Largest literary prize in history makes history


Renowned investment manager Peter Cundill establishes landmark non-fiction historical book prize at McGill

The Cundill Foundation, led by McGill alumnus Peter Cundill, has established the world’s largest non-fiction historical literature prize at McGill University. McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum announced the prize at a reception at the Faculty Club on April 17.

"It’s very fitting that a McGill graduate who chose to advance the field of history has ended up making some of his own,” Prof. Munroe-Blum said. “Peter Cundill’s most generous and visionary gift not only recognizes and promotes literary and academic achievement in the field, but also highlights the importance of looking to the past so that we may chart the best course for the future.”

The inaugural Cundill International Prize in History at McGill will be awarded in November 2008 to an author who has published a book determined to have a profound literary, social and academic impact on the subject. Once a year, the university will grant the equivalent of one full prize of $75,000 US and two “Recognition of Excellence” awards of $10,000 US.

“I was surprised to learn there were no major prizes in history,” said Mr. Cundill, reached by phone at the London offices of his global investment management firm, The Cundill Group. He explained his affinity to history: “I’m an investment researcher of finance and I think there’s an analogy between the two disciplines – both study the past to understand the present and predict the future.”

An independent jury composed of at least five internationally distinguished individuals will select the award recipients. The 2008 jury includes Mr. Timothy Aitken, former journalist and President of the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation; Ms. Denise Chong, Canadian author and two-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Non-Fiction Award; Prof. Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor of Medieval Studies and Senior Fellow, Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto and Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton; The Hon. Serge Joyal, Canadian Senator and lawyer; Prof. Angela Schottenhammer, Professor of Chinese and East Asian History at the Department for Asian Studies, Munich University, Germany; and Prof. Roger Chartier, Directeur d'Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Professor at Collège de France, and Annenberg Visiting Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Cundill Foundation is also establishing two graduate fellowships that will be awarded to outstanding candidates entering into a doctoral program in the History Department in the Faculty of Arts.

Peter Cundill FCA, CFA is the Principal of The Cundill Group, a global investment management firm with offices in Vancouver, Bermuda and representation in London and Japan. His career in investment management spans more than 40 years since graduating from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1960. Mr. Cundill has earned many distinctions. In December 2001, the Canadian Investment Awards (CIA) named him as the greatest mutual fund manager of all time. In January 2004, he received the Fellowship of Chartered Accountant (FCA) designation from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia (ICABC) for his enormous contributions to the CA profession and to his community. A native of Montreal, he has lived in London, England, for the past 30 years.

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