"Superbly written” story of women’s experiences of slavery wins the 2022 Cundill History Prize
Tiya Miles’s All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake has claimed the top spot in this year’s awards
A history of an enslaved mother and her daughter has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Cundill History Prize.
All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles was revealed as the winner of the US$75,000 prize in a Montreal ceremony on 1 December 2022. The decision of the judges was unanimous in awarding the prize to Miles, who is Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Harvard-Radcliffe Institute, and director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. The judges praised Miles’ work for its “imaginative research” and having “the narrative propulsion of a novel”.
The winning history book covers the story of an enslaved woman named Rose in 1850s South Carolina, who packed a sack containing a few precious items for her nine-year-old daughter Ashley. Ashley was then separated from her mother and sold, and it’s likely the two never saw each other again. This heart-wrenching story is embroidered on a tattered cotton sack now held in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- On the podcast | 2022 Cundill Prize Winner Tiya Miles explores what an embroidered sack bearing a heart-wrenching inscription can reveal about women’s experiences of slavery in South Carolina
The two fellow finalists – Ada Ferrer’s Cuba and Vladislav M Zubok ‘s Collapse – each received US$10,000.
Previous winners of the main prize include Marjoleine Kars (2021), Camilla Townsend (2020), and Julia Lovell (2019).
Kars, who won the 2021 Prize for Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast (The New Press), will be delivering the 2022 Cundill Lecture on the 1763 rebellion of enslaved people in the Dutch colony of Berbice. The talk will be available to stream on-demand on HistoryExtra between Monday 5 December and Sunday 11 December.
What is the Cundill History Prize?
The Cundill History Prize, awarded annually since 2008, is an international prize of US$75,000, that rewards the best history writing in English. Books awarded the annual prize embody "historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal". Any historical period or subject is eligible, and translations into English are welcomed. Two runners up receive $10,000 each.
Cundill History Prize 2022 shortlist
Eight titles have been shortlisted for the 2022 Cundill History Prize. They are:
All That She Carried
By Tiya Miles (Random House)
Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich
By Harald Jähner (Ebury, PRH)
Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union
By Vladislav M Zubok (Yale University Press)
Cuba: An American History
By Ada Ferrer (Scribner)
In The Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism
By JP Daughton (WW Norton & Company)
Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate
By ME Sarotte (Yale University Press)
The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics
By Mae Ngai (WW Norton & Company)
The Perils of Interpreting
By Henrietta Harrison (Princeton University Press)
The Cundill History Prize 2022 chair and jurors
The jurors will be reading the 2022 submissions over the summer months, before meeting in a series of video conference calls to deliberate on the longlist, the shortlist of eight, the three finalists and, ultimately, the one winner of the US$75,000 prize, administered by McGill University.
The 2022 prize is chaired by JR McNeill, a historian, author and professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Joining McNeill on this year's panel is Misha Glenny, Rector at the Institute for Human Sciences; Martha S Jones, Professor of History at The John Hopkins University; Yasmin Khan, Associate Professor of British History at the University of Oxford; and Kenda Mutongi, Professor of History at MIT
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Who won the Cundill History Prize in previous years?
Marjoleine Kars was named winner of the 2021 Cundill History Prize for Blood on the River: a Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast (The New Press).
The US-based Dutch historian accessed a previously untapped Dutch archive to reveal the little-known story of a 1763 slave rebellion in Berbice, a Dutch colony in present-day Guyana. The event, Kars showed, revises our understanding of the actions of enslaved people at the dawn of the age of revolution.
“It transforms our understanding of two vitally important subjects – slavery and empire – and it tells a story so dramatic, so compelling that no reader will be able to put the book down,” said Michael Ignatieff, 2021 Chair of the Jury. “It was the unanimous choice of our jury.”
The two runners up were Rebecca Clifford for Survivors: Children’s Lives after the Holocaust (Yale University Press) and Marie Favereau for The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World, (Belknap Press of Harvard), and each receive a Recognition of Excellence Award of US$10,000.
- Listen: Marjoleine Kars tells the HistoryExtra podcast about a little-known 1763 rebellion by enslaved people in Berbice, in present-day Guyana
The winner of the 2020 Cundill History Prize was Camilla Townsend's Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, a new look at the lives of the Aztecs in their own words, and 2019's winner was Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell. Lovell followed Harvard Professor Maya Jasanoff (2018), and British historian Daniel Beer (2017). Find out more about the previous winners.
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