We don’t often discuss book awards on the OUPblog, but this year the inaugural British Academy Medals were awarded to three authors and their titles published by Oxford University Press: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan, edited by Noel Malcolm; The Organisation of Mind by Tim Shallice and Rick Cooper; and The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia (USA only). Created to recognise and reward outstanding achievement in any branch of the humanities and social sciences, the British Academy Medals are awarded for a landmark academic achievement. On this occasion, we asked the Oxford University Press (OUP) editors of the three books to reflect on what these texts bring to scholarly publishing today.
“Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, originally published in 1651, is one of the classics of Western thought. It is the first great philosophical work written in English. Except it’s written in Latin as well. And as well as covering a very broad range of philosophical issues, it’s also a landmark in the history of political thought. So the task of preparing the standard scholarly edition is a unique challenge and responsibility: after many years, cometh the moment, cometh the man. This moment actually occurred back in the 1980s, when Noel Malcolm, a young college lecturer at Cambridge, was identified as the person not only to tackle Leviathan but also to take a more general responsibility for planning and overseeing OUP’s edition of the complete works of Hobbes.
“Along the way Dr Malcolm has also been a prominent political journalist and a Balkan expert who has done as much as anyone to improve international understanding of the history and politics of the region. He paved the way for his edition of Leviathan with an acclaimed edition of Hobbes’s correspondence in 1994. The ultimate fulfilment of his Hobbesian destiny will be a biography, but we may have to be patient in waiting for that.
“Leviathan will still be read in the next century and the one after. And I have no doubt that Malcolm’s edition will even then continue to be a source of illumination and a subject of awe, such is his achievement.”
– Peter Momtchiloff, Commissioning Editor, Philosophy, Oxford
“As a psychology student in the early 90s, the name ‘Shallice’ was one encountered and cited frequently during my studies. I became a student of Tim in 1995 during further studies at UCL (though I suspect my unremarkable essays are long forgotten, assuming they registered in his memory in the first place).
“Years later, in 2001, at a meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in the World Trade Center, I was first informed about his ambitious new project, one that would attempt to unify two fields: cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience, which, though having similar names, had taken quite different trajectories. Though I continued pestering Tim over the years, and we collaborated on an edited volume, it was not until eight years later that I was thrilled to hear that Tim was considering OUP for his new book, co-written with Rick Cooper.
“The book was published in 2011 with glowing endorsements from two giants in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science: Michael Posner and Jay McClelland.
“Books as broad and ambitious as this are rare. There are few people qualified to write them for one thing! I am sure that the many years invested by the authors in this book will pay off. It is likely to have an influence on the field for many years to come.”
– Martin Baum, Commissioning editor, Psychology, Oxford
“I would love to take credit for bringing The Great Sea to port, but truthfully it was acquired by my predecessor, Peter Ginna, who left OUP’s US office before the rewards of his acumen drifted in to our shores. If anything, the project was seen as posing a daunting challenge for me in my new job—just how big could be the market in the United States for a very, very long book, offering a multi-millennial exploration of the Mediterranean? Quite honestly, given the size of the financial risk, we all fretted for a few years. But then the chapters began coming in and they buoyed our hopes; beautifully written, dramatically constructed, and convincingly detailed, they made for fascinating reading. Anyone could see that here was wide-sweep history at its best. In short, The Great Sea grew greater. I’m pleased for Oxford that I did acquire David’s next project, A Maritime History of the World, which will employ the same navigational-narrative lines as The Great Sea on an even grander scale. It should be capacious and distinguished enough to win all three British Academy medals.”
– Tim Bent, Executive Editor, Trade History, New York
The British Academy is the UK’s national body which champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. It is an independent, self-governing fellowship of scholars, elected for their distinction in research and publication. Created ‘for the Promotion of Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies’, it was first proposed in 1899 in order that Britain could be represented at a meeting of European and American academies. The organisation received its Royal Charter from King Edward VII in 1902.
Please join us in congratulating Noel Malcolm, Tim Shallice, Richard Cooper, and David Abulafia on their British Academy Medals. Oxford University Press is proud to be publishing such exceptional scholars.
Noel Malcolm is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and General Editor of the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes. He is the editor of Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan.
Tim Shallice was the founding director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, part of University College London, where he is an emeritus professor. Richard Cooper originally studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Together they are the authors of The Organisation of Mind.
David Abulafia is Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge University and the author of The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean and The Mediterranean in History.