Revealed: the 10 history books shortlisted for the 2020 Cundill History Prize

This year’s shortlist of ten authors for the major history prize has been announced

The shortlist for the 2020 Cundill History Prize has been revealed.

A new take on the Aztecs, a study of the expulsion of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands in the 1830s, and a sweeping exploration of the East India Company are among the books nominated for a major history award.

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The shortlist for the 2020 Cundill History Prize was revealed on 22 September in a virtual event hosted by chair of the jury Peter Frankopan and jurors Anne Applebaum, Lyse Doucet, Eliga Gould and Sujit Sivasundaram. The award, which celebrates the best of the year’s history writing from around the world, has expanded its shortlist from eight to ten authors for the first time.

This year’s nominated books include William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company; Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend, and Kerri Greenidge’s Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter. HistoryExtra is a media partner of the prize, and we’ll be featuring some of the shortlisted authors on our podcast over the coming weeks – in addition to our 2019 interview with Dalrymple.

“2020 has been a year of profound change — in so many ways, not just the pandemic,” said Frankopan. “Studying and reading about the past helps us remember the people, the places, the times, for good and for bad, when history has changed, in individual countries, in regions, in continents, and globally. There is a real resonance in the books that we have chosen.”

Previous winners of the $75,000 prize include Julia Lovell, Applebaum, Diarmaid MacCulloch and Maya Jasanoff. This year’s finalists will be announced on 20 October, with the winner set to be revealed in November.


The full shortlist is as follows:

Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation

by Roderick Beaton

(The University of Chicago Press/Penguin)

Beaton, Roderick - Greece

Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War

by Vincent Brown

(Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)

Brown, Vincent - Tacky_s Revolt

The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company

by William Dalrymple

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

Dalrymple, William - The Anarchy

India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765

by Richard M. Eaton

(University of California Press/Penguin)

Eaton, Richard - India in the Persianate Age

Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry that Unravelled the Middle East

by Kim Ghattas

(Headline/Henry Holt & Co)

Ghattas, Kim - Black Wave

Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter

by Kerri Greenidge

(Liveright Publishing)

Greenidge, Kerri - Black Radical

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017

by Rashid Khalidi

(Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company)

Khalidi, Rashid - The Hundred Years_ War on Palestine

Providence Lost: The Rise and Fall of Cromwell’s Protectorate

by Paul Lay

(Head of Zeus)

Lay, Paul - Providence Lost

Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory

by Claudio Saunt

(WW Norton & Company)

Sant, Claudio - Unworthy Republic

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

by Camilla Townsend

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(Oxford University Press USA)

Townsend, Camilla - Fifth Sun