Columbia Announces 2007 Bancroft Prize Winners Esteemed Historians Robert D. Richardson and Jack Temple Kirby to Receive Awards

NEW YORK, April 20, 2007 The authors of two acclaimed books, one a biography chronicling the life of William James, and one an ecological history of the American South, will be awarded the Bancroft Prize for 2007, Columbia University announced today.

The winners are Robert D. Richardson for William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism (Houghton Mifflin) and Jack Temple Kirby for Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South, (University of North Carolina Press).

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 2007 awards are for books published in 2006.

Columbia University Provost Alan Brinkley will present the awards to the recipients at a formal dinner May 1, 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,” said University Librarian James Neal. “Once again, we were very impressed by the number of excellent submissions covering a broad range of themes, and are proud to honor this year’s winners....The Bancroft prize is a celebration and affirmation of historical scholarship, the library, the book, the academic press, and the reportedly threatened scholarly monograph.”

Robert D. Richardson, author of William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism, is a former professor of English at the University of Denver. He is the author of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind (University of California Press, 1986) and Emerson: The Mind on Fire (University of California Press, 1995). He is the recipient of the Francis Parkman Prize and the Melcher Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, among many other honors. According to the Bancroft jury, “the book is simultaneously an intellectual biography, and a biography tout court, of the James family, including William James’s father, Henry James, Sr., and his brother Henry. William James is a virtual intellectual genealogy of American liberalism and, indeed, of American intellectual life in general, through and beyond the twentieth century...the story Richardson tells is engaging, his research deep, his writing graceful and appealing.”

Jack Temple Kirby, author of Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South, is W. E. Smith Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and currently lives on Anastasia Island in Florida. He is author or editor of several books, including Rural Worlds Lost: The American South, 1920-1960 and Poquosin: A Study of Rural Landscape and Society (from the University of North Carolina Press). Bancroft jurors noted that the book “is an ecological history of the American South, told though a series of chapters about different types of landscapes and the way human beings have lived and worked in them...though Mockingbird Song is set in the South, it is about more than the South ...Kirby reflects profoundly on the relationships of Americans–and of humankind–to the natural original in the growing field of environmental history, elegantly conceived and beautifully written.”

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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