The Society has in its gift an award called “The Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal.” The award is named after its founder benefactor who was the Society’s Honorary Secretary from 1932 till his death in 1945. In a lifetime spent as scholar, soldier and diplomat in Persia, Chinese Turkestan and other parts of Central Asia he had a wealth of knowledge both of its past history and present circumstances such as few other of his time could claim to possess.
The Donors of the medal were the Sykes family who contributed and founded a Trust in 1947
“to be awarded by The Council of The Royal Society for Asian Affairs at such time or times as The Council may in its discretion think fit, to any distinguished traveller, writer or any other distinguished person whatsoever approved by the Society, who is deemed to have increased man’s knowledge of and stimulated man’s interest in Asian countries, or done work furthering cultural relations between the Commonwealth and Asian countries…..”
Hover over a recipients name to view more details about their projects.
2016Dr John Curtis & Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis
Name: Dr John Curtis & Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis
On 23 March 2016 the Council of the Society resolved to award the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal jointly to Dr John Curtis and Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, of the British Museum, in recognition of their outstanding contribution towards the improvement of cultural relations between Great Britain and the Islamic Republic of Iran by arranging the exhibition Iran and the World in the Safavid Age at the British Museum, patiently and tirelessly negotiating the loan of many items from Tehran and, subsequently, the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder from the British Museum first to Tehran and thereafter to a number of museums in the USA, thereby accomplishing an outstanding feat of cultural diplomacy at a time of difficult political relations between Iran and the West.
2015Dr Christoph Baumer
Name: Dr Christoph Baumer
Christoph Baumer: Explorer & Historian; Founder and President of the Society for Exploration of EurAsia
On 18 March 2015 the Council of the Society resolved to award the Sir Percy Sykes Medal to Christoph Baumer in recognition of his outstanding contribution towards knowledge of the cultural history of Central Asia. His expeditions to the Taklamakan and Lop Nor deserts and to Tibet, where he discovered a number of unknown ancient settlements; his tracing of the spread of the Assyrian church from south-eastern Turkey to Mongolia, China and southern India; his expeditions to document all the Buddhist monasteries of Wutai Shan in north-west China; his founding in 2004 of the Society for the Explorations of EurAsia, active in five Central Asian countries, together with the publication of his many sumptuously illustrated books on these subjects, have not only brought to life the stones and artefacts of long gone or disappearing civilisations but also show the contemporary human story in a manner that is both scholarly and accessible to the amateur.
2013Mrs Nancy Hatch Dupree
Name: Mrs Nancy Hatch Dupree
On 25 September 2013, the Council of the Society resolved to award the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial medal to Nancy Hatch Dupree in recognition of her contribution to education and research in Afghanistan and, in particular, the establishment of The Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University. She and her husband, Louis, were forced out of Afghanistan in the 1970s and based themselves in Peshawar, Pakistan, where alongside helping Afghan refugees, they began collecting historical documents that now form the nucleus of the Afghanistan Centre. Louis died in 1989, but Nancy continued their joint work and returned to Afghanistan in 2005. There she arranged for the records, almost 300 sacks full, to be returned; however with nowhere to store or present them, she set about the establishment of the Afghanistan Centre. Her efforts prevailed and, with funds from the Finance Ministry and land from the university, the Centre is a testament to Nancy’s dedication to promoteeducation and research into Afghan history.
2012Major Geoffrey Langlands
Name: Major Geoffrey Langlands
On 3 October 2012, the Council of the Society resolved to award the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial medal to Major Geoffrey Langlands CMG MBE in recognition of his contribution to education in Pakistan. First teaching English and Mathematics for 25 years at Aitchison College, becoming Principal of the Cadet College at Razmak, in the Tribal Areas and then, in 1989, taking over a school in Chitral in the Hindu Kush, now formally named the Langlands School and College, and overseeing its growth from 86 to 900 pupils, both boys and girls. He formally retired in early 2013 and resides again at Aitchison College, Lahore.
2011Professor Avi Shlaim
Name: Professor Avi Shlaim
On 16 March 2011 the Council of the Society resolved to award the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal to Professor Avi Shlaim, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the study of the Middle East in general and the Arab-Israeli issue in particular. Born to Jewish parents in Baghdad in 1945, he later did his national service in the Israeli armed forces. His distinguished career as writer, commentator, lecturer (to the Society among others) and academic culminated in the Professorship of International Relations at St. Antony’s College Oxford. His academic interest in the history of Israel began in 1982, when the Israeli government archives about the 1948 Arab-Israeli war were opened. He is considered one of the leading ‘new’ historians, a group of Israeli scholars who put forward critical interpretations of the history of Zionism and Israel.
Professor Shlaim’s frequent visits to the area have added insights and authority to his writings. His publications have been pre-eminent in the revisionist interpretation of Israel’s policy towards the Arab world during the sixty years following the achievement of statehood. His remarkably lucid style is always thought-provoking and often overturns orthodoxies on the Arab-Israeli issues. Particularly relevant are two of his works regarded as classics on the Middle East: ‘Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine’ (1988) and ‘The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World’ (2000).
Professor Shlaim has stimulated wider and more informed interest in Israel and Palestine and the broader region, in keeping with the aims of the Award and the traditions of the Society. In pursuance of the Council’s resolution, the award is made and a citation is presented on 11 May 2011 to Professor Avi Shlaim, FBA
2009Mr John Keay
Name: Mr John Keay
In recognition of his outstanding literary contributions about the history of Asia. John Keay is an English journalist and historian who specialises in writing about India and the Far East, often with a particular focus on their colonisation and exploration by Europeans. He first visited India in 1965, and has made regular returns ever since including several visits to cover elections and conflicts as a political correspondent for the Economist.
He became a full-time author in 1971, publishing his first book ‘Into India’ in 1973 which stayed in print for 30 years. Since then he has been the author of over 20 books, all factual, mostly historical and largely to do with Asia. Reviewers and readers praise his work for its combination of meticulous research, irreverent wit, powerful narrative and lively prose. In the 1980s he worked for BBC Radio as a writer and presenter during which time he wrote ‘India Discovered’, the story of how British Colonists came to find out about the great artefacts of Indian culture and architecture. He is now hailed as one of our most outstanding historians.
2007Professor Fred Halliday
Name: Professor Fred Halliday
Fred Halliday FBA is a Fellow of the Royal Academy. He has been Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics since 1985.
2006Dr Shirin Akiner
Name: Dr Shirin Akiner
In recognition of her contribution to the study of Central Asia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, her frequent visits to the area have added insights and authority to her writings which have helped in increase a general understanding of regional developments, including the emergence of political systems and the role of Islam in the Central Asian States. Her publications have cast light on such subjects as the emerging political order in the Caspian states, the formation of Kazakh identity and minorities in a time of change. Her role as an editor or co-editor has added much to scholarship about the area and her lively and sometimes controversial engagement in discussion of regional issues has stimulated wider interest in Central Asia in keeping with the aims of the Award and with the traditions of the Society.
2005 Mr William Dalrymple
Name: Mr William Dalrymple
In recognising that his writings and broad-casting have stimulated a wide interest in several regions of Asia. The travelling and historical research integral to his work have increased public knowledge of those regions and conveyed a message of tolerance and mutual understanding. The themes of quest and journey that recur in the content and titles of his books aptly fit the criteria for the Medal. Together with the learning which dedicated research has brought him, he exemplifies values for which the Royal Society for Asian Affairs stands and for which it considers him eminently worthy of the award.
2004Mr Charles Allen
Name: Mr Charles Allen
Mr Charles Allen is a respected scholar and writer. He has lectured to the Society on topics as diverse as the search for Mt. Kailas and Asoka Maurya.
2002Mr Maurice and Mrs Taya Zinkin
Name: Mr Maurice and Mrs Taya Zinkin
The award recognises the joint contribution of Mr Maurice Zinkin OBE and Mrs Taya Zinkin to increasing man’s knowledge of India and the surrounding region, and to stimulating interest in Asia more broadly, through their joint and individual publications as well as through their output over a period of some 30 years of articles and reviews in the Society’s Journal Asian Affairs, and in Mr Zinkin’s case through his membership for 12 years of the Journal’s Editorial Board. These activities have earned them widespread esteem for their deep understanding of an extensive range of Asian topics. The award is made in recognition of her work and that of her late husband.
2001Sir Mark Tully
Name: Sir Mark Tully
For increasing man’s knowledge of the Indian sub-continent through his work as a journalist, broadcaster and writer, and for the empathy he has for the Indian people and the esteem in which he is held by them.
1999Mr Peter Hopkirk
Name: Mr Peter Hopkirk
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to increasing man’s knowledge of Central Asia through his extensive travels, scholarship and writings.
1994Professor Akbar Ahmed
Name: Professor Akbar Ahmed
In recognition of his notable contribution towards promoting knowledge and understanding of Asia and fostering cultural relations between Commonwealth and Asian countries.
1992Professor Albert Hourani
Name: Professor Albert Hourani
In recognition of his long and distinguished academic record and wide range of writings covering the history, culture and politics of the Arab and Islamic lands.
1990Sir Denis Wright
Name: Sir Denis Wright
In recognition of his knowledge of, and involvement in, Anglo-Persian relations and his advancement of understanding between the two countries over many years. And as an author.
1987Professor Charles F Beckingham
Name: Professor Charles F Beckingham
Emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of London. In recognition of his work in Islamic Studies.
1983Mr Tim Severin
Name: Mr Tim Severin
In recognition of his work as an author, traveller and historian.
1980Mr David Stronach
Name: Mr David Stronach
In recognition of his services to archaeology.
1977Mr Basil Gray
Name: Mr Basil Gray
Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.
1975Professor Sir Cyril Philips
Name: Professor Sir Cyril Philips
Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies. An academic who has furthered communications between Asian countries and this country.
1974Dr Gunnar Jarring
Name: Dr Gunnar Jarring
For his contribution to the fields of learning and diplomacy and to the knowledge of Turkestan.
1973Professor William Watson
Name: Professor William Watson
For his contribution to the knowledge of East Asian Civilisation.
1972Mr W E D Allen
Name: Mr W E D Allen
For his work on Caucasian and Turkish history.
1971Professor Giuseppe Tucci
Name: Professor Giuseppe Tucci
For distinguished services to archaeology and study of Tibet and Buddhism.
1970Colonel C H Ellis
Name: Colonel C H Ellis
In recognition of his work on Transcaspia and adjacent regions.
1969Mr S C Sutton
Name: Mr S C Sutton
For his work as Director of the India Office Library.
1968Mrs Violet Conolly
Name: Mrs Violet Conolly
For her work as a Russian Specialist.
1967Mr C J Edmonds
Name: Mr C J Edmonds
Cecil J. Edmonds was a British political officer who served with the British Expeditionary Forces in Mesopotamia and western Persia, and later in the civil administration of Iraq. From 1935 to 1945 he was adviser to the Ministry of Interior in Iraq.
1967Lt Colonel G E Wheeler
Name: Lt Colonel G E Wheeler
Director of the Central Asian Research Centre.
1965Professor C von Furer Haimendorf
Name: Professor C von Furer Haimendorf
Anthropologist, Traveller and Author
1964Dr Laurence Lockhart
Name: Dr Laurence Lockhart
Traveller, Scholar and Historian
1963Mr Hugh Richardson
Name: Mr Hugh Richardson
For Service in India, Tibet and his ‘History of Tibet’
1962Sir Reader Bullard
Name: Sir Reader Bullard
Diplomat and author
1960Professor Ann K S Lambton
Name: Professor Ann K S Lambton
1958Lt. General Sir Francis Tuker
Name: Lt. General Sir Francis Tuker
1956Mr Douglas Carruthers
Name: Mr Douglas Carruthers
Naturalist, Explorer and Author
1955Mrs Ella Maillart
Name: Mrs Ella Maillart
Traveller and author
1954Mr Tom Stobart
Name: Mr Tom Stobart
For his work in filming the conquest of Everest
1951Dame Freya Stark
Name: Dame Freya Stark
Traveller and author
1947Mr Fakhri Dai Gilani
Name: Mr Fakhri Dai Gilani
1941Professor Sir Keppel Archibald Cresswell
Name: Professor Sir Keppel Archibald Cresswell
Authority on Muslim architecture
LATEST RECIPIENT BIO
- Dr John Curtis and Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis
- Job title:
- Dr John Curtis is currently CEO of the Iran Heritage Foundation; Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis is reponsible for the British Museum's pre-Islamic Iranian coins
John Curtis PhD, OBE, FBA is Chief Executive Officer of the Iran Heritage Foundation in London and IHF America in Los Angeles, as well as President of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq. He specialises in the archaeology and history of Iran and Iraq from 1000 BC to 330 BC and was Keeper of the Middle East Department at the British Museum from 1989 – 2011, when he curated the special exhibitions Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia and The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: a New Beginning for the Middle East
Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis is responsible for the British Museum’s collection of pre-Islamic Iranian coins (from the third century BC until the middle of the seventh century AD), which includes both Parthian period and Sasanian coins. She also looks after coins of the Islamic world beginning with the Umayad and Abbasid period and including coins of the Samanid and Buyid, Seljuk, Mamluk, Ayubid and Fatimid, Ilkhanid and Timurid, Safavid and Qajar dynasties. She is Joint Director of the International Parthian Coin Project, The Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (SNP), and Joint Editor of the SNP series.