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2010 Cundill Prize

Please click HERE to view the 2010 Cundill Prize in History Awards Ceremony and HERE to view photos from the evening.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

A History of Christianity named winner of 2010 Cundill Prize in History

Diarmaid MacCulloch earns Grand Prize of $75,000 U.S.; runners-up receive $10,000 U.S. each

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years has earned British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch the 2010 Cundill Prize in History at McGill University, the world’s most important non-fiction historical literature prize.

The announcement was made at a gala dinner at the Mount Royal Club in Montreal, Canada on Sunday night.

Adam Gopnik, author and contributor to The New Yorker magazine had the following to say on behalf of the Cundill Jury:

“At a time when quarrels between believers and non believers, new atheists and old faithfuls, dominate so much of our public discourse, Diarmaid MacCulloch has given us the one thing that we most need – not polemic but history, high, wide, and lucid, and, given the enormity of his task, often winningly light of touch. Taking as his subject nothing less than the whole history of the faith, MacCulloch has written a social history that illuminates changes in belief; and a history of belief that helps us see how our society got so much of its structure. Without scanting the horrors of fanaticism, he does not scoff at the meaning of belief: we see Christian martyrs and Christian persecutors, repellent sinners and authentic saints.

Throughout, he achieves a near- perfect match of narrative flair and analytic detail. In the best old fashioned, classical sense, we are offered here a “pageant” of people and events: hair splitting theologians, hard hitting evangelists, austere Northern protestants and occult Byzantine philosophers – the whole of the community of faith, with a special and newly welcome accent on Asian and African occasions. And, in the most reflective modern sense, we have as well an in-depth study of motive, of the interrelation of money and morals, and of the endless complexity of causation. His is a history from the bottom up that helps explain the shape and sound of the top.

Though all of the books in the short list seemed to us wonderful works of narrative history – and well written, too -- MacCulloch’s stands out. If any book could truly fulfill the charge of the Cundill Prize – to make first class history more potent to a wide reading public, and above all to remind us that history, even three thousand years worth, matters – this one does.”

The other two finalists, Giancarlo Casale’s The Ottoman Age of Exploration and Marla Miller’s Betsy Ross and the Making of America received "Recognition of Excellence" prizes of $10,000 U.S. each at the awards ceremony. The finalists were chosen from 181 eligible entries submitted to the Prize, representing some 85 publishing houses from around the world.

In addition to Mr. Gopnik, this year’s Cundill Jury includes history professor Catherine Desbarats (McGill University); 2009 Cundill Prize winner and Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of London, Lisa Jardine; Editor of the Claremont Review of Books, Charles Kesler; and Executive Vice-President at Rogers Publishing, Kenneth Whyte.

The Cundill Prize in History at McGill is administered by McGill University's Dean of Arts, with the help of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).

The prize was established in 2008 by McGill alumnus F. Peter Cundill. Mr. Cundill is Chairman Emeritus of Mackenzie Cundill. His career in investment management spans more than 40 years since he graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1960. He is a Chartered Accountant (1963) and a Chartered Financial Analyst Charter Holder (1968). Throughout his career, Mr. Cundill has earned many distinctions. In December 2001, he was presented with the Analysts' Choice Career Achievement Award as the greatest mutual fund manager of all time. A native of Montreal, he has lived in London, England, for the past 30 years.

Please click HERE to view roundtable discussion with David Hackett Fischer, Pekka Hämäläinen, and Lisa Jardine about Writing History for a Popular Audience

Click to view photos

Longlist Announced: 2010 Cundill Prize in History

The jury for the Cundill International Prize in History at McGill University, the world’s largest non-fiction historical literature prize, has announced the longlist for this year’s prize. The longlist was chosen from 181 entries submitted to the jury representing some 85 publishing houses from around the world.

The titles are:


Moral Combat: A History of World War II

From pre-eminent historian Michael Burleigh comes a brilliant new examination of the Second World War and a magisterial counterpart to his award-winning and bestselling THE THIRD REICH. Literature on the Second World War is voluminous. In Moral Combat, however, Michael Burleigh achieves what few historians can claim to have done; by exploring the moral sentiment of entire societies and their leaders, and how this changed under the impact of total war, he presents readers with an entirely fresh perspective of this conflict. Opening with the 'predators' - Mussolini, Hitler, Prince Hirohito of Japan - and moving onto appeasement (a popular policy or a 'wrong' policy?), the rape of Poland, Barbarossa, the role of Churchill, and the Holocaust, Burleigh analyses the moral dimension of the Second World War's most important moments. More than merely a history of 'great men', however, Burleigh also examines the moral reasoning of individuals who had to make choices under circumstances difficult to imagine. Stressing the maxim that the past is used to make sense of the present world we live in, he takes us right up to today's war on terror - a war of competing ideas. What, in the end, will constitute its victory? Burleigh's fascinating and deeply engaging exploration refuses to draw lessons from the past for the future, remaining instead firmly focused on the on-the-spot decisions that came to define the conflict. Original, perceptive and remarkable in scope, this is an unforgettable and hugely important Second World War history.


The Ottoman Age of Exploration
(Oxford University Press (USA))

The Ottoman Age of Exploration is the first comprehensive historical account of this century-long struggle for global dominance, a struggle that raged from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Straits of Malacca, and from the interior of Africa to the steppes of Central Asia. Based on extensive research in the archives of Turkey and Portugal, as well as materials written on three continents and in a half dozen languages, it presents an unprecedented picture of the global reach of the Ottoman state during the sixteenth century. It does so through a dramatic recounting of the lives of sultans and viziers, spies, corsairs, soldiers-of-fortune, and women from the imperial harem. Challenging traditional narratives of Western dominance, it argues that the Ottomans were not only active participants in the Age of Exploration, but ultimately bested the Portuguese in the game of global politics by using sea power, dynastic prestige, and commercial savoir faire to create their own imperial dominion throughout the Indian Ocean.


Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits
(W.W. Norton & Co.)

Winner of the 2010 Bancroft Prize and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography: Dorothea Lange’s photographs define how we remember the Depression generation; now an evocative biography defines her creative struggles and enduring legacy. We all know Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos—the “Migrant Mother” holding her child, the gaunt men forlornly waiting in breadlines—but few know the arc of her extraordinary life. In this sweeping account, renowned historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. Gordon uses Lange’s life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, re-creating the bohemian world of San Francisco, the Dust Bowl, and the Japanese American internment camps. She explores Lange’s growing radicalization as she embraced the democratic power of the camera, and she examines Lange’s entire body of work, reproducing more than one hundred images, many of them previously unseen and some of them formerly suppressed. Lange reminds us that beauty can be found in unlikely places, and that to respond to injustice, we must first simply learn how to see it.


A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
(Allen Lane)

Christianity, one of the world's great religions, has had an incalculable impact on human history. This book, now the most comprehensive and up to date single volume work in English, describes not only the main ideas and personalities of Christian history, its organisation and spirituality, but how it has changed politics, sex, and human society. Diarmaid MacCulloch ranges from Palestine in the first century to India in the third, from Damascus to China in the seventh century and from San Francisco to Korea in the twentieth. He is one of the most widely travelled of Christian historians and conveys a sense of place as arrestingly as he does the power of ideas. He presents the development of Christian history differently from any of his predecessors. He shows how, after a semblance of unity in its earliest centuries, the Christian church divided during the next 1400 years into three increasingly distanced parts, of which the western Church was by no means always the most important: he observes that at the end of the first eight centuries of Christian history, Baghdad might have seemed a more likely capital for worldwide Christianity than Rome. This is the first truly global history of Christianity.


Betsy Ross and the Making of America
(Henry Holt and Company)

Betsy Ross and the Making of America is the first comprehensively researched and elegantly written biography of one of America's most captivating figures of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on new sources and bringing a fresh, keen eye to the fabled creation of "the first flag," Marla R. Miller thoroughly reconstructs the life behind the legend. This authoritative work provides a close look at the famous seamstress while shedding new light on the lives of the artisan families who peopled the young nation and crafted its tools, ships, and homes.


The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period
(Yale University Press)

Taking a new approach to the study of cross-cultural trade, this book blends archival research with historical narrative and economic analysis to understand how the Sephardic Jews of Livorno, Tuscany, traded in regions near and far in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Francesca Trivellato tests assumptions about ethnic and religious trading diasporas and networks of exchange and trust. Her extensive research in international archives—including a vast cache of merchants’ letters written between 1704 and 1746—reveals a more nuanced view of the business relations between Jews and non-Jews across the Mediterranean, Atlantic Europe, and the Indian Ocean than ever before. The book argues that cross-cultural trade was predicated on and generated familiarity among strangers, but could coexist easily with religious prejudice. It analyzes instances in which business cooperation among coreligionists and between strangers relied on language, customary norms, and social networks more than the progressive rise of state and legal institutions.