Judith Herrin’s Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe shortlisted for the 2021 Wolfson History Prize

Judith Herrin’s Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (2020) is one of six titles shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize, which honors the best historical non-fiction books from the past year. Awarded annually by the Wolfson Foundation, it is the United Kingdom’s most prestigious history prize, recognizing and celebrating books “which combine excellence in research with readability.” The winner of the 2021 Prize will be announced on June 9th.

About the Book

At the end of the fourth century, as the power of Rome faded and Constantinople became the seat of empire, a new capital city was rising in the West. Here, in Ravenna on the coast of Italy, Arian Goths and Catholic Romans competed to produce an unrivaled concentration of buildings and astonishing mosaics. For three centuries, the city attracted scholars, lawyers, craftsmen, and religious luminaries, becoming a true cultural and political capital. Bringing this extraordinary history marvelously to life, Judith Herrin rewrites the history of East and West in the Mediterranean world before the rise of Islam and shows how, thanks to Byzantine influence, Ravenna played a crucial role in the development of medieval Christendom. Drawing on deep, original research, Herrin tells the personal stories of Ravenna while setting them in a sweeping synthesis of Mediterranean and Christian history. Beautifully illustrated and drawing on the latest archaeological findings, this monumental book provides a bold new interpretation of Ravenna’s lasting influence on the culture of Europe and the West.

About the Author

Judith Herrin is professor emeritus in the Department of Classics at Kings College London. Her books include Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval EmpireWomen in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium, and The Formation of Christendom (all Princeton). She lives in Oxford, England.