It may not be as famous as the Booker or the Pulitzer, but recently McGill University in Montreal announced the 2016 winner of their Cundill Prize in Historical Literature. The Cundill Prize is the largest non-fiction history prize in the world. It’s important because it reflects a genuine desire to reward historians and researchers for publications which are “determined to have had, or likely to have, a profound literary, social and intellectual impact.” The Cundill Prize website states that they aim to recognise “outstanding works of non-fiction that are grounded in scholarly research while retaining wide appeal and interest to the general public.”
If you don’t live near a library then this is the post for you. Whether you’re a cash-strapped student, you’ve overspent, or you’re miles away from pay-day, there are ways to indulge your bookish habit without spending more than you’d like to. This post is going to clue you in on five ways to read from five different genres, at no extra cost at all.
This Sunday is the first ever non-fiction spotlight in the new format of the blog, so I thought it might be a good time to introduce a particular genre that you’ll be seeing a lot of: the microhistory. Sunday posts might also involve biographies, essays or other stuff.
Microhistories are close to my heart: they are intense historical studies based on close-reading of specific source material which produces a detailed piece of work that looks at first glance like a case study, but actually stretches itself outwards to broader themes and ideas within longue-durée historical narratives. You find case-studies in lots of normal histories, but the microhistory uniquely focuses on a small time frame, often a single event, or a small group of people, or an individual, in order to flesh out an important stitch that would otherwise be missing in the fabric of history.
“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.”