Professor Julian Jackson, Head of the School of History, has won the Duff Cooper Prize for his biography of Charles De Gaulle, A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles De Gaulle.
21 February 2019
Julian Jackson, Professor of Modern French History and head of the School of History, joins a distinguished list of non-fiction authors who have been awarded the Duff Cooper Prize. The ceremony took place at the French Ambassador’s residence in London on 20 February.
Professor Julian Jackson’s biography of Charles De Gaulle, was published last summer and is the product of a lifetime's research on the history of France on which he is recognised as an expert, notably by the French themselves. In 2004 Professor Jackson was awarded the Wolfson Prize for his book, The Fall of France.
The Duff Cooper Prize is a literary prize awarded each year for the best work of history and political science, published in English or French. The prize was established in 1956 in honour of Duff Cooper, a British diplomat who died in 1954. His most important role was representative to Charles de Gaulle's Free France (1943–44) and ambassador to France from 1944–48.
The judges noted that competition this year was extraordinarily high which makes Professor Jackson’s success all the more notable. The award is also timely since Professor Jackson’s book, A Certain Idea of France will be published in French later this year.
The Duff Cooper Prize was previously awarded to Lord Peter Hennessy, also a Professor from Queen Mary’s School of History, in 1992.
Charles De Gaulle remains a towering figure in France and arguably the greatest French leader since Napoleon. Professor Jackson’s book is the first biography that has fully used De Gaulle’s archives and sheds new light on the famous statesman.
A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles De Gaulle, described in The Telegraph as “scholarship of the highest class,” was a key output of an award from the Leverhulme Trust. Since its publication, it received widespread media attention.
Writing in The Literary Review, Richard Vinen commented that Professor Jackson “gets to Charles as well as De Gaulle, and shows how the flaws of the former (petulance, a raging temper, and bouts of depression) went, in a curious way, with the epic achievement of the latter.”
Commenting at the time of the publication of the book, Professor Jackson said: “There is an image of De Gaulle as a person of great inflexibility. He is often remembered in the UK for his quarrels with Churchill between 1940 and 1944 and as the man who said ‘no’ to Britain joining the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963 and 1967. However, I also uncovered a different side to De Gaulle through my research.
“He could be flexible, pragmatic and willing to adapt. There’s also an image of De Gaulle as being a cold figure but actually what I discovered was the he had an extraordinary capacity to listen to other people; he was a much more flexible than I first thought,” he added.