The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for History 2016 to Professor Judith Herrin, Emeritus Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London (UK).
A leading role in history for the Byzantine Empire
Judith Herrin received the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for History for her pioneering research into Medieval cultures in Mediterranean civilisations and for establishing the crucial significance of the Byzantine Empire in history.
Herrin has a huge international reputation as a researcher and as an author of popular books on history. Her work is characterised by four main themes:
- The first consists of a detailed comparison of eastern and western attitudes towards religious images in the early Middle Ages. Her book The Formation of Christendom, which was first published in 1987, has become a standard reference work.
- The second theme is the political, economic and social history of Byzantium: the Medieval Roman Empire (330–1453) of which Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) was the capital. Herrin’s book Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empirewhich was published in 2007 has also become a standard work that has already appeared in twelve languages.
- A third theme consists of archaeological field research into traces from the Byzantine period in Greece, Cyprus and Istanbul.
- In the fourth theme, she uses her own methods to examine the role of ordinary women in Medieval society.
The jury praises Herrin’s ability to convert archive studies and field research into a broad vision that is rich in detail. Her work paved the way for a non-theological view of the influence of Christendom on Medieval society. Thanks to Herrin, the place of the Byzantine Empire in history is now assessed at its true value and thanks to her tenacity, the many varied contributions made by women to Byzantine society are now appreciated.
Judith Herrin was born in 1942 in the United Kingdom. She gained a bachelor degree at Newnham College in Cambridge (UK) and was awarded a PhD in 1972 at the University of Birmingham (UK).
As a committed European avant la lettre, she received tuition at the British School of Archaeology in Athens, the École pratique des hautes études in Paris and the Institut für Byzantinistik und Neugriechische Philologie in Munich.
During her career, she was appointed to many positions and received frequent fellowships and grants in Europe and in the US. Between 1991 and 1995, she was the Stanley J. Seeger Professor of Byzantine History at Princeton University (US). From 1995 to 2001, as Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, she headed the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London.
Herrin has received various honours for her work, including the Médaille d’honneur from the Collège de France and the Gold Cross of the Order of Honour from Greece.