Book tracing 3,000 years of Christianity wins top Canadian award
A book on the history of the first 3,000 years of Christianity won recently Canada’s top literary nonfiction award, besting over 180 competitors from around the globe.
A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch won $75,000 and the Cundill Prize in History from McGill University, The Globe and Mail reported.
The Cundill Prize was established in 2008 by Peter Cundill, an investment manager and McGill alumnus. The competition is open to writers worldwide, according to The Globe and Mail.
MacCulloch, 59, who is an Oxford professor, walked away with Canada’s largest monetary award given by the country for his 1,200 page tome during the awarding festivities held in Montreal, according to CBC News.
MacCulloch told The Globe and Mail that the award was “a great voice of confidence” in his work, adding, “Peter Cundill comes from the world of business, a world that doesn’t always take the long view, so it’s superb that someone who’s done so well in that world sees what we do as important and useful.”
The author took three years off from his work in Oxford University to write the book which is cited for its comprehensive historical treatment. He was up against two U.S. academics for the top prize, The Globe and Mail said.
Juror Adam Gopnik, a New Yorker writer and McGill alumnus, said in a statement that MacCullough’s book is refreshing amid a time when people of faith are at odds with one another and against seculars and atheists, CBC News said.
Gopnik said the book has “given us the one thing that we most need — not polemic but history, high, wide, and lucid, and, given the enormity of his task, often winningly light of touch.”
Gopnik added, “If any book could truly fulfill the charge of the Cundill Prize — to make first class history more potent to a wide reading public, and above all to remind us that history, even three thousand years worth, matters — this one does.”
Gopnik also said the book reached a “near perfect match of narrative flair and analytic detail. Taking as his subject nothing less than the whole history of the faith, MacCulloch has written a social history that illuminates changes in belief; and a history of belief that helps us see how our society got so much of its structure,” The Globe and Mail reported.
Another juror, Ken Whyte of Maclean’s, said MacCulloch’s book helped to make history more potent and meaningful to a wide reading public, according to The Globe and Mail.
Previous books by MacCullough are Thomas Cranmer: A Life, which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 which won the British Academy Book Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award, CBC News reported.
MacCulloch also hosted a BBC television series that was based on his Cundill Prize-winning book on Christianity, CBC News said.