2018 Cundill History Prize in record year for submissions

Over 400 titles submitted for the 2018 Cundill History Prize. 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 for this year's prize.

Celebrating its 11th year, the Cundill History Prize announced a record number of submissions for 2018, with more than 400 titles accepted, up 25 percent from last year. Administered by the Faculty of Arts, the US$75,000 prize will be awarded by a distinguished jury of world-leading historians. Five jurors were recently named to judge the impressive list of titles, which includes authors from richly diverse backgrounds tackling subjects as varied as religion and war, feminism and natural disasters, global finance and music. 

Hailing from esteemed universities in North America and the United Kingdom the jury is chaired by Mark Gilbert, Professor of History and International Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS, whose areas of expertise include the political histories of Italy, Great Britain, and European integration. Joining Professor Gilbert will be CUNY Graduate Center Baruch Presidential Professor of History Carol Berkin, a writer of women’s history and the American Revolution; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Caroline Elkins, Professor of History and African American Studies at Harvard University; Peter Frankopan, Oxford Professor of Global History and author of the best-selling recent title The Silk Roads: A New History of the World; and journalist Jeffrey Simpson, the author of seven books and winner of all three of Canada’s leading literary prizes.  

Discussing the importance of documenting history, Chair Gilbert said: “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 Prize rewards books that combine serious scholarship with an appeal to the general reader. Books that open minds.”  

Its roots firmly planted in Montreal, the Cundill Prize was founded by philanthropist F. Peter Cundill, a distinguished alumnus of McGill University who had an abiding passion for history and travel. The prize honors his legacy by encouraging informed public debate through the international dissemination of excellent nonfiction work, which is sustained by McGill in order to expose writers to opportunities and audiences worldwide. “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,” said Antonia Maioni, Dean of the Faculty of Arts. This year’s submissions include authors from around the world including Canada, the US, the UK, China, France, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Russia. The jury’s efforts, combined with the support of the university, will work to award submissions that combine academic rigor and wide public appeal to follow in the footsteps of winners and McGill historians who imbue the prize with vitality.  

The 2018 shortlist will be announced on September 25 at Canada House in London and the three finalists will be revealed at an event in Toronto to be held in mid-October. The Cundill History Prize Gala will take place in Montreal on November 15, where a winner will be announced and two runners-up will each receive awards of $10,000. A series of events at McGill University will complement the excitement this fall, including the annual Cundill History Prize Lecture, which will be delivered by last year’s winner, British historian Daniel Beer. After winning the prize for his work The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars, Beer said: “Winning the Cundill History Prize has been a game-changing experience. The prize has dramatically raised the profile of The House of the Dead and of my wider work on Russian history both inside and outside the academy.” 

Based in Montreal, the award has extended its reach into the international community of nonfiction authors. Over the years, the award has changed lives and has inspired winners and participants to complete innovative historical research. Dean Maioni has contributed to the mounting anticipation for the announcement of the winner within and beyond McGill, saying: “I cannot wait to see which books our 2018 jurors will choose.”