Thursday, November 10, 2016

Prize Watch: Cundill History Prize 2016 even shorter list


The Cundill Prize for History does a dance of the veils each year: longlists, shortlists, finalists, winner.  They are at the second last stage now: a list of three finalists from which a winner will be announced on November 17:
Thomas W. Laqueur, a professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, (Princeton University Press).
David Wootton, anniversary professor of history at the U.K.'s University of York, The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution, published by HarperCollins.
British design historian and broadcaster Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World, (Alfred A. Knopf, John Murray Publishers).
It's not a list to conjure a lot of excitement, maybe. But you have to give the Cundill books room to work. Some prominent names (Mary Beard, Robert Gordon) got knocked off in the whittling-down, and some possible worthies (Jonathan Sumption) never made it. You look at these titles and say: a history of burial practices? another history of the scientific revolution?  But sometimes if you actually take up a Cundill nominee, you say, yeah, good historian, big topic, new ideas, I see what they are getting at. The freshest title may be Andrea Wolf's on Van Humboldt. But I ain't read any of them.

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