Cundill History Prize shortlist 'shines light' on race and empire

Cundill History Prize shortlist 'shines light' on race and empire

The eight shortlisted books for this year's Cundill History Prize shine a light on race, class, empire, revolution and memory showing "the range and insight of current history writing".

Run by Canada’s McGill University, the Cundill History Prize rewards the best history writing in English. The winner will be awarded $75,000 (£55,000) and the two runners up receive $10,000 (£7,600) each.

Harvard University Press and Princeton University Press both feature two titles each on this year's list, alongside books from Allen Lane, Basic Books, The New Press and Yale University Press. 

Chair of the jury, Michael Ignatieff, said: “Choosing these eight books from a field of 360 wasn’t easy because there is so much exciting history being written these days. We hope we’ve chosen books that readers will enjoy reading as much as we did."

Manan Ahmed Asif's The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India (Harvard University Press) reveals how a multicultural Hindustan, a home to all faiths, gave way to the religiously partitioned world of today, while Martha Jones recentres the lives and work of Black women in the fight to secure the equality and dignity of all in Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All (Basic Books). Marie Favereau shows how the western portion of the Mongol empire was no less a force in global development than Rome had been in The Horde: How The Mongols Changed The World (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) and Rebecca Clifford follows the lives of 100 Jewish children out of the ruins of conflict and into old age in Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust (Yale University Press).

Tim Harper follows young radicals from across Asia who were able to fundamentally undermine empires in Underground Asia: Global Revolutionaries and the Assault on Empire (Allen Lane); Marjoleine Kars goes in search of a little-known revolution, in the Dutch colony of Berbice, that almost changed the face of the Americas in Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast (The New Press). Emma Rothschild, by tracing one family’s extended family over five generations, paints a panoramic look of the French past in An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France over Three Centuries (Princeton University Press), and Tyler Stovall challenges the notion that racism is somehow a paradox or contradiction within the democratic tradition in White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea (Princeton University Press).

Juror Eric Foner said: “These eight books exemplify the range, insight, and accessibility of the finest works of history being produced today. Their subjects cover many centuries and places across the globe. They rely on the imaginative use of historical evidence of all kinds, from a vast array of historical actors. They are revisionist in the best sense – they challenge prevailing ideas and propose new ways of looking at familiar subjects. And they are written in a style accessible to the general public. The Cundill History Prize reassures us of the health and vitality of the historical profession today.”

The 2021 finalists will be announced on 20th October, with the winner revealed as part of the Cundill History Prize Festival on 2nd December.