The American Historical Association George L. Mosse Prize was established in 2000 with funds donated by former students, colleagues, and friends of Professor George L. Mosse, an eminent scholar of European history. The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding major work of European intellectual and/or cultural history dealing with a period after the Renaissance. Chosen works display extraordinary scholarly distinction, creativity, and originality.
I am deeply honored to have received the 2023 George L. Mosse award from the American Historical Association for a book that traces the cultural history and significance of putting embodied techniques and knowledge into words and print. Like other students of German history in my generation, I was introduced to George Mosse's essential works by my graduate advisors. As a student in the History of Science department at Johns Hopkins University, generously taken on by Mack Walker as co-advisor, I will never forget those discussions during which we read Mosse's Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich. Under the tutelage of my advisors, this book, like all of Mosse's works, taught me to think in terms of big narratives, developed and written over a lifetime.Pamela H. Smith, 2023
2023: Pamela H. Smith, From Lived Experience to the Written Word
Pamela H. Smith, Professor at Columbia University
In From Lived Experience to the Written Word, Smith considers how and why, beginning around 1400 CE, European craftspeople began to write down their making practices. Rather than simply passing along knowledge in the workshop, these literate artisans chose to publish handbooks, treatises, and recipe books, which were bought and read by a surprisingly diverse audience. The practical and experiential knowledge contained in these texts helped to lay the groundwork for how we think about scientific knowledge today.
Focusing on metalworking from 1400–1800 CE, Smith looks at the nature of craft knowledge and skill, studying present-day and historical practices, objects, recipes, and artisanal manuals. From these sources, she considers how we can reconstruct centuries of largely lost knowledge. In doing so, she aims not only to unearth the techniques, material processes, and embodied experience of the past but also to gain insight into the lifeworld of artisans and their understandings of matter.
2022: Kira Thurman, Singing Like Germans
Kira Thurman, Professor at the University of Michigan
Singing like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms investigates the history of Black classical musicians in German-speaking Europe across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A study of musical interactions and transnational collaborations between Black performers and white Germans and Austrian listeners, the book explores the tension between the supposedly transcendental powers of classical music and the global conversations that developed about who could perform it.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, audiences assumed the categories of Blackness and Germanness were mutually exclusive. Yet on attending a performance of German music by a Black musician, many listeners were surprised to discover that German identity was not a biological marker but something that could be learned, performed, and mastered. While Germans and Austrians located their national identity in music, championing composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms as national heroes, the performance of their works by Black musicians complicated the public's understanding of who had the right to play them.
"I am so deeply honored to be the recipient of The George L. Mosse Prize in 2022. Like many historians, I became enamored with Mosse's writings as a young student seeking answers to some of our most fundamental questions about the conjoined nature and function of racism and culture in European history. Reading Mosse for the first time felt like a relief. I'd found a guide who could shepherd me through histories of fascism, nationalism, and modernity, and whose thinking could push me to improve my own. Mosse was and remains the model of a scholar and a teacher whose work not only interrogates the past but also transforms our present."
2021: Magda Teter, Blood Libel
Magda Teter, Professor at Fordham University
Accusations that Jews ritually killed Christian children emerged in the mid-twelfth century, following the death of twelve-year-old William of Norwich, England, in 1144. Later, continental Europeans added a destructive twist: Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood. While charges that Jews poisoned wells and desecrated the communion host waned over the years, the blood libel survived.
The pattern established in early modern Europe still plays out today. In 2014 the Anti-Defamation League appealed to Facebook to take down a page titled "Jewish Ritual Murder." The following year white supremacists gathered in England to honor Little Hugh of Lincoln as a sacrificial victim of the Jews. Based on sources in eight countries and ten languages, Blood Libel captures the long shadow of a pernicious myth.
"I am deeply honored to be the 2021 recipient of the The George L. Mosse Prize. The prize is particularly meaningful to me because it is named after a remarkable and inspiring scholar, impactful teacher, a refugee, and immigrant. His scholarship spanned from the sixteenth century to the twentieth and was marked by erudition, breadth, and depth. He was both a scholar who confronted history and an individual who was also a part of history. His work continues to resonate in our times."
2020: Joan Neuberger, This Thing of Darkness
Joan Neuberger, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Sergei Eisenstein's unfinished masterpiece, Ivan the Terrible, was no ordinary movie. Commissioned by Joseph Stalin in 1941 to justify state terror in the sixteenth century and in the twentieth, the film's politics, style, and epic scope aroused controversy even before it was released. In This Thing of Darkness, Joan Neuberger offers a sweeping account of the conception, making, and reception of Ivan the Terrible that weaves together Eisenstein's expansive thinking and experimental practice with a groundbreaking new view of artistic production under Stalin.
"I am thrilled and honored to win such a prestigious book prize from the American Historical Association. That this prize is named after George L. Mosse and funded by his students and colleagues makes it significantly more meaningful for me. As a brilliant intellectual historian of fascism and sexuality, and as an openly gay scholar, Mosse has been an inspiration throughout my career."
2019: Guy Beiner, Forgetful Remembrance
Guy Beiner, Professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel.
Forgetful Remembrance examines the paradoxes of what actually happens when communities persistently endeavour to forget inconvenient events. The question of how a society attempts to obscure problematic historical episodes is addressed through a detailed case study grounded in the north-eastern counties of the Irish province of Ulster, where loyalist and unionist Protestants – and in particular Presbyterians – repeatedly tried to repress over two centuries discomfiting recollections of participation, alongside Catholics, in a republican rebellion in 1798.
2018: Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government
Yuri Slezkine, Jane K. Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley.
The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Grossman’s Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine’s gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin’s purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism and ends with their children’s loss of faith and the fall of the Soviet Union.
2017: James Kloppenberg, Toward Democracy
James T. Kloppenberg, Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University.
In Toward Democracy, Kloppenberg presents the history of democracy from the perspective of those who struggled to envision and achieve it. The story of democracy remains one without an ending, a dynamic of progress and regress that continues to our own day. In the classical age "democracy" was seen as the failure rather than the ideal of good governance. Democracies were deemed chaotic and bloody, indicative of rule by the rabble rather than by enlightened minds. Beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, first in Europe and then in England's North American colonies, the reputation of democracy began to rise, resulting in changes that were sometimes revolutionary and dramatic, sometimes gradual and incremental.
2016: Thomas Laqueur, The Work of the Dead
Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.
In The Work of the Dead, cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected the ancient philosopher Diogenes’s argument that dead bodies should not be memorialized. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters—for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.
2015: Ekaterina Pravilova, A Public Empire
Ekaterina Pravilova is a historian of Imperial Russia in the History Department at Princeton University.
A Public Empire analyzes the emergence of Russian property regimes from the time of Catherine the Great through World War I and the revolutions of 1917. Most importantly, A Public Empire shows the emergence of the new practices of owning “public things” in imperial Russia and the attempts of Russian intellectuals to reconcile the security of property with the ideals of the common good.
2014: Derek Sayer, Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century
Derek Sayer is professor emeritus at the University of Alberta.
In Prague, historian Derek Sayer argues that Prague could well be seen as the capital of the much darker twentieth century. Ranging across twentieth-century Prague’s astonishingly vibrant and always surprising human landscape, this richly illustrated cultural history describes how the city has experienced (and suffered) more ways of being modern than perhaps any other metropolis.
2013: Miranda Spieler, Empire and Underworld
Miranda Spieler is Associate Professor of History at the American University of Paris.
Empire and Underworld chronicles the encounter between colonial officials, planters, and others, ranging from deported political enemies to convicts, ex-convicts, vagabonds, freed slaves, non-European immigrants, and Maroons (descendants of fugitive slaves in the forest). Historian Mirande Spieler finds that at a time when France was advocating the revolutionary principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, Guiana’s exiles were stripped of their legal identities and unmade by law, becoming nonpersons living in limbo.
2012: Sophus A. Reinert, Translating Empire
Sophus A. Reinert, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
Historians have traditionally used the discourses of free trade and laissez-faire to explain the development of political economy during the Enlightenment. But from Sophus A. Reinert’s perspective, eighteenth-century political economy can be understood only in the context of the often brutal imperial rivalries then unfolding in Europe and its former colonies and the positive consequences of active economic policy. The idea of economic emulation was the prism through which philosophers, ministers, reformers, and even merchants thought about economics, as well as industrial policy and reform, in the early modern period. With the rise of the British Empire, European powers and others sought to selectively emulate the British model.
2011: James Johnson, Venice Incognito
James H. Johnson is Professor of History at Boston University.
"The entire town is disguised," declared a French tourist of eighteenth-century Venice. And, indeed, maskers of all ranks—nobles, clergy, imposters, seducers, con men—could be found mixing at every level of Venetian society. Even a pious nun donned a mask and male attire for her liaison with the libertine Casanova. In Venice Incognito, James H. Johnson offers a spirited analysis of masking in this carnival-loving city. He draws on a wealth of material to explore the world view of maskers, both during and outside of carnival, and reconstructs their logic: covering the face in public was a uniquely Venetian response to one of the most rigid class hierarchies in European history. This vivid account goes beyond common views that masking was about forgetting the past and minding the muse of pleasure to offer fresh insight into the historical construction of identity.
2010: Suzanne Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire
Suzanne L. Marchand is Boyd Professor of European Intellectual History at Louisiana State University.
Nineteenth-century studies of the Orient changed European ideas and cultural institutions in more ways than we usually recognize. 'Orientalism' certainly contributed to European empire-building, but it also helped to destroy a narrow Christian-classical canon. German Orientalism provides the first synthetic and contextualized study of German Orientalistik, a subject of special interest because German scholars were the pacesetters in oriental studies between about 1830 and 1930, despite entering the colonial race late and exiting it early. The book suggests that we must take seriously German orientalism's origins in Renaissance philology and early modern biblical exegesis and appreciate its modern development in the context of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century debates about religion and the Bible, classical schooling, and Germanic origins. In ranging across the subdisciplines of Orientalistik, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire introduces readers to a host of iconoclastic characters and forgotten debates, seeking to demonstrate both the richness of this intriguing field and its indebtedness to the cultural world in which it evolved.
2009: Stuart Schwartz, All Can Be Saved
Stuart B. Schwartz is the George Burton Adams Professor of History at Yale University.
It would seem unlikely that one could discover tolerant religious attitudes in Spain, Portugal, and the New World colonies during the era of the Inquisition, when enforcement of Catholic orthodoxy was widespread and brutal. But in All Can Be Saved, historian Stuart Schwartz investigates the idea of religious tolerance and its evolution in the Hispanic world from 1500 to 1820. Focusing on the attitudes and beliefs of common people rather than those of intellectual elites, the author finds that no small segment of the population believed in freedom of conscience and rejected the exclusive validity of the Church.
2008: Atina Grossmann, Jews, Germans, and Allies
Atina Grossmann is Professor of History at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, more than a quarter million Jewish survivors of the Holocaust lived among their defeated persecutors in the chaotic society of Allied-occupied Germany. Jews, Germans, and Allies draws upon the wealth of diary and memoir literature by the people who lived through postwar reconstruction to trace the conflicting ways Jews and Germans defined their own victimization and survival, comprehended the trauma of war and genocide, and struggled to rebuild their lives.
2007: David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature
David Blackbourn is Cornelius Vanderbilt Distinguished Chair of History at Vanderbilt University.
The Conquest of Nature traces the rise of Germany through the development of water and landscape. David Blackbourn begins his morality tale in the mid-1700s, with the epic story of Frederick the Great, who attempted―by importing the great scientific minds of the West and by harnessing the power of his army―to transform the uninhabitable marshlands of his scattered kingdom into a modern state. Chronicling the great engineering projects that reshaped the mighty Rhine, the emergence of an ambitious German navy, and the development of hydroelectric power to fuel Germany's convulsive industrial growth before World War I, Blackbourn goes on to show how Nazi racial policies rested on German ideas of mastery of the natural world. Filled with striking reproductions of paintings, maps, and photographs, this grand work of modern history links culture, politics, and the environment in an exploration of the perils faced by nations that attempt to conquer nature.
2006: Sandra Herbert, Charles Darwin, Geologist
Sandra Herbert is Professor of History at University of Maryland.
The early nineteenth century was a golden age for the study of geology. New discoveries in the field were greeted with the same enthusiasm reserved today for advances in the biomedical sciences. In her long-awaited account of Charles Darwin's intellectual development, Sandra Herbert focuses on his geological training, research, and thought, asking both how geology influenced Darwin and how Darwin influenced the science. Elegantly written, extensively illustrated, and informed by the author's prodigious research in Darwin's papers and in the nineteenth-century history of earth sciences, Charles Darwin, Geologist provides a fresh perspective on the life and accomplishments of this exemplary thinker.
2005: Jonathan Sheehan, The Enlightenment Bible
Jonathan Sheehan is Director of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.
The Enlightenment Bible offers a new history of the Bible in the century of its greatest crisis and, in turn, a new vision of this century and its effects on religion. Although the Enlightenment has long symbolized the corrosive effects of modernity on religion, Sheehan shows how the Bible survived, and even thrived in this cradle of ostensible secularization. Indeed, in eighteenth-century Protestant Europe, biblical scholarship and translation became more vigorous and culturally significant than at any time since the Reformation. From across the theological spectrum, European scholars — especially German and English — exerted tremendous energies to rejuvenate the Bible, reinterpret its meaning, and reinvest it with new authority.
2004: Siep Stuurman, Francois Poulain de la Barre
Siep Stuurman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Ideas at Utrecht University.
In a tour de force of intellectual history, Siep Stuurman rediscovers the remarkable early Enlightenment figure François Poulain de la Barre. A dropout from theology studies at the Sorbonne, Poulain embraced the philosophy of Descartes, became convinced of the injustice and absurdity of the subjection of women, and assembled an entirely original social philosophy. His writings challenging male supremacy and advocating gender and racial equality are the most radically egalitarian texts to appear in Europe before the French Revolution.
2003: Sarah Maza, The Myth of the French Bourgeoises
Sarah Maza is Jane Long Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Northwestern University.
The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie focuses on the crucial period before, during, and after the French Revolution, and offers a provocative answer: the French bourgeoisie has never existed. Despite the large numbers of respectable middling town-dwellers, no group identified themselves as bourgeois. Drawing on political and economic theory and history, personal and polemical writings, and works of fiction, Maza argues that the bourgeoisie was never the social norm. In fact, it functioned as a critical counter-norm, an imagined and threatening embodiment of materialism, self-interest, commercialism, and mass culture, which defined all that the French rejected.
2002: Anthony LaVopa, Fichte
Anthony J. La Vopa is Professor emeritus of History at North Carolina State University.
Fichte: The Self and the Calling of Philosophy, 1762–1799 is a biography of the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte from birth to his resignation from his university position at Jena in 1799 due to the Atheism Conflict. This work explains how Fichte contributed to modern conceptions of selfhood; how he sought to make the moral agency of the self efficacious in a modern public culture; and the critical role he assigned philosophy in the construal and assertion of selfhood and in the creation of a new public sphere. Using the writings and private papers now available in the Gesamtausgabe, the study historicises these themes by tracing their development within several contexts, including the German Lutheran tradition, the eighteenth-century culture of sensibility, the Kantian philosophical revolution, the politics of the revolutionary era, and the emergence of modern German universities. It includes a reinterpretation of Fichte's political theory and philosophy of law, his antisemitism, and his controversial views on gender and marriage.
2001: Lionel Gossman, Basel in the Age of Burckhardt
Lionel Gossman is M. Taylor Pine Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Emeritus at Princeton University.
Basel in the Age of Burckhardt tells the story of the independent city-republic of Basel in the nineteenth century, and of four major thinkers who shaped its intellectual history: the historian Jacob Burckhardt, the philologist and anthropologist Johann Jacob Bachofen, the theologian Franz Overbeck, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
2000: Richard Wortman, Scenarios of Power
Richard S. Wortman is Bryce Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Columbia University.
Scenarios of Power is a concise version of Richard Wortman’s award-winning study of Russian monarchy from the seventeenth century until 1917. The author breaks new ground by showing how imperial ceremony and imagery were not simply displays of the majesty of the sovereign and his entourage, but also instruments central to the exercise of absolute power in a multinational empire. In developing this interpretation, Wortman presents vivid descriptions of coronations, funerals, parades, trips through the realm, and historical celebrations and reveals how these ceremonies were constructed or reconstructed to fit the political and cultural narratives in the lives and reigns of successive tsars. He describes the upbringing of the heirs as well as their roles in these narratives and relates their experiences to the persistence of absolute monarchy in Russia long after its demise in Europe.