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Sandford St Martin award won by the historian Tom Holland

10 June 2024

The co-host of The Rest is History is praised for giving ‘proper weight to what people believe and have believed’

Sandford St Martin Trust

Tom Holland

Tom Holland

THE historian Tom Holland is the winner of the Sandford St Martin Trustees’ Award, for his contribution to the public understanding of religion.

The Trust’s awards recognise achievement in “radio, TV and online programmes and content that explore religious, spiritual or ethical themes”.

The Trustees’ Award, chosen by the Trust’s chair and board, was announced on Monday. In a statement, the Trust said that Mr Holland would receive the award “in recognition of his contribution to the greater public understanding of religions and their role in contemporary and historical human experience”.

The Trust’s press release refers to his books Dominion: The making of the Western mind (Little, Brown) (Books, 13 September 2019, Feature, 27 September 2019) and In the Shadow of the Sword, “in which he has explored how religion has formed the world we live in today”.

It also refers to the “controversial” television programmes that he has made, such as Islam: The untold story (2012) and Isis: The origins of violence (2017), “which resulted in complaints for their exploration of questions including the historical evidence for the life of Muhammad that others felt was incorrect and disrespectful”.

The podcast The Rest is History, which Mr Holland co-presents with the historian Dr Dominic Sandbrook, demonstrates, with his broadcast work, “the enthusiasm, curiosity and spirit of scholarship Holland brings to his exploration of history”, the Trust says.

Dr Tony Stoller, who chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust, said: “Tom Holland’s work as broadcaster and historian has consistently addressed the ways in which religion in all its forms has impacted on how humans understand life and their relationship to each other. He gives proper weight to what people believe and have believed, and in doing so challenges us to look at a world through different lenses.

“As it has become increasingly clear how much religion and religious identity is impacting on our politics, culture, and social organisation, having in Tom such a bold, eloquent, and engaging communicator to guide us through history, drawing a line between the past and our present, makes for compelling, informative, and entertaining broadcasting.”

Mr Holland said that he was “so honoured and delighted to be receiving this award. Looking back over my career, I realise that it has been in large part a process of realising just how strange and distinctive — historically speaking — purely materialist assumptions are. There can be no hope of understanding the past without also understanding how fundamental to past generations their relationship to the dimension of the supernatural always was.”

He will be presented with the award during a gala ceremony in Southwark Cathedral next Monday (17 June). At the ceremony, prizes will also be given in four broadcast categories: TV/Video, Radio/Audio, Young Audience, and Journalism.


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