Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Prize Watch: the Cundill Prize finalists.

Yesterday the Cundill Prize for History announced the final three for its 2020 prize, to be announced December 3. 

  • William Dalrymple for The Anarchy, on the collapse of India's Mughal dynasty and the takeover of the subcontinent by the East India Company.

  • Vincent Brown for Tacky's Revolt: a mid-eighteenth century Jamaican slave revolt recast as a struggle with pan-Atlantic roots and outcomes.

  • Camilla Townsend for Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs.

I don't usually keep track of longlists, and the Cundill's ten this year was pretty long  -- though they called it the "shortlist." But quite a few intriguing titles were left behind when the finalists were chosen:  histories of India, Greece, and Palestine, the Iran-Saudi confrontation, "Indian Removal" in the United States, the collapse of Cromwell's Protectorate, and a biography of a little-known Black activist.  (There was an official longlist that was even longer, and still pretty interesting.)

How are the Cundill choices as a measure of what's doing in world historical writing? An anti-colonial slant to the choices, and five of ten shortlisters would count as "of colour," though American Ivy-League scholars feature prominently in both shortlist and finalists.

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