Doris Kearns Goodwin: Wins 16th Annual Lincoln Prize

Historians in the News

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s long-awaited and widely acclaimed biography of the 16th President and his extraordinary Cabinet, has won the 2006 Lincoln Prize. Administered annually by the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College and endowed by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, the Lincoln Prize is the nation’s most generous award in the field of American History.

Ms. Goodwin will be awarded $50,000 and a large bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ bust of Lincoln. The formal ceremonies marking the 16th annual Lincoln Prize will take place at a dinner April 6 at the Union League Club in New York City.

Commented Mr. Gilder and Mr. Lehrman: “Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bravura study of the Lincoln administration—not only Lincoln himself but the remarkably gifted, competitive, indefatigable men who helped their President to save the Union and end slavery—has deservedly earned critical praise and popular enthusiasm. The product of exhaustive research, original interpretation, and deep insights into the period, the book is further blessed by its author’s bold narrative style: dramatic, evocative, and deeply moving. This is a once-in-a-generation scholarly achievement that has drawn hundreds of thousands of new readers into history’s greatest story. We are indeed proud to honor Doris Kearns Goodwin.”

Mr. Gilder and Mr. Lehrman, who are the co-founders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, created the Lincoln Prize in 1990 together with Professor Gabor Boritt, Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.

Noted Professor Boritt, who serves as Chairman of the Lincoln Prize: “This prestigious award was originally and specifically designed to honor signal accomplishments in the field that are ‘aimed at the literate general public.’ This year’s striking achievement by Doris Kearns Goodwin gives us the welcome opportunity to highlight this important aspect of the Lincoln Prize. Team of Rivals is both a scholarly achievement and a national best-seller. It reflects the years of research that its author devoted to her project, as well as the dazzling craft that only the most gifted writers can muster.”

In addition to the Lincoln Prize honor for Ms. Goodwin’s work, three other books—including one that breaks new ground in the study of the Civil War’s most famous battle, and two that explore the heroic wartime role of Harvard University alumni—won honorable mention: Carol Bundy’s The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-1864 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Margaret Creighton’s The Color of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History—Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle (Basic Books); and Richard F. Miller’s Harvard’s Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (University Press of New England).

The jury for the 2006 prize includes two Lincoln Prize laureates: chairman Richard J. Carwardine (Lincoln, 2004), Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University in England; and James M. McPherson (For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, 1998), George Henry Davis Professor of American History Emeritus at Princeton University. The third member of the jury was historian Elizabeth Varon, professor of history at Temple University, whose first book, We Mean to be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (1998) was a finalist for the Virginia Center Book Award.

Praising its “literary accomplishment” together with its “magisterial and epic quality,” the jury called Team of Rivals “an impressive chronicle of Lincoln’s political management in seeking, winning, and holding the presidency,” revealing how “a pragmatic, wise, magnanimous, and empathetic president kept control of a talented if sometimes dysfunctional cabinet, and impressed his purposes upon them.” Added the jury: “At 750 pages long, it is a measure of its literary quality that it feels far shorter than many books half its length. If its weight makes it hard to pick up, its quality makes it equally hard to put down. Goodwin has brought her protagonists to life.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin, a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, won the Pulitzer Prize in history for her book about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, No Ordinary Time. Her other books include Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir. She is a familiar face to millions of Americans as a commentator on the American presidency for Meet the Press, The Today Show, and many other television programs.

This year’s Lincoln Prize jury also praised Carol Bundy’s biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr. as “a richly textured portrait [written]…with an almost unmatched eloquence, even lyricism.” Author Bundy, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a film writer in the U.S. and Britain. This is her first book.

The jury called Richard F. Miller’s Harvard’s Civil War “a path-breaking study” that “moves beyond a conventional approach to incorporate social, political, and cultural history into military analysis.” Miller, an independent scholar who has authored or co-authored two other books, is a Harvard graduate. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Finally, the jury assessed Margaret Creighton’s The Colors of Courage as “the most successful effort to date to integrate the stories of noncombatants with the military history of the war.” Creighton is professor of history at Bates College, and a resident of Yarmouth, Maine.

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