Publication Date

February 1, 1988

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

At the annual meeting in Washington, DC last December, Angie Debo, John W. Hall, and Benjamin Quarles were the recipients of the AHA’s Awards for Scholarly Distinction. Following are the citations read by President Natalie Zemon Davis at the Presentation Ceremony:

The American Historical Association is pleased to confer its Award for Scholarly Distinction on Angie Debo. Fifty-two years ago Dr. Debo won the Association’s John H. Dunning prize for her first book, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic. In 1976 she published a well-regarded biography of Geronimo. In the intervening forty years she established herself as a pioneering scholar of the Native American and an innovator in the area of ethnohistory.

The bulk of her scholarly effort was devoted to documenting the fate of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma and to depicting the interaction between the culture of the indigenous groups and that of the encroaching Americans. In this regard, too, she was a pioneer, seeing native peoples as agents in addition to being victims. For her distinguished career we honor her tonight.

John Whitney Hall, Whitney Griswald Professor of History at Yale University, through a long and distinguished career at the University of Michigan and Yale University, has professionalized the character of Western scholarship on premodern Japan and introduced new conceptions of disciplinary rigor and documentation for the study not only of the Tokugawa Period, the specialty for which he is best known, but also for the whole traditional history of Japanese society. He has been a major promoter of improved scholarly relations between historians in Japan and the United States, beginning with the “Modernization of Japan” conferences of the 1960s and continuing through conferences ranging over the medieval and early modern history of Japan. He has stimulated a whole generation of American historians and facilitated their access to many of the best of their Japanese colleagues. The publications that have resulted from his own work, from the conferences he has organized, from the forthcoming Cambridge History of Japan, and from the work of his students have brought a major enhancement to the historiography of Japan from the Heian Period into the twentieth century. Few single historians in the United States have had a comparable impact on the study of Asian history. He deserves both our respect and our admiration for his many contributions to the whole field of Japanese studies.

It is a challenge to compress into one brief statement Benjamin Quarles’ many accomplishments and contributions to Afro-American historical scholarship, during a career of teaching and writing spanning more than three decades. He was as masterful, gracious, and compelling in the classroom as in his published works. Despite a heavy teaching load, he found the time to research and write over a half-dozen books and scores of articles in the then fledging field of Afro-American history.

His significance as a teacher, scholar, and professional servant transcends the epoch of struggle for the historical legitimacy of Afro-American history. By insisting that understanding the black experience is central to comprehending the totality of American history, Benjamin Quarles has served his profession well. His integrity, dignity, and impeccable and voluminous scholarship, along with his generous spirit, have earned him the respect and admiration of all who know him.

Book Awards

At the annual meeting in Washington, DC the following prizes were announced for the year 1987. The committees’ citations for the awards are recorded below:

HERBERT BAXTER ADAMS PRIZE: Peter Jelavich, University of Texas, Austin, for Munich and Theatrical Modernism: Politics, Playwriting, and Performances, 1890–1914 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985). This book is a model of what intellectual and cultural history should be. Ignoring the conventional boundaries between historical fields, Jelavich uses a wide variety of sources, ranging from newspapers to police archives to business accounts, to reconstruct the social, political, cultural, and commercial milieu of fin-de-siecle Munich, where playwrights, actors, and directors first abandoned the realistic theater of the nineteenth century for experiments in the avant garde. Thus Jelavich can identify the social and commercial determinants of modernism in the theater and, by implication, in all the arts. Written with exceptional clarity and grace, Munich and Theatrical Modernism adds immeasurably to our knowledge of the most important cultural movement of the twentieth century.

GEORGE LOUIS BEER PRIZE: Philip A. Khoury, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920–1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). In his thoughtful study of the interaction of Syrian nationalism and French policy, Philip Khoury ploughed new ground with thoroughness, methodological versatility, and exhaustive research in British, French, and Middle Eastern archives. His authoritative analysis of the impact of France’s policies, errors, and preoccupations elsewhere upon the mandatory territory illuminates an often neglected aspect of twentieth-century international history.

ALBERT J. BEVERIDGE AWARD: Mary C. Karasch, Oakland University, for Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). Mary Karasch’s reconstruction of slave life in nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro is a tour de force, a genuinely synthetic interdisciplinary piece of history, the product of exhaustive archival research as well as judicious use of nontraditional historical sources. She debunks historiographical myths by focussing on urban slavery in a city which counted the largest urban slave population in the Americas. By her description of the biomedical, economic, religious, cultural, and social conditions of slaves, and their resourcefulness in coping with adversity, Mary Karasch provides a historical dimension to the realities of contemporary Brazil.

JOHN H. DUNNING PRIZE: Allan Kulikoff, Northern Illinois University, for Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680–1800 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986). Allan Kulikoff’s masterful analysis of the transformation of Virginia from a rough, ambitious settler society in the 1680s into a rigidly hierarchical slave society in the early federal period, presents a fresh synthesis combining political economy with due attention to demography, race, and gender of the most demanding new social history.

JOHN K. FAIRBANK PRIZE: Joseph W. Esherick, University of Oregon, for The Origins of the Boxer Uprising (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987). A deeply researched and analytically stimulating work of scholarship on one of the most elusive and complex events in recent Chinese history. By meticulous work at the country and subcountry level, Esherick has recreated the contemporary environment in which the Boxers grew, rescuing the movement from a misleading “mythic” past.

HERBERT FEIS AWARD: Robert Hughes, Time magazine, for The Fatal Shore (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987). This superb account of the birth of the Australian nation out of Britain’s convict transportation system is an admirable melding of popular narrative history and scholarly research and analysis. Robert Hughes skillfully draws upon an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, particularly hitherto unexplored documents reflecting the views of convicts themselves. Written with passion and eloquence, rich in fascinating detail and vivid imagery, The Fatal Shore brilliantly reinterprets a significant chapter in the history of nation building.

LEO GERSHOY AWARD: Carla Rahn Phillips, University of Minnesota, for Six Galleons for the King of Spain: Imperial Defense in the Early Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986). This monographic work—reconstruction of the construction, manning, provisioning, and disposition of early modern Spanish navies—is intrinsically fascinating and convincing. To this, the author adds an effective account of the struggle for control of the Indies in the 1630s. Dr. Phillips’ abundant documentation of the impressive loyalty of many of the crown’s officers and servants, and their almost superhuman efforts to carry out its policies, is a significant contribution to Spanish national history. In addition to the content, the committee admires the elegant organization of the book and the ease with which the author moves from private venture to national policy. The ships depicted on a wide variety of maps and paintings provide illustrations that both inform and adorn a beautifully produced book.

JOAN KELLY MEMORIAL PRIZE: Ruth Milkman, Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York, for Gender at Work: The Dynamics of Job Segregation by Sex during World War II (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1987). This book challenges existing interpretations of the experiences of “Rosie the Riveter” before, during, and after the Second World War. By examining the historical context and traditions of the auto and electrical manufacturing industries, Ruth Milkman explains why the potential major transformation of sex-typing jobs did not occur with the entry of women in large numbers into the labor force during World War II. Making imaginative use of statistics and new sources, she has enriched economic theory by the use of historical insight and has contributed substantially to the analysis of gender in labor markets.

LITTLETON-GRISWOLD PRIZE: Arthur F. McEvoy, Northwestern University, for The Fisherman’s Problem: Ecolo!fj and the Law in California Fisheries, 1850–1980 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986). The book is a thorough and fascinating study of a topic that demanded extensive interdisciplinary research, involving law, ecology, and economic development. The author has explained these issues and woven them together into a coherent and absorbing account. The problems of conservation of the living resources along the California shores is put into clear legal and ecological focus as a re?ult. The book demonstrates the possibilities inherent in legal history that is interdisciplinary in its character and research. Altogether an original and ingenious book.

HOWARD R. MARRARO PRIZE: R. Burr Litchfield, Brown University for Emergence of a Bureaucracy: Florentine Patricians, 1530–1790 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). Professor Litchfield demonstrated that the transition of Florence from city-state to regional state produced a technically advanced bureaucracy in which the Florentine patricians played an important role. He has produced a book that will be a valuable tool for all scholars interested in the development of regional bureaucracy in Italy.

JAMES HARVEY ROBINSON PRIZE: Gerald A. Danzer, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Lawrence W. McBride, Illinois State University, for People, Space and Time: The Chicago Neighborhood History Project (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1986). This project—sponsored by the Northern Trust Company and the National Endowment for the Humanities—has been under the leadership of Professor Danzer and Professor McBride with Arthur E. Anderson and David Ruchman. The committee was impressed by the following qualities of the project: the excellence of scholarship in all of its parts; the comprehensive coverage of the Chicago area and its integration into U.S. history; the balanced treatment of social classes, races, age groups, and gender; and the usable style of publication. The material and their organization allow students and teachers to use their imaginations and creativity in the research and understanding of local and national history.

The annual James H. Breasted Prize for best book in English in any field of history prior to 1000 A.D. was not awarded. The prize rotates annually among the following geographical areas: 1) Near East and Egypt; 2) Far East and South Asia; 3) Africa, North America, and Latin America; 4) Europe. Books in African, North American, and Latin American history were considered for the 1987 competition, but the committee decided against making an award. In 1988 the prize will be offered for books on Europe (Classical Antiquity, the Medieval West, and Byzantium).