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11th November 2015

Emeritus Fellow in History Professor Paul Slack wins Samuel Pepys Award

Emeritus Fellow in History Professor Paul Slack has won the Samuel Pepys Award 2015 for The Invention of Improvement: Information and Material Progress in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford University Press).

Professor Slack was presented with the award at the annual Pepys Club dinner at the Travellers Club in London. The biennial prize is awarded to the book that makes the greatest contribution to our understanding of Samuel Pepys, his times or his contemporaries.

In The Invention of Improvement, Professor Slack traces the notional evolution of “improvement” in English society from its beginnings in the 17th century, as a catalyst for innovation in industry, during an age in which change was often regarded with suspicion, to the dawning of the capitalist era, when society began to measure happiness by economic success. The Times Literary Supplement said of Prof Slack’s work: “It deftly weaves together macro-analysis of England’s changing fortunes with illuminating vignettes of the activities of particular visionaries and the texts that enshrined their ambitions.”

Chair of the 2015 judges, Juian Amey, said: “This is a mature work of scholarship which describes and analyses the development of economic theory in the early modern period and its impact on economic and social policy in the time of Pepys. Thought provoking and readable, it raises fundamental issues of economic policy which are still relevant today.”

Professor Slack said: “Samuel Pepys and his contemporaries were among the first advocates of a uniquely English culture of social and economic improvement. I am delighted to think that this award for my book will encourage interest in the history of a major cultural shift that had lasting material consequences.”

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