Bell School historian receives top history prize

Professor Robert Cribb and co-authors Sandra Wilson, Beatrice Trefalt and Dean Aszkielowicz awarded the prestigious NSW Premier’s History Awards General History Prize.

Professor Robert Cribb has been awarded Australia’s most important award for history publications.

Professor Cribb, of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, won the prestigious General History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards. He shares the honour with co-authors Sandra Wilson, Beatrice Trefalt and Dean Aszkielowicz.

Their publication, Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice After the Second World War, provides a detailed examination of all trials of Japanese war criminals across a geographically-dispersed set of courts.

Prize judges praised Japanese War Criminals as “exceptional”.

“This powerful book shows us that the horror of war contaminates every aspect of civilised life, including the law and its ideals of justice and impartiality. It is a remarkable achievement, both for its intellectual reach and its deft handling of fraught ethical issues that continue to confront us today,” they added.

The Grand History Prize is awarded to works of high scholarly merit with the capacity to reach out to a broader community interested in the lessons of history.

Upon receiving the award, Professor Cribb described two lessons to be learnt from the research.

“First is that one-sided justice always creates problems, even when guilt of the two sides is uneven,” he said.

“Second is that the time to reckon with crimes is as soon as possible after the event, or at least only in relation to direct victims. Claiming for the redress of historical grievances only sets up new and destructive patterns of moral imbalance.”

Japanese War Criminals is available for purchase from Columbia University Press.