To Encourage Literary Distinction in the Writing of History and Biography
We are delighted to announce the winners of our 2020 prizes:

The first annual Tony Horwitz Prize honoring distinguished work in American history of wide appeal and enduring public significance is awarded to Frances FitzGerald.

The 63rd annual Francis Parkman Prize for literary excellence in the writing of history is awarded to Charles King for Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century (Doubleday).

The 60th annual Allan Nevins Prize for the best-written dissertation on an American subject is awarded to Robert Colby for “The Continuance of an Unholy Traffic: Slave Trading in the Civil War South” (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill).

Because the pandemic forced us to cancel our annual dinner and prize ceremony, we have invited our winners and the chairs of the prize juries to record a version of the comments they would have made. Please join us on our SoundCloud page to hear (or read) their remarks and share in honoring our winners! You can also find more information about them at our News tab.


The Society of American Historians (SAH) was founded in 1939 by the journalist and Columbia University historian Allan Nevins and several fellow scholars to promote literary distinction in the writing of history and biography. Under a charter of incorporation issued by the State of New York, the society has continued to promote its original objective in a variety of ways: through the awarding of prizes, the promotion of historical studies and interests, and cooperation with publishers and other institutions engaged in furthering these aims.

In its elected membership of nearly 400 members the society combines academic historians and professional writers working in many different genres on topics that deal in whole or in part with American history. They may be scholars, journalists, essayists, biographers, novelists, documentarians, playwrights, poets, or filmmakers. Members are elected based on their demonstrated commitment to literary distinction in the writing and  presentation of history and biography. Literary excellence in historical  work is marked by vividness, clarity, empathy, narrative power, and explanatory force.