Beverly Gage, Kelly Lytle-Hernández and John Wood Sweet Take Bancroft Prizes

Historians in the News
tags: Bancroft Prize

A monumental biography of J. Edgar Hoover, a border-crossing history of the Mexican Revolution and a richly contextualized 1790s true-crime story have won this year’s Bancroft Prize, which is considered one of the most prestigious honors in the field of American history.

Beverly Gage’s “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” published by Viking, was described by the jury as upending the familiar “villainous caricature” of the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director and replacing it with a panoramic portrait that captures “the 20th-century writ large.”


Kelly Lytle Hernández’s “Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire and Revolution in the Borderlands,” published by W.W. Norton, places the liberal-turned-anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón and his circle at the center of a story stretching from Mexico City to St. Louis. In its citation, the prize jury called the book, which draws on both Mexican and U.S. archives, a “riveting” account that helps “shift the boundaries of what constitutes American history.”


In “The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America,” published by Henry Holt, John Wood Sweet uses the 1793 trial of the rape of a teenage seamstress to create what the prize jury hailed as “a precise, layered analysis of New York’s social hierarchy just as it was becoming the leading metropolis of the early republic.”

The Bancroft, which includes an award of $10,000 per winner, was established in 1948 by the trustees of Columbia University, with a bequest from the historian Frederic Bancroft. Entries are evaluated for “the scope, significance, depth of research and richness of interpretation.”

Read entire article at New York Times

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