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Samuel Johnson Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction was announced earlier this week, and includes a number of titles of particular interest to history aficionados, and, we're proud to say, several authors who have previously written in the pages of History Today.

The judges described Frank Dikötter's Mao's Great Famine as a "shocking" account of China between 1958 and 1962. Last year Dikötter wrote an article for History Today, entitled 'The Great Leap Backwards' on how historians' understanding of China has changed in recent years. In his review of the nominated book earlier this year, Paul Lay called it "an essential history book" that offers "a portrait of an empire’s endurance of almost unimaginable terror".

Jonathan Steinberg wrote the cover story for our February issue, 'How did Bismarck do it?', and his book length account of the great German leader, hailed as an "astonishing story", also finds itself on the shortlist. Another contributor to the same issue, John Stubbs, who wrote on the outdated image of the Cavaliers in the English Civil War, had his "swaggering" book on the subject, Reprobates selected. 

Rounding out the shortlist for the £20,000 prize are Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles: The Loss of America and the Remaming of the British Empire, Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, on the nature of human progress, and Andrew Graham Dixon's biography Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane.

The winner will be announced on 6 July.

For more on history books, the July issue of History Today is a summer reading special. Read editor Paul Lay's preview.