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Frances Wilson wins Elizabeth Longford Prize

8th May 2012

The 2012 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography has been won by Frances Wilson's How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J Bruce Ismay.

The GBP 5,000 prize is administered by the Society of Authors and presented each year to the finest work of historical biography published in the preceding 12-month period.

Wilson's work - published exactly 100 years after the Titanic's fateful maiden voyage - tells the story of J Bruce Ismay, owner of the Titanic and chairman of White Star Line, who saved himself by jumping into a lifeboat with women and children, tarnishing his reputation forever.

Chair of judges professor Roy Foster said the panel was unanimous in its decision to award the prize to Wilson, describing the work as a 'tour de force' written with 'scrupulous panache'.

'The book required acute psychological insight, the ability to balance conflicting evidence, a judicious sense of empathy with a dislikable subject and a powerful but disciplined historical imagination - as well as the ability to find and pursue fascinating sources,' he added.

Wilson follows in the footsteps of Philip Ziegler, who scooped the 2011 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Edward Heath - The Authorised Biography; his examination of the life and political career of the former prime minister.

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