Columbia University Announces 2006 Bancroft Prize Winners: Esteemed Historians Erskine Clarke, Odd Arne Westad, and Sean Wilentz to Receive Awards

NEW YORK, March 16, 2006 - The authors of three acclaimed books, one which examines interconnected communities of slaves and slaveholders on a Georgia plantation, one on the global impact of the Cold War, and one on the 19th-century development of American democracy, will be awarded the Bancroft Prize for 2006, Columbia University announced today.

The winners are Erskine Clarke, for Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic (Yale University Press), Odd Arne Westad, for The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge University Press); and Sean Wilentz, for The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (Norton).

One of the most coveted honors in the field of history, the Bancroft is awarded annually by the Trustees of Columbia University to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography and diplomacy. The 2006 awards are for books published in 2005.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger will present the awards to the recipients at a formal dinner April 26 at the University’s Low Memorial Library, hosted by the Department of History and the University Libraries.

The Bancroft Prize, which includes an award of $10,000 to each author, is administered by James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia.

“Over 200 books were nominated for consideration by the Bancroft jury this year,” Neal said. “Once again, we were very impressed by the number of excellent submissions covering a broad range of themes, and are proud to announce this year’s winners.”

Erskine Clarke, author of Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic, is Professor of American Religious History and Director of International Programs at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is author of Wrestlin’ Jacob: A Portrait of Religion in the Old South (John Knox, 1979) and Our Southern Zion: Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690–1990 (University of Alabama Press, 1996). According to the Bancroft jury, “this deeply researched and beautifully written book returns the reader to the slave plantations of the Jones family...meticulously reconstructing the lives, cultures, and aspirations of four generations of slaves, as well as their relationships with their white owners....The result is a striking portrait of slavery as a lived experience.”

Odd Arne Westad, author of The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, is professor of International History at the London School of Economics and head of the School’s Cold War Studies Centre. He is co-author of The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford, 2003) and author of Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1945–1950 (Stanford, 2003). Bancroft jurors noted that “[t]he book shows how the ideological commitments of the United States (and the Soviet Union) led them to unexpected interventions in the Third World....Westad shows how central the Third World’s ambitions for development were to the global conflict between the two superpowers, and how that contest shaped what we now call the ‘global South.’ The result is a humane and bold history of the United States as a global force in the twentieth century, one that explains better than the standard histories the troubled post-Cold War world in which we live.”

Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, is Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University and Director of the University’s American Studies program. He writes on U.S. social and political history, specializing in the early nation and Jacksonian democracy. He is author of Chants Democratic (Oxford, 1984) which won several national prizes, including the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association, and The Kingdom of Matthias (Oxford, 1994), and is a contributing editor to The New Republic. According to the Bancroft jurors, “the book delivers a gripping narrative of American voters and their chosen leaders grappling with securing their constitutional order, opening up economic opportunity, subduing the Indian population and excluding African-Americans, replacing gentry values with democratic ones, surviving contentious elections, and controlling violence in a lightly-policed nation.  The book reflects how political history can be written in the aftermath of the social history revolution—not by ignoring the preoccupations of recent scholarship but by integrating them into a broad political narrative.”

The Bancroft Prizes were established at Columbia in 1948 with a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, the historian, author and librarian of the Department of State, to provide steady development of library resources, to support instruction and research in American history and diplomacy and to recognize exceptional books in the field. To see a list of past winners, visit:

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