Anne Applebaum wins the 2013 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature

Posted on Sunday, November 24, 2013
Author Anne Applebaum is flanked by Arts Dean Christopher Manfredi (right) and the Honourable Michael Meighen (BA’60).

Author Anne Applebaum is flanked by Arts Dean Christopher Manfredi (right) and the Honourable Michael Meighen (BA’60). / Photo: Ryan Emberley

By Elisabeth Faure

Author Anne Applebaum has won the 2013 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature at McGill University for her book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 (Allen Lane – Penguin Books / McClelland & Stewart). Applebaum’s account of the rise of the Iron Curtain in post-World War II Europe was chosen from amongst 116 submissions.

“I know it’s hard to believe – even the most successful and well-reviewed history books rarely make much money for their authors,” said Applebaum. “It takes years and years to research and write a book like the ones that have been recognized by the Cundill Prize committee… So it’s wonderful that there is now a prize which focuses especially on well-written history, which is one of the most difficult and time-consuming literary forms that exists. And it’s wonderful that there is real prize money attached.” As this year’s Grand Prize winner, Applebaum will walk away with $75,000 US – the world’s richest prize in historical non-fiction. The Prize is administered by McGill’s Faculty of Arts, with help from the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).

“Every year, it gives me enormous pleasure to see the calibre of submissions that pass before the Cundill selection committee,” said Faculty of Art’s Dean Christopher Manfredi. Manfredi was present at Wednesday night’s invitation-only gala dinner and awards ceremony, held at Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel.

In its sixth year, the award is given to a book determined to have had (or likely to have) a “profound literary, social and academic impact in the area of history.”

This year’s two runners-up were Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914 (HarperCollins / Allen Lane – Penguin Books), which chronicles the events leading up to the First World War; and Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (Random House), which looks at America’s 40-year path to war in Vietnam. No author walks away empty-handed, as both runners-up receive a prize of $10,000 US, respectively.

The three finalists were introduced by Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail’s national affairs columnist, who served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.

The Cundill shortlist, finalists, and winner are selected each year by an independent jury. This year’s Cundill Jury included Garvin Brown, Brown-Forman Board Chairman, Anthony Cary, Executive Director of the Queen’s-Blyth Educational Programs, Sergio Luzzatto, Modern History Professor, University of Turin and 2011 Cundill Prize winner, Marla R. Miller, Professor & Director, Public History Program and Graduate Program Director, University of Massachusetts, and Thomas H. B. Symons, Founding President of Trent University and Vanier Professor Emeritus.

To read more about the Cundill Prize, visit

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