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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
'Un-PC' history wins literary award
Dr Margaret Macmillan poses with her book Peacemakers
Margaret Macmillan's book is "splendidly revisionist"
A female historian has won the UK's most valuable non-fiction literary prize for her "splendidly revisionist" account of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

Margaret MacMillan's Peacemakers, a look at the conference which drew up the treaty to end World War I, was awarded the 30,000 BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

Peacemakers portrays the personalities, ideals and prejudices of the people who shaped the conference.

It was described by Andrew Roberts in The Sunday Telegraph as "splendidly revisionist and daringly politically incorrect."

BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby, chair of the judging panel, said the book "challenges the conventional view of the Versailles Conference, whilst bringing vividly to life an extraordinary event which shaped the 20th century and still resonates today."

'Vigorous debate'

The Samuel Johnson award rewards the best in non-fiction, published in English in the UK, from biographies and travel to science and arts books.

Peacemakers was chosen from a shortlist of six, after what Dimbleby described as a "vigorous debate".

"The judges felt they had a shortlist of great quality and diversity - a major work of modern history, of biography, of science, of Tudor history, of travel writing and of contemporary polemic," he said.

Each of the shortlisted authors received a cheque for 1,000.

The other shortlisted works included:

  • Richard Hamblyn's The Invention of Clouds, a biography of meteorologist Luke Howard
  • Roy Jenkins' biography Churchill
  • Eamon Duffy's The Voices of Morebath which looks at life in the pre-Reformation era through the eyes of a priest
  • Unfinest Hour by Brendan Simms, about Britain's foreign policy in Bosnia
  • William Fiennes' The Snow Geese, which documents the journey of the migrating birds

Canadian-born MacMillan, 58, has a doctorate from St Antony's College, Oxford, and is a Professor of History at Ryerson University in Toronto.

She will shortly be taking up the position of Provost of Trinity College, University of Toronto.

David Lloyd George, UK Prime Minister 1916-1922
The book portrays Versailles Conference personalities
The first woman to win the Samuel Johnson prize, her previous books include Women of the Raj, and Canada and Nato.

Peacemakers has also won the Duff Cooper Prize, The Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and The Royal United Services Institute, Westminster Medal for Military Literature.

The BBC Four Samuel Johnson prize is now in its fourth year. In previous years it has been won by Antony Beevor for Stalingrad; David Cairns for Berlioz and Michael Burleigh for The Third Reich.

Other judges this year included writer Robert Harris; Sunday Times literary editor Caroline Gascoigne; writer and critic Bonnie Greer and geologist and scientific writer Richard Fortey.

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