New gift endows prestigious Cundill book prize

Tue, Nov 27, 2012

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New gift endows prestigious Cundill book prize

The world’s largest and most important non-fiction literary prize has received a financial boost of historic proportions.

A $6.7-million gift from the Cundill Foundation to the Faculty of Arts will permanently endow the prestigious Peter Cundill Prize in History, presented annually to an author who has published a book that has a profound literary, social and academic impact on the subject. The richest book honour in the discipline, the Cundill Prize consists of one $75,000 U.S. full award and two “Recognition of Excellence” runner-up awards of $10,000 U.S. each.

A portion of the gift will also support the Peter Cundill Fellowships in History, which are presented to outstanding McGill students entering into a doctoral program in the Department of History.


Professor Sergio Luzzatto, winner of the 2011 Peter Cundill Prize in History.

Both the Cundill Prize and Fellowships were established in 2008 through a $1.25-million donation by late McGill alumnus Peter Cundill, BCom’60. “As Peter liked to say, we must study the past to better understand the present and predict the future,” says the Hon. Michael Meighen, BA’60, Campaign McGill Co-Chair. “This philanthropic investment will cement McGill’s position as an academic leader in the area of history and transform the lives of deserving students and scholars for years to come.”

Born in Montreal and trained as a chartered accountant, Cundill was one of Canada’s most successful value investment managers and a philanthropist with a deep passion for history. Before he passed away on January 24, 2011, in London, England, where he had lived for the past 30 years, Cundill ensured that sufficient funds would be invested at McGill to support both initiatives in perpetuity.

“Through this gift, the Cundill Foundation will enable the Faculty of Arts to remain at the leading edge of graduate education and consolidate McGill’s reputation for setting standards of international excellence,” says Christopher Manfredi, Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

Cundill Prize winners have included Sergio Luzzatto, professor of modern history at the University of Turin in Italy; Diarmaid MacCulloch, a history professor at Oxford University in England; Lisa Jardine, professor of renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London in England; and Stuart B. Schwartz, professor of history at Yale University in the United States.

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