Tom Holland

2024 Sandford St Martin Trustees’ Award winner

In recognition of his contribution to the greater public understanding of religions and their role in contemporary and historical human experience

Tom Holland

‘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.’

 

The historian Tom Holland is no stranger to accolades or awards. In addition to being a prolific broadcaster and podcaster, his books exploring ancient or early medieval history and their connections to today are widely acclaimed by the public and his peers alike. Such is the appeal of his approach – which combines enthusiasm, curiosity and terrific learning – that the podcast he hosts with his fellow historian Dominic Sandbrook, The Rest Is History, has spawned live tours, tens of thousands of social media followers and more than 150 million downloads internationally. Television programmes like Islam: The Untold Story and Isis: The Origins of Violence have explored questions often left unspoken in the wider media. Like his books Dominion or In the Shadow of the Sword, they’ve asked how humans both consciously and unconsciously interpret history to suit their present, for better or for worse.

The value of this work, whether you agree with Holland’s conclusions or not, is that it draws us into a wider conversation about who we are and why we are what we are today. Religions are more than just archaic superstition or a set of ritual practices or personal devotion. Instead, they are dynamic, internally diverse and deeply human expressions of how we view the world and our places in it.

Dr Tony Stoller CBE, Chair of 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.’