New-York Historical Society Awards Its Annual American History Book Prize to John Lewis Gaddis for "George F. Kennan: An American Life"





New York, NY, February 16, 2012 —Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, announced today that historian John Lewis Gaddis, recipient of the National Humanities Medal in 2005, will receive New-York Historical’s seventh annual American History Book Prize for George F. Kennan: An American Life(Penguin Press, 2011). He will be presented with a $50,000 cash award, an engraved medal and the title of American Historian Laureate on April 13, 2012, during the Weekend with History event of the New-York Historical's Chairman's Council.

Roger Hertog, Chairman of the New-York Historical Society's Board of Trustees, stated: “A master historian vividly tells the story of the grand strategist who shaped foreign policy over the last sixty years.”

George F. Kennan was an eminent diplomat whose writings were key to establishing the containment strategy that defined U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union for forty years.  In writing this biography, John Lewis Gaddis drew from exclusive access to Kennan’s archives and extensive interviews with Kennan himself over thirty years.

Considered one of the most important biographies of the year by a Prize Committee comprised of historians and New-York Historical leadership, George F. Kennan: An American Lifewas selected from a field of 120 submissions. The American History Book Prize was previously awarded to Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; David Nasaw for Andrew Carnegie; Daniel Walker Howe for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848; Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War; Gordon S. Wood for Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815; andRon Chernow for George Washington: A Life.

John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of History and Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University, where he teaches courses on Cold War history, grand strategy, biography, and historical methods. Educated at the University of Texas in Austin, he has also taught at Ohio University, the United States Naval War College, the University of Helsinki, Princeton University, and Oxford University.  His most recent books include The Landscape of History:  How Historians Map the Past (2002); Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (2004); The Cold War:  A New History (2005); and a new edition of Strategies of Containment:  A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (2005). 

 “No organization has been more successful than the New-York Historical Society in finding new ways to encourage the study of American history.  I am honored, therefore, to have received its 2012 American History Book Prize, and to find myself in the company of so distinguished a group of previous winners.  George F. Kennan was himself a prize-winning historian, and I know he would have been pleased.”

Pam Schafler, Vice Chair of the New-York Historical board and Chair of the Chairman's Council, noted:  “John Lewis Gaddis is a deeply respected teacher who has inspired countless students of history through his books about the Cold War and International Relations.  Members of the Chairman’s Council will comprise the fortunate audience when Professor Gaddis makes remarks upon receiving this year’s New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize.” 

Now in its seventh year, the Weekend with History is organized by the Chairman's Council of New-York Historical and features two days of informal conversations and presentations by leading scholars and cultural figures.

The Chairman's Council is comprised of New-York Historical's most committed supporters. Individuals may be invited to join the Council by New-York Historical Trustees and senior staff and by existing members of the Council. Annual dues are $5,000 (Member), $10,000 (Vice Chair), and $25,000 (Co-Chair). For more information on Weekend with History or the Chairman's Council, please contact Alyssa Venere at (212) 485-9221 or alyssa.venere @nyhistory.org.


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