Publication Date

April 1, 2012

Perspectives Section


Columbia University announced on March 14, 2012, that the 2012 Bancroft Prizes have been awarded to three historians, all of whom are AHA members. They are Tomiko Brown-Nagin (Univ. of Virginia), Anne F. Hyde (Colorado Coll.), and Daniel T. Rodgers (Princeton Univ.).

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is the T. Munford Boyd Professor of Law and Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School. She teaches courses on American social and legal history, constitutional law, education law and policy, and public interest law. She has written widely on civil rights history and law and published in both law and history journals. She was awarded the Bancroft Prize for her book, Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, published by Oxford University Press. In this sweeping history of the civil rights movement in Atlanta—the South’s largest and most economically important city—from the 1940s through 1980, Brown-Nagin shows that the movement featured a vast array of activists and many sophisticated approaches to activism.

Anne Hyde is professor of history at Colorado College. Currently a member of the AHA's Council and its Teaching Division, she has held office in the Western History Association, the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, and the Organization of American Historians. She has also previously received the W. Turrentine Jackson Award from the Western History Association.

Hyde received the Bancroft Prize for her book,Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800–1860, published by the University of Nebraska Press. The book shows how the worlds of river and maritime trade effectively shifted political power away from military and diplomatic circles into the hands of local people. Tracing family stories from the Canadian North to the Spanish and Mexican borderlands and from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Hyde’s narrative moves from the earliest years of the Indian trade to the Mexican War and the gold rush era.

Daniel T. Rodgers is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University. He has been a Fulbright lecturer in Germany and Japan and the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Rodgers received the Bancroft Prize for his book,The Age of Fracture, which was published by the Belknap Press imprint of Harvard University Press. In this book, Rodgers offers a powerful reinterpretation of the ways in which the decades surrounding the 1980s changed America. Through a contestation of visions and metaphors on all sides, earlier notions of history and society that stressed solidity, collective institutions, and social circumstances gave way, Rodgers argues, to a more individualized human nature that emphasized choice, agency, performance, and desire.

Columbia University Provost John H. Coatsworth will present the awards at the Bancroft Prize Dinner to be hosted in April by the university's history department and Columbia University Libraries. The prize, which includes a cash award of $10,000 to each author, is administered by university librarian and vice president for information services, James G. Neal.

"Historical scholarship with innovative and rigorous re-examinations and exciting boundary challenges, as evidenced by the content and scope of this year's Bancroft Prize winners, is so worthy of our celebration and recognition. We applaud the excellence in research, writing and thought demonstrated by the three works selected this year," Neal said.

The Bancroft Prize was established at Columbia University in 1948 with a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, a preeminent historian, librarian, author, and Columbia University lecturer. Awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography, and diplomacy, it is considered one of the most distinguished academic awards in the field of history.

All the 175 books nominated for the 2012 award had been published in 2011 (as the rules required).

Based on a Columbia University press release; a March 14, 2012, AHA Today blog post by Elisabeth Grant; and publisher blurbs on the books.

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