The following is a list of recipients of the various awards, prizes, and honors that were presented during the 131st annual meeting of the American Historical Association on Thursday, January 5, 2017, in Plaza Ballroom A at the Sheraton Denver Downtown.
2016 Awards for Publications
Herbert Baxter Adams Prize
Vittoria Di Palma, University of Southern California
Wasteland: A History (Yale Univ. Press, 2014)
This brilliantly conceived and elegantly written book draws on an array of disciplines to examine the neglected concept of wasteland since the early modern period. Understanding wasteland as a counterpart to wilderness and developed space, Di Palma sensitively depicts the tension between aesthetic responses to the landscape and the rationalizing pressures of advancing central state power and new survey techniques, set in the context of agricultural improvement and changing market relations.
George Louis Beer Prize
Vanessa Ogle, University of Pennsylvania
The Global Transformation of Time, 1870–1950 (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015)
Vanessa Ogle’s global history of time and time reform succeeds brilliantly in complicating a Eurocentric narrative of globalization. Moving effortlessly from Europe and the United States to British India and the Middle East, the book highlights the significance of local contexts for time standardization across the globe—a process that extended well into the 20th century. Written in a clear and engaging style, the book offers a model for a new international and global history.
Jerry Bentley Prize
Michael Goebel, Freie Universität Berlin
Anti-Imperial Metropolis: Interwar Paris and the Seeds of Third World Nationalism (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015)
In this remarkable study, interwar Paris serves as the proving ground for emergent anti-imperial nationalisms, as actors from all over the world converged and shared their experiences. Through multinational archival research, Michael Goebel analyzes the global movement of peoples, texts, and ideas, and offers a powerful explanation for the near-simultaneity of the emergence of postwar anti-imperial nationalisms. Anti-Imperial Metropolis provides a stunning example of how a world history can be written from a single locale.
Albert J. Beveridge Award
Ann Twinam, University of Texas at Austin
Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattos, and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies (Stanford Univ. Press, 2015)
In this impressive work, Twinam considers a subject that has long vexed historians of colonial Spanish America: the gracias al sacar, a royal decree that enabled mixed-race peoples to buy themselves a white identity and the privileges that went with it. Twinam’s work is an archival tour de force, resting on documents long considered next to impossible to find. It sheds new light on the complexities of race and caste in Latin America, the possibilities of social mobility within these hierarchical societies, and the multivalent ways that identity functioned in the daily interactions of colonial elites. Purchasing Whiteness will have a major impact on the way that scholars approach slavery and race within the Atlantic world.
Paul Birdsall Prize
The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015)
Bruno Cabanes, Ohio State University
Cabanes provides a riveting picture of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis that threatened global stability in the aftermath of World War I. Stateless refugees, wounded veterans, starving children, and displaced workers were among the multitudes in dire need of aid in the early years of that turbulent and painful “peace.” Cabanes foregrounds a Herculean humanitarian response undertaken by individuals and organizations during a time that resonates today. His work deserves a wide readership both within the academy and outside.
James Henry Breasted Prize
Hina Azam, University of Texas at Austin
Sexual Violation in Islamic Law: Substance, Evidence, and Procedure (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015)
Azam’s compelling, scholarly rigorous, and timely monograph traces the complex evolution of two divergent schools of juristic writing (Maliki and Hanafi) on sexual violation during the first six centuries of Islam. Carefully analyzing the profound and lasting consequence for women and jurists of considering rape either a crime of property and hence requiring economic justice, or a moral transgression and hence undermining the sanctity of marriage, Azam composes an elegant account of the interpretation of Islamic moral law as an ongoing process.
Albert B. Corey Prize
Robert MacDougall, University of Western Ontario (Western University)
The People’s Network: The Political Economy of the Telephone in the Gilded Age (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)
MacDougall deploys comparative and transnational theoretical frames to trace the struggle between local telephone operators and the Bell system that eventually (but not inevitably) came to dominate telecommunications in both Canada and the United States. The author’s great achievement is to connect business history, technology history, and the history of state expansion and regulatory power, while also connecting readers to the wonder of a technology that changed the meaning of time, space, and scale.
Raymond J. Cunningham Prize
Griffin Bennett Creech, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BA, 2016)
“‘Our Revolutionary Cadres Are Always beside the Masses’: Reconsidering the Role of Khmer Rouge Cadres in Democratic Kampuchea,” Traces: The UNC Chapel Hill Journal of History (Spring 2015)
Faculty adviser: Donald Reid, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Griffin Creech’s thoughtful, sophisticated, and well-written paper explores a topic that has not received much attention—the role of Khmer Rouge cadres in Democratic Kampuchea. Using memoirs and oral historical material, Creech reconstructs the day-to-day operations of the Kampuchean Communist Party cadres at the grassroots level and shows that the Pol Pot regime had much less control over the countryside, where cadres not only held sway but also exercised what he terms “personalized, local authority.”
John K. Fairbank Prize
Barak Kushner, University of Cambridge
Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015)
In Men to Devils, Devils to Men, Barak Kushner analyzes the dismantling of Japan’s Asian empire and the prosecution of its agents left behind in lost territories at war’s end. The book breaks new ground in examining the history of Chinese trials of Japanese war criminals, revealing how such trials were used by both the Nationalists and Communists to claim postwar legitimacy and criticize US attempts to dominate the postwar political settlement. Kushner shows how internal political conflict shaped each country’s strategies concerning justice in the international arena. The book thus re-historicizes the memory of the Sino-Japanese War in the context of postwar Asia.
Morris D. Forkosch Prize
R. F. Foster, Hertford College, University of Oxford
Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890–1923 (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015)
Foster’s fresh vision of Ireland’s Easter Rising in 1916, and how this might be reconceptualized in the wider political context of British rule in the age of empire, is deeply impressive. He characterizes a remarkable generation of idealists and activists who found inspiration in new approaches to politics, love, art, theater, education, and belief. The book is deeply grounded in the archive, including personal letters and diaries, and is conceptually ambitious in its structure. The panel found its command of the broad picture and telling detail both accessible and masterly.
Leo Gershoy Award
Alexandra Shepard, University of Glasgow
Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford Univ. Press, 2015)
Based on vast evidence—nearly 14,000 witness depositions—Alexandra Shepard’s Accounting for Oneself unpacks how ordinary people valued themselves and defined self-esteem in early modern England. By attending to the language and the circumstances of these witnesses, among them the poor and women who left little official record, Shepard reveals how, in contrast to middling classes, social order was understood from below. This methodologically innovative book is poised to have a broader impact on early modern European historiography.
Clarence H. Haring Prize
Antonio García de León, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Tierra adentro, mar en fuera: el puerto de Veracruz y su litoral a Sotavento, 1519–1821 (Fondo de Cultura Economica USA, 2011)
Tierra adentro, mar en fuera is a tour de force “total history” of Veracruz and its litoral. It tells the story of Atlantic capitalism after 1500 by tracing the global commercial networks that emanated from Veracruz, while describing in rich detail the regional changes wrought by three centuries of commercial development. Based on exhaustive archival and bibliographical research, the book’s remarkable historical breadth is equaled by its extraordinary depth as it moves from global scale economic history to microhistories of local economy, society, and culture.
Friedrich Katz Prize
Edward Beatty, University of Notre Dame
Technology and the Search for Progress in Modern Mexico (Univ. of California Press, 2015)
Technology and the Search for Progress in Modern Mexico is innovative and brings fresh, new understandings of the role of technology in social change and economic development. At the same time, it returns readers to classical themes of Latin American historiography, of global and national inequalities, frustration with modernization, and uneven progress. Beatty demonstrates how industrial technology transfers to Mexico yielded basic changes in production without necessarily altering habits of innovation, learning, and adaptation. Along the way, he provides us with a combination of rigorous analysis and narrative case studies, weaving micro and macro levels into one vitally important book.
Joan Kelly Memorial Prize
Keely Stauter-Halsted, University of Illinois at Chicago
The Devil’s Chain: Prostitution and Social Control in Partitioned Poland (Cornell Univ. Press, 2015)
The Devil’s Chain provides a panoramic yet exquisitely detailed analysis that illuminates the place of prostitution in the political imaginary of partitioned Poland, as well as in the lived experiences of reformers, physicians, politicians, and sex workers. Unearthing rich archival evidence, Stauter-Halsted reveals how a moral panic became the staging ground for concerns about international migration, critiques of imperial government, and the emergence of women as political and social actors in a modernized nation state.
Martin A. Klein Prize
Nancy Rose Hunt, University of Florida and University of Michigan
A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo (Duke Univ. Press, 2015)
A Nervous State is an innovative, multidimensional history of Équateur during the first half of the 20th century. With an eye for pattern and detail, Hunt leads her reader through the worries that gnawed at people and state in this varied region. The book strolls through therapeutic insurgency, the carceral state, women’s health, medical practices, urban culture, and colonial flânerie—depicting in vivid terms a place troubled, engaged, and very much on the move.
Waldo G. Leland Prize
Father Peter J. Powell, Foundation for the Preservation of American Indian Art and Culture
In Sun’s Likeness and Power: Cheyenne Accounts of Shield and Tipi Heraldry, 2 vols., by James Mooney (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2013)
In Sun’s Likeness and Power: Cheyenne Accounts of Shield and Tipi Heraldry reproduces and annotates, in two volumes, a unique set of documents that elucidate Cheyenne spirituality, culture, and history, conveying the complexity of indigenous traditions. Eloquent scholarly commentaries guide readers through the Cheyenne worldview, making the volumes a powerful resource for anthropologists, historians, and students of indigenous life. In addition to the interpretive annotations, an excellent index and vivid images animate this stunning user-friendly resource.
Deborah A. Rosen, Lafayette College
Border Law: The First Seminole War and American Nationhood (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015)
In Border Law, Deborah Rosen establishes the Seminole War (1816–18) as the moment in American nation-building when Jacksonian struggles against the British, the Spanish, and indigenous peoples established a nation with diplomatic influence and legal sovereignty. Rosen’s detailed research in military and legal history provides a definitive account of how, early in the 19th century, disparate and unwieldy legal uncertainties were reimagined as coherent legal frameworks that would organize American expansionism over the next century.
J. Russell Major Prize
Ethan B. Katz, University of Cincinnati
The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015)
Ethan Katz’s The Burdens of Brotherhood winds us through the tortured, but always complex relationships between French immigrant Jews and Muslims since the First World War. Sad, even haunting, this deeply researched work, while elucidating the forces that polarized, takes us into the daily communities where Jews and Muslims also lived together, played music and soccer together, shopped together, and sustained shared traditions from their common North African heritage. Imaginatively open to contingency as well as to the fissures of history, and commanding in its use of sources, Katz’s work has given us a rich, often surprising portrait of the dynamics that sundered two immigrant peoples with reason to see themselves as so much alike. It is a book of immediacy because of the power of its historical analysis.
Helen & Howard R. Marraro Prize
Stefano Dall’Aglio, University of Leeds
Donald Weinstein, University of Arizona, translator
The Duke’s Assassin: Exile and Death of Lorenzino de’ Medici (Yale Univ. Press, 2015)
Plumbing archives from Florence to Venice to Simancas, Dall’Aglio has dug up a trove of new documents and substantially revises a long-accepted narrative regarding the murders by and of Lorenzino de’ Medici, ultimately switching responsibility for the latter from Duke Cosimo to Emperor Charles V. More than a careful correction of long-held misconceptions, this is a gripping story of spies, international intrigue, and politics. The story is elegantly rendered in Weinstein’s fine translation.
George L. Mosse Prize
Thomas W. Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley
The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton Univ. Press, 2015)
Thomas Laqueur’s haunting book brilliantly tackles a fundamental historical question: how humanity relates to the dead. His magisterial account establishes that throughout the premodern and modern periods, the world has never been disenchanted; the dead have always had agency in defining what it means to be human. A modern Charon, Laqueur surveys churchyards, cemeteries, and crematoria, establishing our need to be “eased out of this world and settled safely into the next and into memory.”
John E. O’Connor Film Award
Documentary: No Más Bebés
Renee Tajima-Peña, director; Virginia Espino, producer (Moon Canyon Films, 2015)
No Más Bebés is a provocative historical documentary about the involuntary sterilizations of Mexican immigrant women in the 1960s and 1970s. Filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña uses historical footage, oral histories, and the written archive in order to tell and create this story before our very eyes. The film reveals how history is documented, but also how it is obscured, often at the expense of women, people of color, and American society as a whole.
Dramatic Feature: Son of Saul
László Nemes, director; Gábor Rajna and Gábor Sipos, producers (Laokoon Filmgroup, 2015)
Son of Saul is a powerful and visually arresting film that takes viewers inside the death camps of the Holocaust. While in their quest to be marketable filmmakers often clean up parts of this terrible history, Nemes’s film is ferocious in its portrayal of brutality. In this way, the film stands apart from Hollywood treatments, favoring complexity over clarity.
James A. Rawley Prize
Tamar Herzog, Harvard University
Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015)
Frontiers of Possession is a book of great ambition, originality, erudition, and archival labor. Herzog shows that the lines separating Portugal from Spain in the Americas and in the Iberian Peninsula resulted from local agents and motives and followed strikingly different logics. In so doing, she brings the historiographies of the early modern Portuguese and Spanish composite monarchies together and shows in new ways how law and jurisprudence were central to everyday culture on both sides of the early modern Atlantic basin.
Premio del Rey
Núria Silleras-Fernández, University of Colorado Boulder
Chariots of Ladies: Francesc Eiximenis and the Court Culture of Medieval and Early Modern Iberia (Cornell Univ. Press, 2015)
Silleras-Fernández’s book focuses on Francesc Eiximenis and demonstrates his importance for understanding medieval and early modern Iberian history. With methodological breadth and thematic depth, she addresses questions of textual transmission and gender, patronage and ruling authority, and the changing dynamics and mechanics of noble culture and society. She upends older notions of regional division by showing Eiximenis’s influence on noblewomen across the Iberian Peninsula and beyond. In short, Chariots of Ladies is a sophisticated, well-researched, elegantly argued work.
John F. Richards Prize
Nayanjot Lahiri, Ashoka University
Ashoka in Ancient India (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015)
Reversing all conventions of kingship, the Emperor Ashoka recorded his greatest military triumph as tragedy, proclaiming an order of nonviolence. Lahiri deftly adjudicates between archaeological, textual, and geographical evidence to offer a dazzling interpretation of a remarkable figure of the ancient world and a deep history of ancient society. Her innovative linking of archaeology and biography recasts our understanding of historical methods and ancient worlds alike.
James Harvey Robinson Prize
Julie Golia, Brooklyn Historical Society, and Robin M. Katz, University of California, Riverside
For many historians, working with primary sources comes easy; teaching students to engage with primary sources is another matter altogether. With an impressive range of research-based pedagogy and classroom-tested exercises, the site has the potential to influence secondary, collegiate, and graduate history courses across the country. For historians seeking to impart on their students more of what they do, and less of what they know, Teacharchives.org is an invaluable resource.
Dorothy Rosenberg Prize
Paul Lerner, University of Southern California
The Consuming Temple: Jews, Department Stores, and the Consumer Revolution in Germany, 1880–1940 (Cornell Univ. Press, 2015)
Shlomit Levy Bard
Lerner’s book is a model of interdisciplinary scholarship, combining literary and visual materials along with psychology and economic history to explore the role of Jewish-owned department stores in German culture. As his study reveals, these “temples” of consumption transformed consumerism in Germany while also becoming a focus for anxiety about the rising forces of modernization and urbanization. In telling this story, Lerner unpacks the department store experience to reveal how it both reflected and shaped aspects of German culture as diverse as gender relations, crime, and aesthetics. The committee was impressed with Lerner’s deep research, rich source base, and lucid prose. His book stands out as one that makes a significant contribution not only to Jewish diaspora history but also to German studies and the history of consumption.
Roy Rosenzweig Prize
Goin’ North: Stories from the First Great Migration to Philadelphia
Charles Hardy III and Janneken Smucker, West Chester University, and Doug Boyd, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Goin’ North: Stories from the First Great Migration to Philadelphia is a platform for student work curating and interpreting oral histories, using a digital archive of material drawn from regional museums and archives to develop biographical sketches and digital storytelling projects. The site demonstrates how oral history can be married with digital history, using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) and Omeka. It effectively integrates a variety of off-the-shelf digital tools—iMovie, historypin, thinglink, and ESRI Story Maps—for the purpose of telling a story. In integrating the work of successive cohorts of students, Goin’ North offers a compelling model of how iterative project development can be made a part of teaching.
Carina E. Ray, Brandeis University
Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana (Ohio Univ. Press, 2015)
Crossing the Color Line is an innovative study of interracial sex in British West Africa and Europe from the period of colonial expansion to the era of decolonization. It skillfully interweaves readings of individual cases of interracial unions with analyses of broader imperial policies to show how the British sought to contain relations between African and European men and women across racial boundaries. This book is a welcome contribution to the historiographies of West Africa, Europe, and the African diaspora.
2015 Awards for Scholarly and Professional Distinction
Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award
Fritz Fischer, University of Northern Colorado
Lynn Fischer Photography
Fritz Fischer is an ideal candidate to be awarded the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Prize. Fischer’s teaching statement and syllabi are all evidence of a scholar who has established a pedagogical philosophy that facilitates outstanding teaching. Fischer’s commitment to raising critical questions about the past, which is evident in the courses that he has designed and taught, reflects the profound vision of an educator seeking to enhance the educational experience of every student he encounters.
Beveridge Family Teaching Award
Craig Blackman, on behalf of Indian River High School
Craig Blackman’s student-centered local civil rights history project demonstrates excellence and innovation because, among other things, it brought students and the community together. Blackman mastered something that many K–12 social studies teachers struggle to achieve: he “brought history to life.” Researching and chronicling the “Norfolk 17,” Blackman engaged young learners in the traditional art of historical detection and facilitated the creation of a community-based learning lab where students studied the civil rights movement.
Individual Award: Albert Camarillo, Stanford University
The Committee on Minority Historians is pleased to confer the 2016 Equity Award to Albert Camarillo, professor of history at Stanford University. Professor Camarillo’s contribution to the field of Mexican American history is unparalleled. He has authored seven influential books and dozens of articles. His more than 40-year commitment to mentorship has resulted in multiple generations of scholars of color whose scholarship and leadership have influenced numerous fields of study and the profession as a whole.
Institutional Award: Department of History, University of Texas at El Paso
The Committee on Minority Historians is pleased to award the Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso its 2016 Institutional Equity Award. Since its inception in 1997, the department’s PhD program has been a national leader in its commitment to training and graduating students of color. Its programmatic focus on recruitment, mentoring, professional development, and job placement has resulted in 17 minority PhD recipients since 1999 and alumni who are teaching and publishing at colleges and universities across the globe.
Herbert Feis Award
Yolanda Chávez Leyva, University of Texas at El Paso
Jose Miguel Leyva
Yolanda Chávez Leyva has contributed to the democratization of history by giving voice to residents of one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the United States. Establishing the Museo Urbano, a “museum without walls,” Professor Leyva has overseen oral history projects, museum exhibits, publications, and public programs documenting the rich history of the Segundo Barrio in El Paso, while striving to empower residents of the community to use this understanding of the past to shape their future. At a time of fierce polemical debates over immigration, Professor Leyva’s scholarship affirms the pluralism of the American society.
Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award
Neal Shultz, The Campus School of the New Rochelle School District
Caring adviser, inspiring guide, dedicated counselor: Neal Shultz serves his students and his fellow teachers in countless ways inside and outside of the classroom. Shultz meets with troubled students and helps work through hard personal challenges. He takes students to professional conferences and encourages them to participate in public dialogue and debate. In his “free” time, he finds educational possibilities for children of refugees, mentors fellow teachers’ research projects, and does seminars on innovative pedagogy.
Troyer Steele Anderson Prize
Daniel J. McInerney, Utah State University
The AHA is pleased to award the Troyer Steele Anderson Prize to Daniel McInerney for his tireless efforts to keep the AHA at the center of collective, nationwide discussions of history curricula in the midst of major changes to higher education. Dan played an essential role in Tuning—a multi-year, faculty-led project to articulate the disciplinary core of a field of study and the skills students should come away with at the completion of their degrees. A leader in this important and growing educational reform movement, Dan sees Tuning as a way for the AHA “to project historians’ values” before a wide range of audiences in and beyond the world of higher education. His extensive travel and numerous speaking engagements on behalf of Tuning helped position the AHA, and the community of historians at large, as leaders in curricular issues that many of us hadn’t heard of a mere five years ago.
Dan’s commitment to Tuning has given the AHA an opportunity to enlarge and dramatically diversify the circle of faculty engaged in carrying out its mission not only among those teaching history on college campuses, but also among those advocating for the study of the past in other forms and different communities. Without his persistence, preparation, and single-mindedness, the AHA’s success in engaging history instructors at so many diverse institutions to undertake this work would not have been possible.
Dan has not only shared his commitment with his students and colleagues—he is currently professor of history and associate department head at Utah State University—but has been an inspiring and encouraging model of what it means to be a true ambassador for history. His optimism, good humor, and perseverance have served the AHA and its members immeasurably.
Honorary Foreign Member
Boubakar Barry, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal
Boubakar Barry, professor emeritus of history at Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal, has been a leader in the rise of African historical studies for over four decades. Under his vision and influence, the history department of UCAD has compiled a long record as one of the most prestigious in Africa, and his two best-known works are both now regarded as classics in West African history. The Kingdom of Waalo: Senegal before the Conquest (Paris, 1972; English translation, 2012) set the tone for subsequent works documenting African resistance to the slave trade by drawing on both written archives and oral traditions. Senegambia and the Atlantic Slave Trade (Paris, 1988; English translation, 1998) employed large-scale area analysis, linking territories now included in seven modern nations in a cross-regional history of political, religious, and commercial change. Barry has authored an additional 25 articles, edited eight works, and with support from UNESCO, directed a set of 13 volumes on regional integration in West Africa.
Barry completed his undergraduate studies in Guinea. He received a master’s degree at UCAD, a doctorate at the Sorbonne (under the distinguished Yves Person, in 1971), and an advanced doctorat d’etat (also at the Sorbonne in 1990). He has taught at UCAD since 1971. He helped found institutions in African studies by serving as executive director of the Association of African Historians (1972–80) and as deputy executive secretary of CODESRIA, the African social-science collaborative (1987–90). He has mentored generations of historians of Africa—nascent scholars from Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In the words of France’s most noted historian of Africa, Catherine Coquery-Vidrocitch, “More than any of us, he merits this distinction as much through his scholarships as by his gift of building bridges between students and instructors and by his indefatigable enthusiasm for putting all of us, the ones and the others, Africans and Westerners, in resonance and in symbiosis.”
Barry’s recognition internationally includes numerous awards, grants, and fellowships. Invited to teach and conduct research at universities ranging from New York University to the University of Havana and the Sorbonne, in 2014 Barry was also awarded the Distinguished Africanist Award from the African Studies Association of the United States in recognition of his original contributions to scholarship. He continues to champion the African educational system and allow use of his personal collection of research material. Because of his exceptional global reputation, and his dedication to advancing African democracy and unity, Barry can rightfully be regarded as both a historian and a humanitarian.
Awards for Scholarly Distinction
Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University
Alice Kessler-Harris is one of the finest historians of our time: a writer and biographer of breathtaking eloquence, a pioneer of a social history that embraces women as well as men, a scholar who regularly engages the deepest moral and political questions that shaped American life. She has done more than any other single modern historian to reconstruct and draw attention to the history of women and work; she is acutely sensitive to dimensions of race and ethnicity. Devising the concept of “economic citizenship,” Kessler-Harris traced its development through the course of the 20th century, challenging established understandings of Social Security legislation and explaining how—despite the best of intentions—even progressive legislators and advisers adopted retrograde policies. This interpretation helps us understand the imbalances that have long sustained gender inequalities as well as the many lawsuits that contested these imbalances (including a number of landmark Supreme Court cases during the 1970s). Her four major books are each based on over a decade of research, including extensive engagement with diverse archives. She has written or edited 10 additional books and more than 60 essays and articles, all of them sensitive to the disparities of race and ethnicity and some of them—“Organizing the Unorganizable” (1975), for instance, “Treating the Male as Other” (1993), and “Coalitions of the Imagination” (2004)—now considered classics.
A committed teacher, Kessler-Harris is deft at inspiring those who come within her orbit to realize the best that is in them. She has now extended her role with a new groundbreaking MOOC (massive open online course) that shares the scholarship and spirit of the new women’s history with a national and international audience. Indeed, throughout her career, Kessler-Harris has devoted herself to connecting scholars with the public while staying deeply engaged in international scholarly collaborations—in Europe and recently in China.
Unusual among social historians for her attentiveness to the arts and to literature, Kessler-Harris played a major role in introducing the Yiddish writer Anzia Yezierskia to the American public. It is a brave historian who embarks on a genre unlike that on which her reputation is based; undertaking the biography of Lillian Hellman presents special challenges to the biographer, whose prose will be measured against her subject’s. Kessler-Harris has spoken and written eloquently of her own history as the child of refugees and the displaced with a sensibility that grounds her sympathy for others without requesting sympathy for herself.
Colin A. Palmer, Princeton University
Colin Palmer has written extensively in an overlapping range of historical fields: African American, African diaspora, colonial Latin America, and the Caribbean. After secondary schooling in Jamaica, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University College of the West Indies, Mona (1964), followed by an MA (1966) and PhD (1970) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a wide-ranging scholar of the African diaspora as well as an extraordinary academic leader.
The first of Palmer’s nearly 20 books was a path-breaking work on the social history of slavery in colonial Mexico. He followed with a study of the British slave trade to Spanish America; a survey of Africans in the Americas, 1502–1617; a two-volume interpretive history of Black America (1619–1965); a coauthored survey of the modern Caribbean; two biographies of Eric Williams; one biography of Cheddi Jagan; four volumes of Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, coedited with Howard Dodson; and a study of Jamaica’s journey to nationhood.
While publishing at an exceptional pace, Palmer also served as chair of African and Afro-American Studies, chair of the Department of History, and William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1980–94). He was appointed a distinguished professor of history at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York in 1994, and Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University in 2000. He retired from Princeton in 2011.
In the late 1980s, Palmer played a principal role in establishing the AHA’s Committee on Minority Historians. He chaired the AHA’s Committee on Graduate Education from 2000 to 2004, conducting research, organizing site visits, and producing a major review of doctoral education in history coauthored with Thomas Bender and Philip Katz. From 1997 to 2012, Palmer directed the Scholars in Residence Program at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, actively mentoring fellows whose books went on to receive a remarkable number of prizes.
Recent awards confirm Palmer’s immense contributions across the academic and scholarly landscape: a 2009 honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the West Indies, and the 2012 Carter G. Woodson Scholars Medallion from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. For his innovative monographs and comprehensive collaborations; his commitments to teaching, to mentorship, and to departmental governance; and for his far-reaching service to the profession of history, the AHA awards Colin Palmer the Award for Scholarly Distinction.
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