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The Bodley Head press release
For immediate release 1st June 2017

Thinker, writer and scholar Karen Armstrong has been awarded the prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences for 2017. The awards are a series of annual prizes awarded in Spain by the Princess of Asturias Foundation (previously the Prince of Asturias Foundation) to individuals, entities or organizations from around the world who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, and public affairs.

The prize was established on 24 September 1980 by the then twelve-year-old Felipe, Prince of Asturias, heir to the throne of Spain, " to contribute to, encourage and promote scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of mankind's universal heritage." The awards are presented at the Campoamor Theatre in Oviedo, the capital of the Principality of Asturias. A sculpture, expressly created for the prize by Spanish sculptor Joan Miró, is presented yearly to the recipients of the prize. Previous winners include Mary Beard, David Attenborough and Raymond Carr.

Karen Armstrong said, ‘I want to express my deep gratitude to the Foundation of the Princess Astorias Award for Social Sciences for this very great honour. We are living in perilous times. We have created a global market where we are more closely linked to one another than ever before: our economies are deeply interdependent; what happens in Syria or Yemen today can have repercussions in London or Manchester tomorrow; we are electronically connected on the world-wide web; our histories are deeply intertwined; and we all face the same environment challenges. We cannot live without one another and yet increasingly we are retreating aggressively into nationalistic, religious and cultural ghettoes.

‘It is therefore essential that we understand the religious, political and ideological aspirations and fears of our global neighbours. There is much talk about winning the battle for hearts and minds, but we shall unable to do this unless we know what is really in them, as opposed to what we imagine might be there. We urgently need to examine received ideas and assumptions, look beneath the sound-bites of the news to the complex realities that are tearing our world apart, realizing, at a profound level, that we share the planet not with inferiors but equals.

‘Again, I want to express my appreciation and thanks for this award which means more to me than I can say.’

Armstrong is one of the world’s leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, and then read English at St Anne’s College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a full-time writer and broadcaster. Her books include A History of God, The Bible: A Biography, The Case for God and, most recently, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. She has addressed members of the United States

Congress, has participated in the World Economic Forum and, in 2005, was appointed by Kofi Annan to join the High Level Group of the United Nations initiative 'The Alliance of Civilizations'. In 2008 she was awarded the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal and, in the same year, won the TED prize. In 2013 she received the British Academy’s inaugural Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for improving Transcultural Understanding. 

For more information please contact Joe Pickering at The Bodley Head – / 020 7840 8438


Notes to Editors:

About The Bodley Head

The Bodley Head publishes influential, compelling non-fiction that explores the ideas, the people, the human obsessions that shape our world. Our books come from some of the leading writers and thinkers of our time, addressing a huge range of subjects: science, reportage and current affairs, medicine, memoir, history, maths, biography, music, natural history, smart thinking and economics.

The Bodley Head was first founded in 1887 and today we publish an international range of prize-winning authors including Siddhartha Mukherjee and Stephen Greenblatt, Lisa Randall and Misha Glenny, Simon Schama and Karen Armstrong.

Recently, writers as diverse as Ai Weiwei, Stephen Witt, Edith Hall, Paul Kalanithi, Cedric Villani, Timothy Snyder, Ian Mortimer, Lewis Dartnell and Ed Yong have joined the list – united by their originality, by their expertise and by their gifts as communicators.  



VINTAGE is one of the UK’s leading literary publishers. Part of Penguin Random House, the largest publishing company in the world, VINTAGE specialises in discovering leading thinkers and writers from around the globe. The publisher comprises of the following imprints: Jonathan Cape, The Bodley Head, Harvill Secker, Chatto & Windus, Hogarth, Yellow Jersey, Square Peg, Vintage and Vintage Classics. 

Authors published by VINTAGE are the current holders of the Man Booker Prize, The Samuel Johnson Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Household names on the list include Simon Schama, Nigella Lawson, Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro and Toni Morrison.



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