Books

Canadian historian Rebecca Clifford finalist for $95K Cundill History Prize

The Cundill History Prize is administered by McGill University and honours the best history writing in English.

The Cundill History Prize honours the best history writing in English

Rebecca Clifford is shortlisted for Survivors. (Yale University Press)

Survivors: Children's Lives after the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford has made the final shortlist of the 2021 Cundill History Prize, which honours the best history writing in English.

Administered by McGill University, the prize annually awards $75,000 US ($95,494 Cdn) to a book that demonstrates historical scholarship, literary excellence and broad appeal. It is open to books from anywhere in the world, as long as they are available in English.

Survivors is a written account drawn from archives and interviews. Clifford documents the lives of one hundred Jewish children through their adulthood and into old age. The book explores the long-term impact of the Holocaust on the survivors — often branded "the lucky ones" — and how they had to struggle to survive at all. 

"Rebecca Clifford's Survivors transforms our understanding of historical trauma and its impact on children," says Michael Ignatieff, the chair of this year's prize jury and a Canadian historian, author, university professor and former politician.

"Beautifully written, intensively researched, unsentimental and profound, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and its unending impact on those who survived it."

Clifford is a professor of Transnational and European History at the University of Durham. Born in Kingston, Ont., she studied at McGill, Queen's and the University of Toronto, before moving to Oxford for her doctoral degree. She has lived in the U.K. since. Clifford is also the author of Commemorating the Holocaust.

The other two finalists are Blood on the River: a Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast by Marjoleine Kars and The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World by Marie Favereau.

Kars is from the Netherlands and a history professor at the University of Maryland.

Favereau is an associate professor of history at Paris Nanterre University. 

"The Cundill History Prize finalists provide a brilliant mix of innovative historical writing and engaging prose. Impeccably researched and skillfully argued, these three books offer fresh insights that will spark conversation and debate amongst historians and non-specialists alike," said Mary Hunter, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at McGill University, in a statement.

Each finalist will each receive $10,000 U.S. ($12,759.60 Cdn).

The grand prize winner will be announced on Dec. 2, 2021.

Past winners include Camilla Townsend, Julia Lovell, Maya Jasanoff and Daniel Beer.

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