The $75,000 Cundill History Prize Names Its 2022 Jury Chair

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The Georgetown University-based environmental historian JR McNeill will lead the Cundill History Prize 2022 jury.

From the WW Norton cover of JR McNeill’s ‘Something New Under the Sun,’ his work on the environmental history of the 20th century. Image: WW Norton

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

McNeill: ‘Shaping Our World and Our Lives’
Succeeding Canada’s Michael Ignatieff in the role, the American environmental historian JR McNeill has been named today (March 31) the jury chair for the 2022 cycle of the US$75,000 Cundill History Prize.

Based at Washington’s Georgetown University, his appointment is timely, of course, for his work in the environmental sphere. Having published with WW Norton, Cambridge University Press, Harvard University Press, and UNC [University of North Carolina) Press, he’s one of four contributors to Sea and Land: An Environmental History of the Caribbean, listed by Oxford University Press for a release on April 29. His co-authors on it are Philip J. Morgan, Matthew Mulcahy, and Stuart B. Schwartz.

Perhaps the most defining of his releases, in terms of his work as an environmental historian, is the WW Norton release (2000), Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World.

McNeill has held positions as president of both the American Society for Environmental History and the American Historical Association, and he’s an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the Academia Europaea.

He has at least seven books in WW Norton’s “Webs of Humankind” series.

JR McNeill

In a prepared statement for today’s announcement, he’s quoted, saying, “In 2022, public events remind us once more that history is always with us shaping our world and our lives. The need for works of history that combine the highest scholarly standards with appealing prose is as urgent as ever.

“The Cundill History Prize shines a spotlight on exactly that sort of book.

“I look forward to working with fellow jurors on our task.”

Those jurors on his panel have not been announced as yet.

Submissions are now open for the 2022 cycle of the award program, and publishers have until May 6 to submit works of history for consideration. The prize is open to authors from anywhere in the world, regardless of nationality or place of residence, as well as to books translated into English. In addition to the $75,000 for the winner, the Cundill purse offers $10,000 to each of two runners-up.

A Shortlist Expected in September

This year, the Cundill is operating a fully digital submissions process. Information on submission is here.

Mary Hunter

Speaking for the Cundill award regime, Mary Hunter, the interim dean of the faculty of arts at Montreal’s McGill University, where the prize is seated, welcomes McNeill to the role of jury chair in this, the 15th year of the program. She refers to him as “an eminent scholar in a field that couldn’t be more important today.

“As the world embarks on its slow recovery from the shocks of the pandemic, and the specter of expanding war is looming larger than it has in a century, major environmental challenges continue to underpin what lies ahead.

“We are aiming to bring together a jury that applies a multitude of lenses to bring to the fore works of history that illuminate, challenge, and change our perspectives.”

Having produced its program digitally for two years, the Cundill administration expects a hybrid iteration this year.

The shortlist is to be announced in September, followed by the finalists’ announcement in October.

The winner will be named in early December as part of the annual Cundill History Prize Festival, which includes the Cundill Lecture and Cundill Forum, alongside new features. A full season calendar and event details will be available later in the year.

The 2021 Cundill History Prize was won by University of Maryland historian Marjoleine Kars for Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast (New Press).

Last year, Kars and her two colleagues in the finalists’ trio were announced for the first time at Frankfurter Buchmesse. Those runners-up:

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

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)

Peter Cundill

The Cundill History Prize was founded by Peter Cundill (1938-2011) was the founder of the Cundill Value Fund. He established the Cundill History Prize in 2008, two years after being diagnosed with Fragile X Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome, with which he died in London.

One of the best elements of today’s presentation was a short video presentation on Cundill and his life, putting an important and interesting face to the prize’s name.

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 65th awards report published in the 64 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.


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 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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