British author and translator of Chinese literature Julia Lovell has won the 2019 Cundill History Prize.
The professor of Modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London won the $75,000 prize for Maoism: A Global History (The Bodley Head), in a decision the twice Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and chair of the jury Alan Taylor called “a very close call”, at a gala at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Taylor said: “Maoism is a revelation. Julia Lovell thoroughly explores the origins of Maoism in China, and then goes on to show us the many ways in which Maoist thought has influenced societies as different as Peru and Indonesia, Europe and the United States. Her book will dazzle readers with lucid and vivid insights into the power of a protean, and often deadly, ideology – and its enduring impact on our world today. Julia Lovell has written an exceptional work of history.”
Juror Jane Kamensky said Maoism "reveals a fresh view of the making of the modern world", while juror Charlotte Gray said: "Julia Lovell has drawn on an extraordinary range of sources for the first panoramic study of this formidable, fragmented political movement. What makes Maoism a worthy Cundill History Prize winner is that Lovell’s prose combines scholarship with panache, rigor with wit: I was enthralled from the first page."
The two runners up – professor of German History at University College London (UCL) Mary Fulbrook for Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press) and Harvard professor and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore for These Truths: A History of the United States (W W Norton) – received a Recognition of Excellence Award and $10,000 each.
Antonia Maioni, dean of the faculty of arts at McGill University which administers the award, said: “Choosing a winner from this year’s finalists – three sweeping histories of major international significance, written by three exceptional women – cannot have been easy for our jurors. Julia Lovell’s Maoism embodies everything the Cundill History Prize is here to celebrate. Deeply researched, beautifully written, and truly global in its scope, this book will find audiences right around the globe.”