An Oxford professor and noted historian has won the $75,000 Cundill Prize for his acclaimed book A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.

The prize jury announced British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch as the 2010 winner of McGill University’s non-fiction historical literature honour at a ceremony in Montreal Sunday night.

“At a time when quarrels between believers and non-believers, new atheists and old faithfuls, dominate so much of our public discourse, Diarmaid MacCulloch has given us the one thing that we most need — not polemic but history, high, wide, and lucid, and, given the enormity of his task, often winningly light of touch,” juror Adam Gopnik said in a statement.

“If any book could truly fulfill the charge of the Cundill Prize — to make first class history more potent to a wide reading public, and above all to remind us that history, even three thousand years worth, matters — this one does,” said Gopnik, a New Yorker writer and McGill alumnus.

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