Pinker's book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, argues the world is actually getting less violent. An author of popular science books, including How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought, he is a professor at Harvard University.
The three short-listed selections are:
- Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes (Allen Lane): The Canadian-born cognitive scientist investigates why humans no longer sacrifice children, stab each other at the dinner table, or burn cats and disembowel criminals as forms of popular entertainment.
- Stephen Platt, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, The West, And The Epic Story of The Taiping Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf): The American historian gives a gripping account of China’s 19th century Taiping Rebellion, which he argues shaped modern China.
- Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (Knopf Canada): The British-based historian offers an account of the historic intersection of religion and U.S. foreign policy.
One finalist gets the $75,000 US grand prize, and the other two are awarded $10,000 each. The winner will be named in Montreal on Nov. 29.
The Cundill Prize in History was established in 2008 by McGill University alumnus F. Peter Cundill, who died in January 2011. The prize is coordinated by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.