Canada’s $75,000 Cundill History Prize Names Its Finalists

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From its eight-title shortlist, the Cundill History Prize has put forward three finalists, the winner to be named on Wednesday.

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

The Cundill Names Its Winner November 8
With a winner expected to be announced on Wednesday night (November 8), we’re catching up here on the Montreal-based Cundill History Prize‘s three finalists.

These books and their authors were named on the Monday of Frankfurter Buchmesse, when the attention of the world publishing industry was trained on the 75th edition of the industry’s largest trade show in Germany. In several instances in coming days, we’ll similarly be retrieving news from a particularly busy autumn.

As many of our Publishing Perspectives readers know, this is a time of year when many book and publishing contests reach their later stages. At this writing, we have at least 11 awards programs awaiting coverage or about to release news. As usual, we parse these stories for their value in the context of the broader international publishing news environment. Because our audience is international and not based in any one market, the majority of our readers inevitably are based outside a country that’s home to any given competition. Our world rights readers, generally won’t share with a prize’s home-market reader the same need for quick reportage.

Our look at the Cundill today involves a trait specific to this prize. Probably the world’s richest award in terms of international history writing, the Cundill History Prize does not release a longlist. Instead, it releases a shortlist, which you can see us covering here on October 2. It then announces three finalists from that shortlist, which we’re covering today (November 6). And finally it names a winner.

Many of our readers hope that the Cundill team will report on the sales impact the announcement of its winner has, some weeks after that book and author are named later this week.

This program, seated at Montreal’s McGill University, is one of a handful of world-class major awards in nonfiction, joined in that elite group by the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction; the renamed $25,000 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding (formerly the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize); the UK’s £50,000 Wolfson History Prize; and the €25,000 German Nonfiction Prize. Additionally, Cassava Republic has recently announced a $30,000 nonfiction prize for Black women. And England’s Women’s Prize for Fiction recently named a jury for its first iteration of a new nonfiction prize, which carries a £30,000 purse, a gift of the Charlotte Aitken Trust.

In the size of its purse, the Cundill History Prize does outrank those similarly positioned competitions. In addition to US$75,000 for the winner, the Cundill purse offers US$10,000 to each of two runners-up from the finalists we announce here today (November 6), making its total pay-out US$77,000. It’s open to authors from anywhere in the world, regardless of nationality or place of residence, as well as to books translated into English.

On the jury this year with chair Philippa Levine are historians Marie Favereau, Eve M. Troutt Powell, Sol Serrano, Coll Thrush, and The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik.

Cundill History Prize 2023 Finalists

The Cundill History Prize’s three finalists are, from left, Tania Branigan, Kate Cooper, and James Morton Turner

 

Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Tania Branigan

Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution

Faber & Faber
Kate Cooper Queens of a Fallen World: The Lost Women of Augustine’s Confessions Hachette / Basic Books
James Morton Turner

Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future

University of Washington Press

Previous winners of the award are:

  • Tiya Miles (2022)
  • Marjoleine Kars (2021)
  • 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), who 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.

It’s interesting to note that from an eight-title shortlist which included four books from major trade  houses, the three finalists have been published by one iconic independent house, Faber & Faber; one major commercial publisher, Hachette’s Basic Books; and one university press, the University of Washington Press.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Cundill History Prize is here. More on the international industry’s publishing and book awards is here, more on the Canadian book market is here, and more on nonfiction is here.  

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 (Fellow, 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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