History of the Aztecs Wins Cundill History Prize

Camilla Townsend, a professor at Rutgers University, won the 2020 Cundill History Prize for Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs (Oxford). In awarding the citation the prize committee wrote, "Using previously obscure and rarely-consulted Nahuatl language sources—texts written by the indigenous people of Mexico—Townsend shifts the viewpoint on Aztec history from the only one accessible up until now—he Spanish—and gives an authentic historical voice to the native Mexicans of centuries ago." 

"Fifth Sun is a work of breath-taking originality, accomplishment and importance," said Peter Frankopan, chair of the judges. "Camilla Townsend revolutionizes how we should look at Aztec society before, during and after the arrival of Europeans in Central America. After more than five hundred 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.”

Townsend receives $75,000—the largest reward for a work of non-fiction in English. The two runners up are Vincent Brown for Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Harvard) and William Dalrymple, for The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East-India Company (Bloomsbury). They each receive $10,000.

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