Yale professor wins inaugural Cundill Prize

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Inaugural Cundill prize winner Stuart B. Schwartz (left) is congratulated by McGill Dean of Arts Christopher P. Manfredi (right). / Photo: Claudio Calligaris

Inaugural Cundill prize winner Stuart B. Schwartz (left) is congratulated by McGill Dean of Arts Christopher P. Manfredi (right). / Photo: Claudio Calligaris

By Jim Hynes

Stuart B. Schwartz, the George Burton Adams professor of History at Yale University, was announced as the winner of the inaugural Cundill International Prize in History at a ceremony in Montreal yesterday. Schwartz’ book All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World, an investigation of the idea of religious tolerance during the Spanish Inquisition and its evolution in the Hispanic world from 1500-1820, was one of three finalists for the U.S. $75,000 first prize.

The other finalists for the award were American historian Harold J. Cook for Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine and Science in the Dutch Golden Age, and University of Illinois history professor Peter Fritzsche for his book Life and Death in the Third Reich.

“I am pleased and honoured to have been a finalist in this competition,” Schwartz said. “I’m almost speechless at the winning of this prize and simply delighted to be in the company of the other two finalists for their wonderful books as well.”

The Cundill International Prize in History was established earlier this year by the Cundill Foundation, led by McGill Alumnus Peter Cundill. The prize, which consists of one U.S. $75,000 full prize and two Recognition of Excellence awards of U.S. $10,000, will be awarded annually to an author who has published a work of history determined to have profound literary, social and academic impact on its subject. This year, an independent jury reviewed 171 entries from around the world.

“I think it’s wonderful to have a recognition of history at this level,” Schwartz said. “A prize of this magnitude will obviously get a lot of attention. The three finalist books reflect a tremendous amount of work and thought. Historians understand the difficulty of recreating the past and a prize like this is a recognition that this is a worthwhile endeavour we are engaged in.”

Schwartz researched and wrote the book over a 12-year period in which he examined Inquisition materials at archives in Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Brazil, including most of the records from the 15 Spanish Inquisition tribunals that have been collected in Madrid.

“Ultimately there is a tremendous pleasure in this sort of detective work you do, putting the pieces together to see a framework come into being. It was an adventure in both the research and the writing,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz will return to McGill sometime next year to deliver the first Cundill International Lecture in History.

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