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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.