Publication Date

February 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


Retired Yale historian Edmund S. Morgan was among a galaxy of 12 distinguished Americans who were awarded the National Humanities Medals for 2000. Morgan is a distinguished authority on Puritan and American colonial history whose many books have reached general as well as scholarly audiences.

Among Morgan's 12books are Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988),which won Columbia University’s 1989Bancroft Prize in American History, and American Slavery, American Freedom (1975),which won the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman Prize, the Southern Historical Association’s Charles S. Sydnor Prize and the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge Award. Morgan received the William Clyde DeVane Medal in 1971from the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He has received numerous fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council. Morgan is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Organization of American Historians, the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. A past president of the Organization of American Historians, he is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and chair of the board of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin project at Yale.

Morgan received his BA and PhD from Harvard University, and taught at the University of Chicago and Brown University before joining the Yale faculty as a professor of history in 1955. He was named Sterling Professor in 1965 and Professor Emeritus in 1986.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens' engagement with the humanities or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities. The humanities carry the voices of one generation to the next through history, literature, philosophy, religion, languages, archaeology and related subjects that make up the record of human civilization.

Recipients of the National Humanities Medal are selected by the president of the United States. Annually the National Endowment for the Humanities assists in the selection process by soliciting nominations for the medal from the humanities community. These nominations are first reviewed by the National Council on the Humanities, the NEH's presidentially appointed board of advisors. The NEH chair then selects a list of the most highly qualified candidates, whose names are then forwarded to the White House for final consideration by the president.

"The 2000 National Humanities Medalists are distinguished individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to American cultural life and thought," said NEH chair William R. Ferris. "Through their powers of creativity and vision, the National Humanities Medalists are helping to preserve, interpret and expand the nation's cultural heritage. Their work represents an invaluable public service."

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