Every once in a while a good and generous person gets their just reward in this life. I'm happy to recognize such a gift today, with the announcement of this year Bancroft Prize winners.
There are three, but I want to highlight one: Anne Hyde's Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (University of Nebraska Press).
From today's New York Times:
The Bancroft Prize, one of the most prestigious annual honors for historians, has been awarded to three scholars for books published last year.
The winners are Anne F. Hyde for “Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860” (University of Nebraska Press); Daniel T. Rodgers for “Age of Fracture,” an intellectual history of 1970s and 80s America (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press); and Tomiko Brown-Nagin for “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” (Oxford University Press).
I blogged last year about Empires, Nations, and Families, just as it was coming out, and recommended it to all; a good description of the book and of Anne's career is here. Since then, it has not gotten nearly as much attention as the other two (very deserving, obviously) recipients, but I bet it will now. There's something for everyone in the work, including for you religious history scholars, including a major effort to place Mormonism and Indian religions in the broader context/history of "the West" during this period, as it moved from "nations" to "nation," as well as stories about the intermingling of families which thereby became the intermingling of religious traditions.
The author, Anne Hyde, has been my friend since my first week of graduate school, just a few (28, to be precise) years ago now (she started two years ahead of me at Berkeley, but finished four years ahead of me, a testament to her discipline and my interest in being a jazz hound more than a scholar). We both moved to Colorado Springs close to the same time -- myself to take a temporary position at Colorado College, where I filled in for a retired professor until the new permanent replacement came on board -- which just happened to be Anne. A few years later I chanced, by the vagaries of the job market, to arrive back in COS to take my position at the little state university on the bluffs overlooking the city, but continued to haunt the Colorado College library as my hideaway for research and writing.
Over the last few years, I sat up on the third floor of the CC library, hacking away at my much shorter and less ambitious books, in a state of constant nervous exhaustion and sartorial disarray, and anxious for 11:45 a.m. to arrive so I could sprint across campus to my NBA (Noon Ball Association) basketball game. Meanwhile, Anne sat a few tables away, as gracious and evidently serene and composed as ever as she put the finishing touches on a book I assumed would be a very good one, but turns out to be that and more: a 500+ page work that masterfully juxtaposes and weaves together the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political histories of Anglo-American, Native American, Mexican, and other peoples in the trans-Mississippi West from 1800 to 1860. Last summer I sat camped at my 3rd floor library perch and spotted Anne coming to my table with her book, which I knew was just coming out then. She handed me a signed copy; I began reading and was immediately humbled by what an amazing work she had accomplished. I'm thrilled for my friend and colleague and recommend this work to all.
(Update: a special thank you to the folks at Tutt Library at Colorado College who work to provide such a comfortable and well-run place, even for interlopers like me to write).
With Darren Dochuk winning the Dunning Prize last year, which is sort of the American Historical Association equivalent of the Bancroft, it now seems that books appearing on this blog just before or right upon publication definitely move up the ladder in terms of winning prestigious history prizes. (Update: one book featured here a lot even before it was published has won the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize! More on that as soon as the announcement is public!). Just saying!