Bill Leuchtenburg, Jean Edward Smith, Jessica M. Lepler: Win Society of American History awards
The Society of American Historians awarded the 51st Francis Parkman Prize, the 48th Allan Nevins Prize, and the first Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Award for Distinguished Writing in American History of Enduring Public Significance at its annual dinner on Monday, May 5, in New York City.
William E. Leuchtenburg, the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the first recipient of the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Award named in honor of the late historian who was also an innovator in giving history a voice in public affairs.
Jean Edward Smith, the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Toronto, received the annual Francis Parkman Prize for his FDR, published by Random House in 2007.
Jessica M. Lepler, recently appointed an Assistant Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire, received the annual Allan Nevins Prize for her dissertation, “1837: Anatomy of a Panic,” defended at Brandeis University in 2007.
William Leuchtenburg is a “uniquely appropriate choice” for the Schlesinger Award “in part because his career as a writer and historian and civic activist so closely parallels Arthur Schlesinger’s own,” states the committee’s citation. “Both historians focused a considerable share of their scholarship on the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt and its continuing significance for his successors and for American society. Both wrote prize-winning works on the New Deal. In addition, Leuchtenburg’s more recent book, In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to George W. Bush, now in its third edition, shares Schlesinger’s interest in interpreting the past in a way that casts light on the present.” As well, he “has long been committed to bringing the fruits of modern scholarship to a broad public audience in and out of the classroom. As a teacher he has been a witty, engaging lecturer who held generations of students at Smith, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spellbound in his courses on twentieth-century American history. Further, as a later co-author of one of the most popular and influential textbook treatments of American history, written originally by Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, his words have reached several generations of high-school and college students.” The annual $10,000 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Award is given by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Society of American Historians.
Jean Edward Smith’s FDR is a “wonderful new biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that provides modern readers with an evenhanded yet sympathetic portrait of one of the towering figures in American history,” declared Parkman committee juror Peter Coclanis, Albert Ray Newsome Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Beautifully written and elegantly paced, FDR is at once a subtle and sophisticated character study and a highly insightful and convincing assessment of the achievements and failures of our thirty-second President. One comes away from reading FDR with both a fresh interpretation of a figure we thought we knew well, and with renewed appreciation of Roosevelt’s profound legacy for us all. Smith’s biography is a model of the historian’s art.” The Parkman Prize consists of $2,500, a certificate and a bronze medal, and becomes a selection of The History Book Club.
Jessica Lepler’s “1837: Anatomy of a Panic,” was chosen as the winner of the Nevins Prize “above all on the analytic and narrative power of Dr. Lepler’s writing. This is a first-rate economic history based on years of research in archives in the United States and the U.K. As she shows us, the Panic of 1837 was a pivotal moment in the emerging culture of capitalism and in America’s economic development. Vividly described are timely similarities that seem to be yanked from today’s headlines: the curtailment of credit at the wrong time, the attempted bailout of failing commercial firms, the depreciation of real estate, runs on banks, unemployment.” The Nevins Prize consists of $1,000, a certificate, and submission for publication by one of the publisher members of the Society; when published, it is considered for adoption by The History Book Club. The publisher members of the Society are: Basic Books, Cambridge University Press, Columbia University Press, Free Press, Harvard University Press, Henry Holt & Company, Hill & Wang, History Book Club, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knopf Publishing Group, University of North Carolina Press, W. W. Norton, Oxford University Press, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Yale University Press.
Kendra D. Smith-Howard is the Nevins first runner-up for her dissertation, “Perfecting Nature’s Food: A Cultural and Environmental History of Milk in the United States, 1900-1970” (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007), an engrossing history of a product we all take for granted and perhaps shouldn’t. The account begins with the Progressive Era and ends with Three-Mile Island. The second runner-up is Michael McCoyer for his dissertation, “Darkness of a Different Color: Mexicans and Racial Formation in Greater Chicago, 1916-1960” (Northwestern University, 2007), a distinctive mixture of history and sociology, this opus examines the changing status of Mexicans in the Chicago area.
The Society of American Historians, whose purpose is to encourage literary distinction in the writing of history and biography, includes among its members both academic historians and professional writers who have published histories or biographies of literary distinction. The organization was founded in 1939 by Allan Nevins and several fellow historians. Its past presidents include Douglas Southall Freeman, Barbara Tuchman, Richard B. Morris, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., David McCullough, and Eric Foner. The Society’s current president is Thomas Fleming. [HNN Editor: The new president of the organization is Mary Beth Norton.] More information may be found at: http://www.sah.columbia.edu
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