American Historian Camilla Townsend has won the Cundill History Prize 2020 for Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs. The $75,000 prize is one of the elite literary awards that recognize works on history. Camilla’s Fifth Sun was competing with William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, and Vincent Brown’s Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War.
The finalists for Cundill History Prize 2020 were revealed on October 20. All of the three finalists, Dalrymple, Brown, and Townsend, are renowned historians. However, each of them specializes in a distinct field of study. While Dalrymple is an authority on medieval Indian history, tracking the Mughal Era and the British Raj, Brown specializes in the history of the struggle of the Afro-Americans in the United States. The two runners-up will also get prize money of $10,000 each.
Townsend, on the other hand, is renowned for her expertise in the history of Native Americans and the pre-modern empires & dynasties in Latin America. An Oxford University Press USA publication, Fifth Sun explores the Aztec Culture that dominated central Mexico for three centuries. It documents the popular meeting between Hernando Cortes and Moctezuma of the Aztec Kingdom (1300s-1500s). However, instead of the Spaniards’ narration, Fifth Sun delves into the perspective of the native population.
The Jury for 2020 Included:
Peter Frankopan, Chair of the Jury (Professor of Global History, Oxford University)
Anne Applebaum (Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins University)
Lyse Doucet (Chief International Correspondent, BBC)
Eliga Gould (Professor of History, University of New Hampshire)
Sujit Sivasundaram (Professor of World History, University of Cambridge)
About Cundill History Prize 2020
The Cundill History Prize came into existence in 2008. The McGill University administers the elite history award named after famous Canadian investor the founder of the award, Peter Cundill. The award honours its founder’s passion for history, by recognizing, rewarding, & promoting historical scholarship.
Commenting on the winner, Peter Frankopan, chair of the jury for this year said,
“Camilla Townsend revolutionizes how we should look at Aztec society before, during, and after the arrival of Europeans in Central America. After more than 500 years, we are finally able to see history through the eyes of the Indigenous people themselves rather than those of their conquerors. Not many books completely transform how we look at the past. This is one of those that does.”
Camilla Townsend is a Professor of History at the Rutgers University, New Jersey. Fifth Sun is Townsend’s seventh book on history Here previous books are:
Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America (2000)
Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (2004)
Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (2006)
American Indian History: A Documentary Reader (2009)
Here in This Year: Seventeenth-Century Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala-Puebla Valley (2010)
Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive (2019)