Huntington Scholar Wins Pulitzer Prize in History
Daniel Walker Howe, Huntington scholar, Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University, and professor of history emeritus at UCLA, has won the Pulitzer Prize in history for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (Oxford University Press). The prize was announced on Monday, April 7, 2008.
Howe says he wrote a large part of the book at The Huntington. He was the R. Stanton Avery Fellow in 2002–03 and has served numerous short fellowships since 1976. “I’ve come to The Huntington frequently, whether on a fellowship or not, and I really treasure the privilege of being allowed to keep an office even when I’m not a fellow.” In November he gave a public lecture in Friends’ Hall shortly after the release of his book.
Howe chose his book title from the words tapped out by Samuel Morse in 1844 in the first telegraph message. The phrase helps weave three significant strands in the author’s accessible narrative history covering the period between the Battle of New Orleans and the Mexican War. Taken from the Old Testament’s Book of Numbers, the words anchor Howe’s discussion of how religion influenced American life in this era, particularly the causes of slavery, antislavery, education, women’s rights, and other reform movements. Morse’s choice of words also evokes the “manifest destiny” fulfilled by America’s drive for expansion and its eventual conquest of northern Mexico. But most significantly to Howe, Morse’s invention represented the culmination of the country’s innovations in transportation and communications. At the beginning of this period the United States was a developing nation; by the end it had become a transcontinental power.
Howe’s book is the sixth to appear in the prestigious Oxford University Press series on the history of the United States; it is also the third in the series to win the Pulitzer. It helps to bridge the eras covered in Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789 (1982) and James M. McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom: The Era of the Civil War (1988). Middlekauff, the former president of The Huntington, garnered the Bancroft Prize for his book; McPherson won the Pulitzer Prize.
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