Professor Roy Foster, Irish writer and historian, to be honoured with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award

The An Post Irish Book Awards is delighted to announce that Professor Roy Foster is the recipient of this year’s ‘Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award’. The award will be presented on the 22nd of November at the 2023 awards ceremony in The Convention Centre, Dublin. 


As the 2023 Lifetime Achievement honouree, Professor Roy Foster will join a host of other distinguished recipients including Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry, Colm Tóibín, Thomas Kinsella, Eavan Boland, John Montague, J.P. Donleavy, Paul Durcan, John Banville, Maeve Binchy, John McGahern, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, Séamus Heaney and Jennifer Johnston. All previous winners of The Lifetime Achievement Award can be found in our distinguished Hall of Fame.


Professor Roy Foster has published widely on Irish history and has taught at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including the University of London, Oxford University, and Princeton. Foster’s oeuvre includes a two-part biography of W.B. Yeats, which was awarded the 1998 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography, and Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890 -1923, which won a British Academy Medal and the Frokosch Prize from The American Historical Association. Other titles by Foster include Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change from 1970 and On Seamus Heaney.


In conferring the award, the Board of the Irish Book Awards stated:

“Roy Foster has been described as “one of the most distinguished modern heirs of the great tradition of Anglo-Irish liberalism, which flows through Wolfe Tone and Charles Stewart Parnell to W.B. Yeats and on to such latter-day luminaries as the essayist Hubert Butler and the historian F.S.L. Lyons.”

Many will remember the impact of his magisterial Modern Ireland 1600-1972, published in 1988, it sold in quantities more normally associated with writers like Maeve Binchy and Seamus Heaney. It has since become the definitive history of the period in which Irish history was dominated by the paradox that a largely Catholic country was governed by a constitutionally Protestant one. Triggering the widely-contested “revisionism” debate, it succeeded in demonstrating that Irish history was more than just the story of Irish nationalism.

His two-volume biography of W. B. Yeats was no less of a publishing phenomenon when it appeared in 1998 and 2003 and all his subsequent publications, such as Luck and the Irish and Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890–1923, have consolidated his position as a genuinely popular historian capable of reaching a huge readership.

Widely admired in his own country for the wit, warmth, and eloquence he brings to the role of historian and public intellectual, Foster is a true internationalist who has taught at some of the world’s most prestigious universities such as the University of London, Oxford, and Princeton.

For all of the above reasons, the Board of the An Post Irish Book Awards wish to present the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award to Roy Foster.”


Brendan Corbett, Chairperson of the An Post Irish Book Awards, echoes this:

The Board of the An Post Irish Book Awards is delighted to present the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award to Professor Roy Foster. Foster is an internationalist and his knowledge, brilliance and passion are apparent through his many publications. He has enabled Irish social and political history to be accessible to all and is an inspiration for both writers and historians alike.”


Fintan O'Toole, historian, literary editor, journalist and critic, said:

“The great writers are the ones who really make us think about ourselves. Roy Foster has been an absolutely crucial figure in making Irish people think about what it means to be Irish, and I think most people believe that he’s done us a great service in making us think about the idea of being Irish as containing a lot of different identities and a lot of contradictions.”


The rest of our winners will be announced on the 22nd of November; stay tuned for all of the latest news.

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