PRINCIPE DE ASTURIAS PRIZE John Elliot, regius professor of history at Oxford University, has won one of Spain's most prestigious academic prizes.
He is the ninth winner of the Principe de Asturias prize for the social sciences, and the first from outside Spain and its former empire. Spain, like France, takes such prizes extremely seriously, giving the winners extensive media coverage.
Manuel Fraga, prime minister of the province of Galicia and former Spanish foreign minister, headed the 13-strong panel who chose Professor Elliot, 66, from a field of 37. They cited in particular his work on 17th-century Catalonia and imperial Spain and his biography of the statesman Olivares.
They said his work had contributed greatly to the outside world's knowledge of Spain by "demolishing cliches and stereotypes about critical aspects of our history".
Maria Iglesias, professor of the history of ideas at the Complutense University, Madrid, said: "He has helped to destroy the historical fallacy that Spain has always been isolated from the rest of Europe."
Professor Elliot delighted a journalist from the daily newspaper El Mundo by reacting to the award "like a good Briton. He asked his secretary to deal with the press, arrived punctually at his Oxford University history class and went to lunch at the normal time".
He told El Mundo that the greatest weakness of modern statesman was their ignorance of history: "Without it there is no perspective on other problems."
He said that when he retired from Oxford at the end of the next academic year, he plans to work on a comparative study of the British and Spanish American empires from 1492 to the start of the 19th century.
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