Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity in the Fourteenth Century won the Holyer an Gof Award in non-fiction and The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies (FOCS) Holyer an Gof Cup in 2020. We thank author S.J. Drake for sharing his thoughts on his writing process and the honour of winning two Holyer an Gof Publishing Awards from the Gorsedh Kernow.
After spending six or more years researching and writing Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity in the Fourteenth Century, I was honoured and delighted that my book won not one but two Holyer an Gof Publishing Awards from the Gorsedh Kernow, an organisation that promotes and defends Cornish identity and history. The first award I won was for the best book written in 2019 about the social, cultural and political history of Cornwall– I nearly fell off my seat when I heard my name announced live on the radio! This was not the end, however, as my book was also the joint winner of The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies Holyer an Gof Cup, which is awarded for the most outstanding non-fiction book written about the county. Once again, on hearing my name announced live on air I nearly fell off my seat. It is an enormous honour to receive two awards and enjoy such high praise from the Gorsedh Kernow. I was – and still am! – over the moon that they recognised my work and felt that it was worthy of praise.
Writing the book certainly kept me on my toes. I spent years in different archives and libraries in both Cornwall and London, pulling together references from every possible document and book I could find about the medieval peninsula. At every point, though, the county did me proud: I found extraordinary tales of King Arthur in Cornwall, rich records relating to the rulership of the Black Prince, and many, many instances of knightly skulduggery in the peninsula. I also uncovered a remarkably rich network of connections between Cornwall and the wider realm – in the later middle ages there were medieval Cornish diplomats, soldiers, sailors, lordly stewards, judges, bishops, London aldermen, and, of course, pirate admirals active across the county, the kingdom, and beyond. All these careerists and the links they created constituted a form of connectivity, one that helped to sharpen notions of Cornishness and Englishness in the peninsula itself. I feel very honoured to have made a small – but still prize-winning – contribution to the history of Cornwall, England, Britain, and a wider medieval Europe.
S.J. DRAKE is a Research Associate at the Institute of Historical Research. He was born and brought up in Cornwall.