern Greek studies and culture.