2020 Frances FitzGerald

The first annual Tony Horwitz Prize honoring distinguished work in American history of wide appeal and enduring public significance is awarded to Frances FitzGerald. Her work mixes the keen observations of a journalist with the measured knowledge of a historian. FitzGerald’s Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, (1972), shaped the ways Americans understood the last years of the war in Vietnam. That book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, the Bancroft Prize for history, and the U.S. National Book Award in Contemporary Affairs.

Books on history and culture followed this first contribution, including America Revised (1979), a history of history textbooks; Cities on a Hill A Brilliant Exploration of Visionary Communities Remaking the American Dream (1987), on America’s utopian dreams; and Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (2000); and Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth (2002).  The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America appeared in 2017.

FitzGerald, a former president of the Society of American Historians, is committed to sustaining public dialogue around issues of current concern. She is widely admired for her careful use of history to illuminate complicated issues, the care with which she writes about those issues, and the audiences she draws into conversations about our history and our civic life. The Society believes FitzGerald’s work embodies its commitment to evocative historical writing wherever it occurs.