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 for Distinguished Writing in American History of Enduring Public Significance, given jointly by the society and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute:
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. 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.
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:
Jean 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. 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.
Jessica 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:
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.
J. H. Elliott's Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492–1830, published by Yale University Press in 2006, is a most impressive piece of scholarship that delivers what many studies promise but few achieve: excellent comparative analysis within a transatlantic context. Professor Elliott examines the establishment, growth, and fracturing of the British and Spanish empires in the Western Hemisphere, drawn from an enormous body of evidence, to explore political, economic, religious, cultural, and other dimensions of the sprawling topic. The reciprocal influences of European traditions and realities on the ground in the Americas, as well as the crucial and sometimes capricious roles of individuals, stand out in elegantly crafted narrative. In its ambitious scope, attention to style, and successful execution, Empires of the Atlantic World richly deserves to be honored with a prize named after Francis Parkman.
In The Last Town on Earth, A Novel, published by Random House in 2006, Thomas Mullen gives a stunning portrait of an American community struggling under incredible pressure from outside events and a way of seeing into the lives of individuals facing the consequences of a decision to isolate themselves from the outside world during the 1918 flu epidemic. Writing with empathy for characters caught up under the impact of the Great War and the global flu epidemic, the two events merge and drive the narrative along with a momentum that culminates in an unforeseen tragedy of Dreiser-like realism. It is a novel that gives readers a sense of place and meaning. Altogether it is a remarkable achievement for an author, let alone a first novel.
Jennifer Anderson's "Nature's Currency: The Atlantic Mahogany Trade, 1720–1830" (New York University, 2006) is an outstanding dissertation on every ground: elegantly written, effectively organized, and deeply, indefatigably researched. It breaks new ground in our understanding of the complex interplay among slaves, proprietors in mahogany-producing regions in the British West Indies and the Spanish-claimed regions of Central America around the Bay of Honduras, and consumers in the Atlantic world. It is rare, indeed, to have a densely researched monograph so deftly integrate economic, labor, and cultural history into a fascinating global portrait of interlocking human experience.
David Herbert Donald, Charles Warren Professor Emeritus of American History at Harvard University, received the Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of History. David Donald's "body of writing is remarkable for its range and breadth, its subtle and shrewd analysis, and its sure use of the tools of several disciplines," noted Elliott West, Professor of History at the University of Arkansas. "He has married these virtues, furthermore, to a mastery of the writer's craft. Biography, essay, historical synthesis, social and political narrative--he has brought to them all a distinctive voice, an intuitive gift that portrays all of the actors as human and a stance that makes his work's perspective always humane. He has brought a variety of methodologies to his research and writing--psychoanalysis, quantification, literary criticism, sociological theory--but whatever the tools or the subject, he always engages his audience through a narrative style rooted in the story-telling traditions of his native American South."
Megan Marshall received the Francis Parkman Prize for her biography, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). The Peabody Sisters "gives full scope and depth to three remarkable, intellectual, and talented women of antebellum New England," noted Patricia Cline Cohen, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "Marshall brilliantly succeeds in bringing to life the complex sisters, each maneuvering to make her mark in a world just on the verge of a dawning feminism. Marshall restores their place in the history of Transcendentalism, and, thanks to unusually rich primary sources she has uncovered, she presents a seamless, almost filmic narrative of actions, interior thoughts, even gestures and meaningful silences. this is a rare feat in biographies, most especially biographies of antebellum women."
Darren Dochuk received the Allan Nevins Prize for his dissertation, "From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain Folk, Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Southernization of Southern California, 1939-1969." The Nevins jury described Darren Dochuk's "From Bible Belt to Sunbelt" as "meticulously researched, persuasively argued, and written with style and conviction, asserting that religion must be integrated into, not cordoned off from, postwar political culture. Tracing the religious, cultural, and political experiences of Southern white migrants who were drawn to Southern California by wartime opportunities and then stayed to influence the local (and eventually national) political and cultural landscape, Dochuk offers a rich and multi-dimensional perspective on the origins of one of the most far-ranging developments of the second half of the twentieth century: the rise of the New Right and modern conservatism."