Daniel Walker Howe: Historian to Receive New-York Historical Society $50,000 Prize and Title of American Historian Laureate

Historians in the News

New York, NY—Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, announced today that Daniel Walker Howe will receive the third annual New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (Oxford University Press). The award will be presented at a ceremony during the annual Chairman’s Council Weekend With History on April 4, where Howe will also be named American Historian Laureate.

Howe’s book chronicles the dramatic technological changes that took place in the United States in the years between 1815 and 1848. In 1815, America was a developing nation; by 1848, the United States commanded a transcontinental empire. Revolutions in communications and transportation facilitated this transformation. When Samuel F. B. Morse demonstrated the electric telegraph, the words he tapped out in code—“What Hath God Wrought”—captured this technological moment in biblical language that resonated with a deeply religious nation. Taking its title from Morse’s message, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 is a narrative that explores the social, political, and religious context of an era that changed American life.

“What Hath God Wrought provokes a rethinking of an important period of history, along with the agency of political figures such as John Quincy Adams, whose impact on the nation's future is often underestimated,” said Dr. Mirrer.

“Many books have been published describing the economic and technological progress of American society in the first half of the 19th century. But none before this one has demonstrated how that progress also served to elevate the moral expectations of the population. Making this connection—plowing this new ground—is what the author does so brilliantly,” said Roger Hertog, Chairman of the N-YHS Board of Trustees.

“Daniel Walker Howe has combined prodigious research, a distinguished prose style, and a lifetime of reflection to produce a masterpiece of synthesis and interpretation,” said Kenneth T. Jackson, member of the Society’s prize committee and Jacques Barzun Professor of History at Columbia University. “What Hath God Wrought will change the way that scholars and general readers think about the beginnings of the American Empire.”

The purpose of the New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize is to encourage the general public to read works on American history. The prize is awarded to a non-fiction book on American history or biography that is distinguished by its scholarship, its literary style and its appeal to both a general and an academic audience.

What Hath God Wrought was selected from a field of more than 100 submissions by a Prize Committee comprised of historians and New-York Historical Society leadership. Previous American History Book Prizes were awarded to Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and David Nasaw for Andrew Carnegie.

“I am honored, delighted, and overwhelmed—all at the same time—by the news that my book has received the New-York Historical Society’s Annual American History Book Prize,” said Howe, professor emeritus at UCLA. He will accept the $50,000 award on April 4 at the Society’s annual Weekend With History. The 2008 Weekend With History features a two-day program of informal conversations and presentations by some of America’s leading historians as well as Jim Dale, Paul Goldberger, Dr. David Ho and Edward P. Jones.

The Chairman’s Council, chaired by Pam Schafler, is comprised of the Society’s most committed supporters. Council members are invited to join by N-YHS Board and senior staff and by members of the Council. Annual dues are $5,000 (Member), $10,000 (Vice Chair), and $25,000 (Co-chair). For more information on the Weekend With History or the Chairman’s Council, please contact Cathy Michelsen at 212-485-9235 or cmichelsen@nyhistory.org.

comments powered by Disqus