June 15th 2018 in News

Eminent jury of world-leading historians to judge Cundill History Prize in record year for submissions

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An international jury of eminent historians with research interests as varied as American nationalism, European integration, violence in Africa and women's history has been announced as the jury of the 2018 Cundill History Prize.

Chaired by Mark Gilbert, Professor of  History and International Studies at  John Hopkins SAIS,  the jury will choose from a record number of submissions that reflect the “golden age” history writing is going through: trade and university publishers have submitted over 400 titles – up 25 percent from last year –  by  authors from Canada, the US  and the UK, and countries as  far afield  as China, France, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Russia.

Gilbert will be joined by the CUNY Graduate Center Baruch Presidential Professor of History Carol Berkin; the Harvard Professor of History and of African and American Studies and Pulitzer Prize- winning author Caroline Elkins; the Oxford Professor of Global History and author of the best-selling book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan; and Canada’s most decorated journalist and author, Jeffrey Simpson, who has won all three of the country’s leading literary prizes, among other awards.

With authors from richly diverse backgrounds tackling subjects as varied as religion and war, feminism and natural disasters, global finance and music, the US$75,000 Cundill History Prize seeks the book that combines academic rigor with broad public appeal.

Mark Gilbert, Chair of the Jury, said: “‘ The past is another country: they do things differently there’. The task of a historian is to make that other country come to life. History, done well, helps us grasp the rich complexity of human civilizations throughout the ages and encourages tolerance, comprehension for diversity, and insight into the greatest achievements of human minds. Done badly, it underpins dogmatism, prejudice and oppression. History matters. The Cundill History Prize rewards books that combine serious scholarship with an appeal to thegeneral reader. Books that open minds. The selection process will be a rigorous and balanced appraisal of the books submitted and we expect that choosing the shortlist and winner will be both enriching and challenging.”

Awarding US$75,000 to the winner, and $10,000 to each of the two runners up, it is the richest purse for non-fiction in English.

Antonia Maioni, Dean of Arts at McGill University, said: “Our 2018 Jury is an international group of eminent historians who will bring their expertise across a range of disciplines to bear on the prize submissions this year. At McGill University, we continue with our ambitious mission for the Cundill History Prize to champion the highest quality historical scholarship produced anywhere in the world. As one of Canada’s most global universities, we are proud to be home to a prize that brings well-researched, well-written history writing to an ever growing international readership. I cannot wait to see which books our 2018 jurors will choose.”

The 2018 shortlist will be announced on 25 September at Canada House in London. In October, the three finalists will be revealed in Toronto. The winner will be announced at the Cundill History Prize Gala in Montreal, on November 15, alongside a series of events at  McGill University including  the annual Cundill History Prize Lecture, which will be delivered by last year’s winner, the British historian Daniel Beer.

Carol Berkin said: “I am honoured to serve on the selection committee for one of the most prestigious prizes offered in the field of history. This is an exciting moment in our scholarship, as historians continue to reconstruct the past in ever-greater complexity and inclusivity. New areas of research are adding depth and nuance to our understanding and new tools of analysis are giving voice to those we once thought would remain silent observers rather than active participants in shaping their moment. All this promises a better understanding of the events, the individual lives, and the collective movements that are central to the historical enterprise.”

Caroline Elkin said: “It is a singular honour to serve on a panel of such distinguished jurors for the most significant prize awarded in the field of historical research and writing. We shall bring  a range of expertise and robust knowledge to bear as we read and evaluate deeply researched historical works that integrate analytical and methodological rigor with prose that, at once, engage and provoke readers. The context of our current political times demands that we, as historians, do not lose sight of the conventions of our profession while, at the same time, remain ever vigilant in expressing our ideas and arguments in ways that extend well beyond the proverbial ivory tower. I  am humbled by our task to read some of the most important recent works of history and, together, decide on which ones will stand alongside the towering collection of previous Cundill winners.”

Peter Frankopan said: “I am honoured and delighted to be part of the jury of the Cundill History Prize this year. History writing is going through something of a golden age at the moment, with an astonishing range of subjects being tackled by writers from many different backgrounds – often with dazzling results. Picking the brightest diamond amongst these jewels will not be easy. But I cannot think of a lovelier thing to do than having the chance to read, think and talk about what makes good history – and to decide which the very best book published in the last year has been.”

Jeffrey Simpson said: “Having had the honour to serve on previous Cundill History Prize juries, I can attest to the superb nature of the submissions, the excitement of reading the best history in the English language – and the difficulty of choosing the winner from among so many excellent books. It ’s going to be another terrific intellectual ride!” 

The 2018 winner will join an alumni list of world-leading historians including Stuart B. Schwartz (2008), Lisa Jardine (2009), Diarmaid MacCulloch (2010), Sergio Luzzatto (2011), Stephen Platt (2012), Anne Applebaum (2013), Gary Bass (2014), Susan Pedersen (2015), and Thomas W. Laqueur (2016).