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Stephen Platt wins 2012 Cundill Prize in History at McGill

Stephen Platt has won the Cundill Prize in History at McGill University for Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, The West, And the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (Knopf).

The $75,000 award, which is the largest international prize for a work on history, was announced at a gala in Montreal last week.

“I never intended to become a historian,” said Platt in a speech at the award ceremony. “It was only in the course of a two-year teaching position in the Hunan province after college that I began to take a serious interest in how the past and present interweave. As most who practice history know, the truth can indeed be more wondrous than fiction.”

The other finalists were Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes (Allen Lane) and Andrew Preston’s Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (Knopf Canada). Both Pinker and Preston were awarded $10,000.

Finalists were chosen from 142 eligible submissions from international publishing houses.

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