To Encourage Literary Distinction in the Writing of History and Biography
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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.