Winners of the 2017 Bancroft Prize Announced

Columbia University announced today that three acclaimed works will be awarded the 2017 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy: The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Pantheon Books, 2016), and Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers by Nancy Tomes (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

The Other Slavery is a landmark history that tells the sweeping story of the enslavement of tens of thousands of Indians across America, from the time of the conquistadors through the early twentieth century. Reséndez builds an incisive case that claims that it was mass slavery – more so than epidemic – that decimated Indian populations across North America, revealing nothing less than a significant missing piece of American history.

The first definitive history of the infamous 1971 Attica Prison uprising, the state of New York’s violent response, and the victims’ decades-long quest for justice, Blood in the Water draws from more than 10 years worth of extensive research. Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all who took part in the 45-year fight for justice – one of the most important civil rights stories of the past century.

In Remaking the American Patient, which spans the twentieth century, Nancy Tomes questions the popular – and largely unexamined – idea that in order to receive quality health care, people must learn to shop for it. Understanding where the shopping model came from, why it was so long resisted in medicine, and why it finally triumphed in the late twentieth century helps explain why, despite striking changes that seem to empower patients, so many Americans remain unhappy and confused about their status as patients today.

The Bancroft Prize is awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University. Winners are judged in terms of the scope, significance, depth of research, and richness of interpretation they present in the areas of American history and diplomacy. There were 239 books submitted for consideration for the 2017 prize.

Columbia Provost John H. Coatsworth will present the awards at the Bancroft Prize dinner next month, hosted by the department of history and Columbia University Libraries. The Bancroft Prize, which includes an award of $10,000 to each author, is administered by Vice Provost and University Librarian Ann Thornton.

Andrés Reséndez is a professor and historian at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, which Carolyn See called "impossible to put down" (Washington Post Book World). He lives in Davis, California.

Heather Ann Thompson is an award-winning historian at the University of Michigan. She has written on the history of mass incarceration and its current impact for The New York Times, TIME, The Atlantic, Salon, Dissent, New Labor Forum, and The Huffington Post, as well as for various scholarly publications. She served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States and has given congressional staff briefings on this subject. Thompson is also the author of Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City and the editor of Speaking Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s.

Nancy Tomes is Distinguished Professor of History at Stony Brook University. She has written widely on the history of medicine and health, including her prize-winning book, The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life. In 2011, she received the American Public Health Association's Arthur Viseltear Award in recognition of “her distinguished body of scholarship in the history of public health.”   

The Bancroft Prize was established at Columbia University in 1948 with a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, a preeminent historian, librarian, author, and Columbia University lecturer. It is considered one of the most distinguished academic awards in the field of history.

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