Katznelson’s New Deal History Wins Bancroft Prize

Fear Itself book jacket

Ira Katznelson’s examination of the racial politics surrounding the passage of much of the Depression era New Deal, has received a Bancroft Prize—one of the nation’s top honors for a history book—for 2014.

His winning book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, traces the United States from a Progressive Era nation, still united by many widely shared ideals of the common good, to a balkanized, procedurally competitive democratic state in which seemingly neutral rules of political engagement masked the competitive edge enjoyed by certain groups. The New York Times review of the book hailed “Katznelson’s robust prose and the imposing scholarship.”

Katznelson, currently president of the Social Science Research Council and a former president of the American Political Science Association (2005-06), is Columbia University’s Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History. A Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, he’s also a vice chair of the Academic Advisory Board of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and has served as president of the Social Science History Association.

Besides Fear Itself, published last year by Norton’s Liveright Publishing Corporation, Katznelson’s other works include Liberal Beginnings: A Republic for the Moderns (2008; co-authored with Andreas Kalyvas), When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (2005), and Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust (2003).

Columbia established the Bancroft Prize, which honors works on American history or diplomacy, in 1948 through a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, a preeminent historian, librarian, author, and Columbia University lecturer. 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. Some 190 books were nominated for this year’s prize.

Katznelson shares the 2014 Bancroft with A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek by University of California, Davis historian Ari Kelman. Kelman’s book examines the politics of historical memory and memorializing in Sand Creek, Colorado, the site of an 1864 massacre of Cheyennes and Arapahos. Each author will receive a $10,000 check and be honored at a dinner next month.

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