Frankfurt Studio: The $75,000 Cundill History Prize Names Its Finalists

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In a first-time broadcast from the Frankfurt Book Fair, Canada’s Cundill History Prize announces its 2021 finalists and sets its lecture date of December 1, with last year’s winner, Camilla Townsend.

Image: Cundill History Prize

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Winner Announcement: December 2
In an exclusive broadcast from the Frankfurt Studio facility inaugurated earlier in the day by Penguin Random House’s worldwide CEO Markus Dohle, Canada’s Cundill History Prize has named its three 2021 finalists.

Publishing Perspectives readers were ready to see the historian Margaret MacMillan in conversation with jury chair Michael Ignatieff, in a first-time partnership broadcast from Frankfurter Buchmesse of this pivotal point in the Cundill’s annual prize cycle. What remains is only the winner’s announcement now, coming in a digital presentation of the program’s festival events, December 1 and 2:

  • The Cundill Lecture, delivered by last year’s  winner, Camilla Townsend (Fifth Sun: a New History of the Aztecs) on Wednesday, December 1 at 1 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. GMT.
  • Returning for its third year, the Cundill Forum sparks fresh thinking by bringing together the three finalists in a conversation on a theme of global, current relevance. Further details of this special event will be released soon. This event is on December 1.
  • The 2021 winner announcement, featuring the three finalists; Michael Ignatieff and jurors Eric Foner, Henrietta Harrison, Sunil Khilnani and Jennifer L. Morgan; with special hosts and more details to be announced shortly. That’s on December 2 at 1 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. GMT.

We’ll embed below for you the finalists’ announcement program, which also featured host Dan Snow and was presented in partnership not only with Frankfurt but also with History Hit, Literary Review of Canada, and the UK’s Fane Productions.

The three historians now made finalists will be awarded US$10,000 each. They’re now vying for the grand prize, which raises the reward for the winner to US$75,000, making the Cundill History Prize the largest purse for a work of non-fiction in English.

Cundill History Prize 2021 Finalists

From left are Rebecca Clifford; Marie Favereau (image: Imaginaction); and Marjoliene Kars (image: Tim Ford)

Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Rebecca Clifford Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust Yale University Press
Marie Favereau The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World Harvard University Press / Belknap
Marjoleine Kars Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast The New Press

In his statement of rationale for the jury, the panel’s chair, Michael Ignatieff, said, “The 2021 Cundill History Prize finalists are three outstanding works of history.

Michael Ignatieff

“Rebecca Clifford’s Survivors transforms our understanding of historical trauma and its impact on children. Beautifully written, intensively researched, unsentimental and profound, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and its unending impact on those who survived it.

“Marie Favereau’s The Horde is a vividly written history on a vast canvas that enables us to see the Mongol conquerors of Asia and Europe through the eyes of the Mongols themselves. An amazing picture emerges of a mobile empire whose very flexibility, ability to integrate and work with alien peoples, accounts for their extraordinary historical impact.

“Marjoleine Kars is a marvelous writer and scholar, using untapped sources to breathe life into both the oppressors and the oppressed in a colony built on slavery and savage violence. In Blood on the River she presents us with a quite unforgettable narrative.

Mary Hunter

And Mary Hunter, dean of the faculty of arts at Montreal’s McGill University—the seat of the Cundill History Prize—is quoted, saying, “The Cundill History Prize finalists provide a brilliant mix of innovative historical writing and engaging prose.

“Impeccably researched and skillfully argued, these three books offer fresh insights that will spark conversation and debate among historians and non-specialists alike.”

Previous winners of the award are:

  • Camilla Townsend (2020)
  • Julia Lovell (2019)
  • Maya Jasanoff (2018)
  • Daniel Beer (2017)
  • Thomas W. Laqueur (2016)
  • Susan Pedersen (2015)
  • Gary Bass (2014)
  • Anne Applebaum (2013)
  • Stephen Platt (2012)
  • Sergio Luzzatto (2011)
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch (2010)
  • Lisa Jardine (2009)
  • Stuart B. Schwartz (2008)

Here’s today’s announcement of the Cundill History Prize’s 2021 finalists:


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Cundill History Prize is here. And more on publishing and book awards in general is here. More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.  

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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