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Recognition for York historian’s “dazzling polemic”

Posted on 18 November 2016

A University of York historian has been awarded a “Recognition of Excellence” prize at a major literary event in Toronto.

Professor David Wootton received the accolade and $10,000 at the 2016 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature for his book The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution.

Professor Wootton was in the running for the top award but missed out to Thomas W. Laqueur who took home the top prize of $75,000 for his book The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains.

Now in its ninth year, the Cundill Prize is billed as one of the most prestigious awards in historical non-fiction.

The top prize is awarded each year to an individual who has published a book that has made a profound literary, social, and academic impact in the area of history.

It was established in 2008 by McGill University alumnus F. Peter Cundill, who died in January 2011, and is administered by McGill's Dean of Arts, with assistance from the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

The winner was announced at an awards gala in Toronto on Thursday.

Professor Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York, said: “To be shortlisted for the Cundill prize is a great honour and it means a great deal to me.

“My book is a version of a course I taught at York to third year history students. Some of the content comes from conversations with students in small group teaching, and from the fact that at York we are able to teach, not to some pre-set curriculum, but to our latest research interest.”

Dr Mark Jenner, the University's Research Champion for Culture and Communication, added: “We warmly congratulate David. The Invention of Science is not only historical scholarship of the highest order but a work which tackles really big intellectual questions in a trenchant and highly readable manner.

“We are delighted that its significance has received the recognition it deserves. The book’s breadth, ambition, and its ability to home in on the genuinely significant detail epitomises York’s commitment to world-leading research.”

Professor Wootton was one of three finalists selected from 182 submissions received from publishers worldwide.

His book was acclaimed as a “dazzling polemic” in The Guardian.

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