Publication Date

February 1, 1990

Perspectives Section

AHA Annual Meeting

1989 Awards for Scholarly Distinction

In 1984 the Council of the AHA established an award entitled the American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction. Each year the Nominating Committee recommends to the Council up to three names for the award, and the Council then selects up to three names from the list presented. Nominees are senior historians of the highest distinction in the historical profession who have spent the bulk of their professional careers in the United States. Previous awards have gone to Felix Gilbert, Woodrow Borah, Edmund Morgan, John W. Hall, Benjamin Quarles, Angie Debo, Helen G. Edmonds, Sylvia L. Thrupp Strayer, and Edwin O. Reischauer. Joining this distinguished list are Paul Oskar Kristeller, Caroline Robbins, and Kenneth M. Stampp. The following are citations read by President-elect David Herlihy at the Presentation Ceremony:

Paul Oskar Kristeller is the preeminent living historian of Renaissance thought and philosophy. He was born in 1905 and received doctorates in the field of philosophy from the University of Heidelberg in 1928 and from the University of Pisa in 1937. He holds in addition at least ten honorary degrees. He taught at the Istituto superiore di magistero, Florence, 1934–35, at the Scuola Normale Superiore and at the University of Pisa in 1935–38. He then came to the United States and after a brief period as a lecturer at Yale moved to Columbia University, where he rose from associate in philosophy to professor and was appointed in 1968 F.J.E. Woodbridge Professor before retiring in 1973. He has held appointments as a visiting professor at Pisa, as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and as a Guggenheim Fellow. He is a member of many learned societies and has received various prestigious awards and prizes, including six Festschriften and (most recently) a MacArthur Fellowship. He is as active as ever in pursuing his scholarly interests and projects and in helping younger scholars. No one has ever turned to Dr. Kristeller with a serious question or request for help and come away empty-handed.

It would be idle to list here all of Professor Kristeller’s books and articles, which touch on almost every aspect of Renaissance thought. He has put scholars in many fields (not only the Renaissance) in his debt by his repertory of manuscript catalogues and his fundamental corpus of translations and commentaries made during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This has involved him in extensive travel. Once when a scholar who knew the difficulties of working in small provincial and municipal libraries asked him whether he did not waste a lot of time, he replied, “I never waste my time,” and those who know him and his work know how true this is.

Dr. Kristeller’s work on the origins and nature of Renaissance philosophy (especially Ficino and Florentine Platonism) has influenced the prevailing view not only of the intellectual history of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries but also of the entire Renaissance, which Kristeller has studied in relation to its medieval as well as its classical roots. His work on the particular fields which constituted the studia humanitatis in the late Middle Ages has given substance and meaning to the term humanism, which is still so often used loosely. Thanks to him, some of the traditional barriers not only between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance but also between the so-called secular and religious aspects of late medieval thought have been breached, if not broken down, and a juster appreciation of the real achievement of thinkers in this period has been developed.

Caroline Robbins is an Englishwoman and an American who came from London to the University of Michigan in 1926, determined to read American history. It was, perhaps, a natural move for a woman with an adventurous spirit, fierce pride in her non-conformist ancestors, and a staunchly antiestablishment set of values which have informed her life and work.

Miss Robbins (as she was always called at Bryn Mawr) investigated seriously for the first time English intellectual radicalism in the wake of the English Civil War, discovering the manifold connections between the political ideas of the seventeenth-century Commonwealth men and the Real Whigs of the eighteenth century. This interest began at least with her dissertation on Andrew Marvell as a Restoration politician, for the University of London, brought her to America, and has continued unabated throughout her scholarly life.

Her dissertation on Marvell received considerable notice although it was never published, but her early reputation was based primarily on a stream of brilliant articles on other English political thinkers (for example, Algernon Sidney and Thomas Hollis) in the 1940s and 1950s. These studies (some now republished, with her bibliography, in Absolute Liberty) laid the groundwork for her book, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman, in which she definitively demonstrated continuous connections in ideas from the Interregnum through the eighteenth century, and the preservation of concepts of liberty and constitutionalism which, she asserted, had their most fruitful influence in America.

Although she continued with an increasingly wide-ranging study of English thinkers, for example in her book Two English Republican Tracts on Henry Neville and Walter Moyle, she inspired others to take up her challenge on the intellectual origins of the American Revolution. Historians such as Douglass Adair and Bernard Bailyn joined in the work for which she first proposed the model. She has been the most generous of colleagues to anyone who wanted to talk or write about ideas, offering notes and references, reading draft after draft, always finding time for discussion. She is profoundly learned and continues to read omnivorously in many areas of English and American history.

For generations of Bryn Mawr students, both graduate and undergraduate, she was a demanding teacher who insisted on the most exacting reading of texts, and who seemed to think her students could quickly become as well-informed as she was. She was famous for elliptical remarks which took for granted that student listeners were entirely keyed in. A post-class rush for the texts generally ensued, made easy by the prodigious reading lists she regularly gave out and which became collector’s items for her followers. She was and remains completely intolerant of laziness, stupid remarks, and excuses. She is considered wonderfully eccentric by her students, perhaps because such extraordinary focus on the life of the mind is rare, perhaps because they are for the most part much more conformist than she.

Like many women of her generation she has in recent years been rather dismissive of the women’s movement and women’s history. However, she was a major force in the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians throughout the 1940s and 50s, and her students learned from her the real meaning of female independence. Her refusal to use her married name (Herben) in her public life and her insistence on the primary importance of her work seem more familiar to students today than they did during her years as a teacher. But those who passed from her classroom to become professional historians learned lessons never forgotten.

Throughout his distinguished career spanning almost half a century, Kenneth M. Stampp has been a major historian of the Civil War. Resisting the professional trend toward narrow specialization, he has written on political and social topics with equal skill and assurance. He has served the profession with distinction, both as a member of several professional honorary societies, and as President of the Organization of American Historians in 1977–78.

He was educated at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he earned a B.S. degree in 1935 and a Ph.D. in 1942. He wrote his dissertation on Indiana politics during the Civil War under the direction of William B. Hesseltine. After completing his graduate work, he taught at the University of Maryland, and in 1946 accepted a position at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1957 he was named the Morrison Professor of History and held this chair until his retirement from Berkeley in 1983. During his many years of university teaching, he enjoyed a reputation among undergraduates as a superb lecturer and was one of the most effective teachers on campus. Despite its long reading list and demanding standards, his lecture course on the sectional conflict was one of the most popular courses offered by the Department of History. Under his leadership, Berkeley became a major center for the study of southern history. As a graduate instructor, he always encouraged intellectual independence rather than slavish imitation, and took particular delight when students challenged his work and developed their own interpretations. In his writings and his teaching, he has been a model of scholarly integrity, rigorous standards, and intellectual tolerance. The festschrift published upon his retirement is testimony to his influence on his students.

In recognition of his national eminence, he has received numerous honors during his career. He was a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient twice, a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Munich on three different occasions (1957, 1968, 1972), the Commonwealth Fund Lecturer at the University of London in 1960, and the Harmsworth Professor at Oxford University in 1961–62. Oxford awarded him an honorary degree in 1961.

His distinguished publications include: And the War Came, a study of the secession crisis published in 1950; The Peculiar Institution (1956), and after thirty years still the best history of slavery ever written; The Era of Reconstruction (1965), a skillful synthesis of modern scholarship that provides a compelling introduction to that complex era; and the Imperiled Union (1980), a collection of essays on slavery and the sectional conflict that distill a lifetime of thinking about one of the most important problems in American history, the origins of the Civil War. In all of his writings, he has combined literary grace with a vigorous reinterpretation of the American past. Just as in his personal life he has crusaded for racial equality in American society, his scholarship has challenged the racist myths that once loomed so large in the historiography of the antebellum period. Throughout his career, he has upheld the highest standards of scholarship and teaching, qualities that have gained him the respect of his peers and have earned him a place of distinction in his profession.

Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award

While the AHA has traditionally recognized outstanding scholarship, for over a hundred years there was no prize honoring teaching. In 1986 the AHA’s Teaching Division recommended and the Council approved the establishment of an annual award to recognize both excellence in teaching and knowledge of the subject of history. The award is given jointly by the AHA and the Society for History Education (SHE) and is named for the late Eugene Asher, former executive secretary of SHE and for decades a central figure in efforts to improve the quality of history teaching. The Teaching Division oversees the selection of the recipient of the award; nominations are submitted by the previous year’s book prize winners. Each is invited to nominate one of his or her teachers, who by inspirational impact and excellence, encouraged that individual to study history. Eligible for consideration are school, undergraduate, and graduate instructors.

Paul Faler, University of Massachusetts at Boston, was awarded the 1989 Asher Award at the AHA’s General Meeting held in San Francisco. Dr. Faler was nominated by Mary Murphy, assistant professor of history, University of Wyoming, corecipient of the 1988 Beveridge Award. Dr. Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, University of Louisville and vice-president for the Teaching Division, read portions of Dr. Murphy’s letter at the Presentation Ceremony:

“At the time I attended the University of Massachusetts, Boston, the student body was composed of people like myself, men and women who for one reason or another had not gone to college right after high school, who came from working-class backgrounds, and who were working to put ourselves through school. I think few of us had any idea that the lives of our families and past families like ours could be the ‘stuff of history.’ Dr. Faler’s class on working people in American history changed that for many of us. For me, it gave me a direction for what I wanted to do with my working life.

“With Dr. Faler’s help I chose a graduate program, and I realized later that his unwitting example showed me how to approach the study of history and the teaching of students. At the University of Wyoming, I teach many students who remind me of myself and my fellow students ten years ago. If I can convey to them the importance of their past that Dr. Faler conveyed to us, to instill in them the enthusiasm of history that he instilled in us, and to treat them with the respect that he showed us, I will count myself lucky.”

Honorable mentions for 1989 were Robert Durden, Duke University; William M. Geer, emeritus, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; David Kieft, University of Minnesota; Christopher Lasch, University of Rochester; and George Leyden, Cambridge (NY) Middle School.

1989 Book Awards

At the annual meeting in San Francisco, the following prizes were announced for the year 1989. The committees’ citations are recorded below:


Herbert Baxter Adams Prize

Jan Goldstein, University of Chicago, for Console and Classify: The French Psychiatric Profession in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1987). Jan Goldstein studies the development of psychiatry in France from the Old Regime until the end of the nineteenth century. She brings together the history of a body of scientific knowledge, of the formation of a new profession by a group of pioneering individuals, and of the role of the state in the development of psychiatric care. She thus avoids any artificial separation between the internal and external history of science. She has investigated the archival records of state and municipal administrators, and of hospitals and asylums and the Paris medical faculty, and the voluminous publications of the psychiatrists. She is also in command of an extensive secondary literature in the relevant fields.

The subject is significant in itself, but the author makes it more so by gracefully integrating it with the broader cultural, intellectual, religious, and political history of France, not simply for embellishment, but in order to give greater resonance to her analysis. Her talent extends from getting inside the minds of the two leading figures, Philippe Pinel and Jean-Etienne-Dominique Esquirol, to penetrating the doctoral and temporal issues behind the conflict of the alienistes with the church for control of the care of the insane. Regardless of the particular theme, the author’s keen intelligence and historical sensitivity came through consistently. Although she is conversant with currently popular interpretive theories, she has preserved her intellectual autonomy. The style is lucid, graceful, and lively. The analysis of even small issues is often beautifully nuanced, as for example, her description of the role of theater and the theatrical in the treatment of the mentally ill. This year’s Herbert Baxter Adams Prize Committee is privileged to present Jan Goldstein’s Console and Classify to the members of the Association.

George Louis Beer Prize

Piotr S. Wandycz, Yale University, for The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances, 1926–36: French-Czechoslovak-Polish Relations from Locarno to the Remilitarization of the Rhineland (Princeton University Press, 1988). This thorough, meticulous, and perceptive study of the development of the French system of eastern alliances between 1926 and 1936 forms a crucial part of Dr. Wandycz’s progressive revision of French eastern diplomacy. It further provides an impeccable demonstration of the skills of the diplomatic historian and is a unanimous nomination for the Beer Prize.

Albert J. Beveridge Award

Peter Novick, University of Chicago, for That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge University Press, 1988). The Committee on the Albert J. Beveridge Award is pleased to give the prize in 1989 to Peter Novick for his excellent book. This is a work marked by admirable clarity, wide-ranging and imaginative research, and thoughtful judgements. At one level it explores a question of central concern to scholars of many disciplines—the quest for objectivity in research and writing. Displaying impressive command of intellectual history, Novick situates this quest in broader currents of American thought over the past century. That Noble Dream is finally a serious and often provocative treatment of the professionalization in the United States of the discipline of history. The committee unanimously deems the book a distinguished accomplishment worthy of the high standards of the Beveridge Award.

James Henry Breasted Prize

Dorothy J. Thompson, Girton College, Cambridge University for Memphis Under the Ptolemies (Princeton University Press, 1988). The grace and lucidity of this work provide a study in how, in skillful hands, art conceals itself. Thompson’s splendid portrait of a city has been composed from incredibly fragmented and disparate evidence, over the space of twenty years. The author has brought together, as few could, archaeological and literary materials and written materials in Egyptian and Greek. She avoids most long-standing assumptions, many of which have become biases. She asks infrequently considered questions, including fundamental ones of the relationship of people to their environment. She crosses disciplinary boundaries to reconstruct and illuminate a complex cultural formation and also to create fascinating portrayals of individual actors in the political and religious history of Memphis. Thompson’s book is a pioneering study, both broad-ranging and intensive, of one of the premier cities in the Hellenistic period. It offers an analysis of ethnic and cultural interplay unrivalled in its richness and subtlety.

John H. Dunning Prize

Drew R. McCoy, Harvard University, for The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy (Cambridge University Press, 1989). A beautifully written, sympathetic biography of Madison in the years after his presidency, Professor McCoy’s book is at the same time a penetrating account of the transformation of republican values in the United States in the years between the framing of the Constitution and the advent of Jacksonian democracy. The Last of the Fathers is the unanimous choice of the Committee on the John Dunning Prize.

John K. Fairbank Prize

Prasenjit Duara, George Mason University, for Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942 (Stanford University Press, 1988). This widely researched and felicitously written study of agrarian north China in the first half of the twentieth century shows that successive regimes, both regional and central, accommodated rural political mechanisms such as tax levies and altered the local “cultural nexus of power.” In delineating this “state involution,” Professor Duara provides an important new interpretation of state making and nation building in China as part of the same process.

Herbert Feis Award

Marc Scott Miller, senior editor, Technology Review, for The Irony of Victory: World War II and Lowell, Massachusetts (University of Illinois Press, 1988). Marc Scott Miller’s important work is a masterful study of World War II’s impact on the everyday lives of ordinary people—individuals, social classes, the industrial Lowell community. It significantly shows how the war temporarily halted but did not end the Depression. It is a model pioneering study into the more widespread short-lived nature of postwar prosperity, providing insight into what happened to America’s “greatness.”

Leo Gershoy Award

Nancy Nichols Barker, University of Texas at Austin, for Brother to the King: Philippe, Duke of Orleans (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). Written with grace and style, this is an outstanding biography which illuminates the age as a whole and makes its subject a distinctive individual. The scholarship behind it is extremely impressive and nicely combines literary with archival sources, many of them previously unavailable. The author portrays Philippe’s disastrous family life and his complex character with intelligence and sensitivity. This book gives us the first full portrait of Philippe of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV.

Joan Kelly Memorial Prize

Co-winners: Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, for Gender and the Politics of History (Columbia University Press, 1988) and Mary H. Blewett, University of Lowell, for Men, Women and Work: Class, Gender, and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780–1910 (University of Illinois Press, 1988). In Gender and the Politics of History, Joan Scott examines the sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle intersection of gender conceptions and politics in the sources upon which historians rely, and in the histories they write. The book is pathbreaking in its application of techniques of deconstruction to historical texts, in calling attention to its own politics and to the politics of other historians, and in its use of thematically-linked articles to present and demonstrate its argument. Scott eschews the search for the origins of contemporary gender relationships and focuses her attention on how gender systems work, i.e., on process. She skillfully analyzes the dichotomous hierarchical pairings of our cultural system and, perhaps most usefully for women historians, calls our attention to the false pairings of equality and difference within the general corpus of women’s history. Her argument goes well beyond the traditional subject matter of women’s history, however, since her primary concern is to demonstrate how conceptions of gender underlie the articulation of political, social, and economic power in western society. Already widely read and discussed, Gender and the Politics of History is one of those rare books that will alter how we analyze the past and how we think about our work as historians.

Representing the best of labor history and women’s history, Mary Blewett’s well-crafted study of the sexual division of labor in the New England shoe industry, Men, Women and Work, is a fine example of the transforming power of introducing gender into historical analysis. Through a skillful analysis of the United States census records, account books, letters, diaries, political tracts, and newspapers, Dr. Blewett demonstrates the complex ways in which gender conceptions, work arrangements, and labor protest were interwoven in this industry in both the pre-industrial and the industrial eras. She shows us the motivations and loyalties that sometimes united workers across class and gender lines and at other times divided them; she introduces us to the debates about the appropriateness of female work and equal rights for women; and she shows us how the sexual division of labor created an exaggerated sense of difference between women and men workers that foiled the attempts of women workers to achieve an equal role with men within labor organizations. In all these ways, Men, Women and Work shows us the significance of gender conceptions in the past, and expands and alters our understanding of the impact of industrialization on the working class.

Littleton-Griswold Prize

William E. Nelson, New York University, for The Fourteenth Amendment: From Political Rhetoric to Judicial Doctrine (Harvard University Press, 1989). Imaginatively conceived, exhaustively researched, and beautifully written, William Nelson’s book will endure as an important study of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nelson persuasively contends that the framers did not intend to create a body of law on the rights of Americans but were acting primarily as statesmen and political leaders when they drafted the Fourteenth Amendment. He convincingly shows that they wrote it to affirm the public’s longstanding commitment to equality and individual rights, on the one hand, and to the principle of local self-rule, on the other. He insightfully describes the amendment’s transformation from political principle to judicial doctrine. This book breaks the impasse which has long existed between those who read the Fourteenth Amendment narrowly and those who interpret it broadly and restores the Amendment to its proper historical context.

Howard R. Marraro Prize

Paul F. Grendler, University of Toronto, for Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 1300–1600 (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). This masterful examination of the Renaissance’s educational revolution is a major achievement in every respect. Mature, thoughtful, and based upon extensive research in Renaissance-era textbooks, teachers’ manuals, and archival documents, this volume has illuminated a complex and vast subject without losing clarity of style and organization. Paul Grendler’s broad definition of education gives his work a social perspective that transcends the issue of what was delivered through instruction and allows the reader to understand how Renaissance humanistic culture took shape. This book will be read and consulted for years to come.