Columbia University Libraries Announces the Winners of the 2024 Bancroft Prizes

The recipients of the 2024 Bancroft Prizes in American History and Diplomacy are Elliott West (left) and Carolyn Woods Eisenberg. (Photo credits, from left to right: Russell Cothren, William Fried)

Columbia University Libraries has announced that two acclaimed works will be awarded the 2024 Bancroft Prizes in American History and Diplomacy: Continental Reckoning: The American West in the Age of Expansion by Elliott West (University of Nebraska Press, 2023) and Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia by Carolyn Woods Eisenberg (Oxford University Press, 2023). Register to attend a public program in honor of the winners on April 18, 2024, at the Forum at Columbia University.

The Bancroft Prize, which includes an award of $10,000 to each author, is administered by Vice Provost and University Librarian Ann Thornton. The 2024 Bancroft Prize jury included three distinguished historians: Maria E. Montoya, Global Network Associate Professor History, New York University; Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut; and Michael Witgen, Professor of History, Columbia University (Chair).

The jury made the following statement about this year’s winning authors:

“In Continental Reckoning, Elliott West tells the epic story of the re-birth of the United States beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. This story is the history of America’s western expansion, a searing narrative explaining how the republic became a transcontinental nation. … In short, in order to integrate the western half of the continent into the republic, the country had to undergo a radical transformation, a vast racial, social, and political reordering that redefined the definition of citizenship and redefined relationships between government, industry, and the people who created the modern United States.”

“Carolyn Woods Eisenberg provides a sweeping, panoramic, and ultimately damning portrait of Nixon and Kissinger as architects of the wars in Southeast Asia. Fire and Rain is at once a biography of these two men, working desperately to extract the United States from the war in Vietnam, and simultaneously a compelling history that explores the human cost of this conflict for the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. … Eisenberg offers an unflinching examination of the moral consequences of the policies pursued by Nixon and Kissinger, arguing for a reconsideration of their actions as a part of the corruption and lawlessness that led Congress to seek the impeachment of the President.”

The Trustees of Columbia University award the Bancroft Prizes annually. The winners are judged in terms of scope, significance, depth of research, and richness of interpretation that they present in the areas of American history and diplomacy. In all, 228 books were submitted for consideration for the 2024 prize.

Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Arkansas, is a specialist in the social and environmental history of the American West and in American Indian history. He is the author of eight books, among them The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story and The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado and four of which have won national awards. In 2009, he was one of three finalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching “in the English-speaking world,” and in 2017-18, he was the Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with his wife, the Rev. Suzanne Stoner, and their granddaughter, London West.

Carolyn Woods Eisenberg is a Professor of U.S. History and American Foreign Relations at Hofstra University. She is the author of Drawing the Line: the American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-49, winner of the Stuart Bernath Book Prize of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations and the Herbert Hoover Book Prize and a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Book Prize. She has written op-eds and done media appearances for numerous outlets, including the New York Times, National Public Radio, Fox, and C-SPAN. She has been a consultant to several members of Congress and is Legislative Coordinator for Historians for Peace and Democracy.