Religion strong on Cundill History Prize longlist

Religion strong on Cundill History Prize longlist

The Cundill History Prize has revealed its 2017 longlist which explores topics ranging from economic history and Christianity to the Islamic world and Vietnam.

The $75,000 (£55,480) international prize rewards the best history writing in English. The two runners up each receive a Recognition of Excellence Award worth $10,000 (£7,400).

The jury of five, under the chair of Margaret MacMillan, has chosen 10 historians from five countries to be in the running for the prize in its 10th anniversary year.

MacMillan said: “Our longlist reflects the exciting and varied state of history today. The books on it cover subjects from Vietnam to Native American history and range in time from prehistory to the present. Their outstanding men and women authors come from around the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for our jury to whittle down over 300 entries into 10 but I am happy that we have come up with such a strong and interesting selection.”

The theme of religion features strongly on the list: in The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times (WW Norton), Christopher de Ballaigue challenges "what we thought we knew about the history of the Islamic world", and in the year that marks 500 years since reformation, Lyndal Roper’s Martin Luther (Bodley Head) reveals the often contradictory psychological forces that drove the man whose small act of protest turned into a battle against the power of the Church. In The Evangelicals (S&S US), the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian Frances FitzGerald tells the story of how the Christian evangelical movement has come to play such an influential role in the culture and politics of the USA.

With Walter Scheidel’s The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton University Press), the jury has included a controversial work of economic history that provides important insights about why inequality is so persistent, and unlikely to go away, and Christopher de Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Allen Lane) which explores nearly a thousand years of medieval history. Also longlisted is Russia in Revolution: An Empire in crisis, 1890 to 1928 (Oxford University Press), in which Stephen Smith delivers a panoramic account of the history of the Russian Empire – and what it might mean for us today.

The list also includes Christopher Goscha's look at Vietnam’s diverse and divided past in Vietnam: A New History (Basic Books) and a book which sees Daniel Beer write a new history of how the 19th century Tsars turned Siberia into a vast and brutal prison camp entitled The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsar (Allen Lane).

In Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy (Pantheon Books), Heather Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the infamous uprising and its legacy – and gives voice to all those who had to fight forty-five-year to bring about justice and Joe Jackson’s Black Elk (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) delivers the definitive history of the Native American holy man whose dramatic life converged with some of the most momentous events in the history of the American West.

MacMillan is joined on the judging panel by the British-American historian and author Amanda Foreman, Oxford professor Roy Foster, Canadian journalist and author Jeffrey Simpson, and the UK historian and broadcaster Rana Mitter.

Mitter said: “As a historian of China I’m particularly delighted at how wide the geographi- cal range of these books are. All are outstanding in quality. I note in terms of range that we have a long study of Vietnam, a major country in Southeast Asia that is little understood in the west; an examination of Islam over several centuries; and an analysis of inequality that draws on mate- rial from China as well as the west. In addition, North America and Europe are richly represented. This is a very global list.”

The three finalists will be announced by MacMillan at a press conference at Canada House in London on 26th October. All three authors will attend the Cundill History Prize Gala in Montreal on 16 November, where the winner will be announced.