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McGill announces winner of inaugural Cundill International Prize in History


Published: 25 Nov 2008

Exploration of religious tolerance in surprising circumstances captures $75,000 award

Exploration of religious tolerance in surprising circumstances captures $75,000 award

Stuart B. Schwartz was named the winner of the first annual Cundill International Prize in History at McGill for his book, All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World , published by Yale University Press. McGill University ’s Dean of Arts Christopher P. Manfredi made the announcement this afternoon at a news conference at The Mount Royal Club in Montreal .

It would seem unlikely that one could discover tolerant religious attitudes in Spain , Portugal , and the New World colonies during the era of the Inquisition, when enforcement of Catholic orthodoxy was widespread and brutal. Yet this groundbreaking work by historian Stuart Schwartz does exactly that. Drawing on an enormous body of historical evidence, including records of the Inquisition itself, Schwartz investigates the idea of religious tolerance and its evolution in the Hispanic world from 1500 to 1820.

“The topic is engaging ­-- one of the main issues of our time: tolerance,” said esteemed historian and jury member Roger Chartier. “The research is outstanding, based on a long familiarity and original readings of inquisitorial archives all around the world, the scope of the study is worldwide, crossing our interest or preoccupations with globalization, and the lesson is profound: even for the humblest folk and within the worst situation it is possible to stand for generous and strong beliefs.” Canadian Senator and fellow jury member Serge Joyal adds, “Schwartz’s history reveals that even during the infamous Inquisition, one of the darkest periods of the history of religion, freedom of conscience and the spirit of tolerance were alive in the minds of ordinary human beings. It offers a glimmer of hope for today’s religious “culture wars.”

Schwartz is the George Burton Adams Professor of History at Yale University . He taught previously at the University of Minnesota, has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and twice an ACLS Fellow. His first book, Sovereignty and Society in Colonial Brazil (1973), received Honorable Mention for the Bolton Prize in 1974 and his book Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society (1984) won the Bolton Prize. He has published more than 70 articles in scholarly journals and anthologies and he currently serves on the editorial board of 12 scholarly journals in seven countries. In 2000, he received the Order of the Southern Cross, Brazil ’s highest decoration for foreigners.

The largest non-fiction historical literature prize in the world, the annual Cundill Prize awards $75,000 U.S. to an author who has published a book determined to have a profound literary, social and academic impact on a given subject. Two $10,000 U.S. “Recognition of Excellence” prizes are also awarded. The shortlist, chosen from more than 170 entries from around the world, was announced on Oct. 20, 2008. The finalists were:

· Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age by Harold J. Cook ( Yale University Press)

  • Life and Death in the Third Reich by Peter Fritzsche ( Harvard University Press)
  • All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World by Stuart B. Schwartz ( Yale University Press)

This year’s jury included President of the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation, Timothy Aitken; Canadian writer Denise Chong; Canadian Senator Serge Joyal; professors Angela Schottenhammer ( Munich ); Roger Chartier ( Paris ); and Natalie Zemon Davis ( Toronto ).

The Cundill International Prize in History at McGill was established in April by McGill alumnus and renowned investment manager Peter Cundill. It is administered by McGill University ’s Dean of Arts, with the help of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).

Cundill Prize on the Web:


Shortlist book synopses, jacket art and author bios:


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