Nazi legacies, Maoism, and American history – these are the subjects tackled by the three historians recognised in the final stages of the 2019 Cundill History Prize, which rewards the best history writing in English.
The three finalists for this year’s prize are: Mary Fulbrook’s Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest of Justice; Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States; and Julia Lovell’s Maoism: A Global History.
The three historians will be awarded $10,000 each, while the recipient of the grand prize, which raises the reward for the winner to $75,000, will be announced in November.
Pulitzer-prize winning historian Alan Taylor chairs the prize, which recognises works that “embody historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal”. The three finalists were chosen from a shortlist of eight works announced in September, and display “an impressive commitment to moral inquiry and humane values”, said Taylor. The books’ “literary quality will enable the authors to introduce new findings to a very broad readership”, he added.
Historians on the jury of the prize also offered praise for the three titles. Rana Mitter commended Fulbrook’s Reckonings as “deeply uncomfortable – and I mean that as a recommendation. It told me a story about my continent, Europe, which I hadn’t fully absorbed”. You can find out more about Fulbrook’s book in her discussion with Richard J Evans on the HistoryExtra podcast earlier this year.
Of Jill Lepore’s These Truths, juror Charlotte Gray drew attention to the book’s “completely new, original angles” on American history. Fellow juror Jane Kamensky, meanwhile, described Julia Lovell’s Maoism as “a revelation,” adding that “there is nobody beyond Lovell herself who has wrestled with so many theatres of Maoist thought, and in the fresh way that she does”.
Maya Jasanoff took the prize in 2018 for her account of the Polish-born British writer Joseph Conrad, and will deliver the annual Cundill History Prize lecture when the prize is awarded on 14 November 2019 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Find out more about the 2019 Cundill History Prize finalists below:
Mary Fulbrook, professor of German History at UCL, explores the lives of both the victims and the perpetrators of the Holocaust in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest of Justice, winner of this year’s Wolfson History Prize. | Oxford University Press (UK, US)
With These Truths: A History of the United States, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore delivers an ambitious one-volume history of the US that places truth itself – a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence – at the centre of the nation’s history. | W. W. Norton & Company (US)
From the tea plantations of north India to the sierras of the Andes, from Paris’s fifth arrondissement to the fields of Tanzania, Julia Lovell, professor of Modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London, re-evaluates Maoism as both a Chinese and an international force, in Maoism: A Global History. | The Bodley Head (UK), Knopf (US)
HistoryExtra is the media partner for the Cundill History Prize this year.