Prize Includes $50,000 and Title of American Historian Laureate

New York, NY, March 15, 2021—Pam Schafler, chair of New-York Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, and Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical, announced today that Tracy Campbell will be honored with New-York Historical’s annual Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History for The Year of Peril: America in 1942 (Yale University  Press, 2020). The award recognizes the best book of the year in the field of American history or biography. Tracy Campbell will receive a $50,000 cash award, an engraved medal, and the title of American Historian Laureate.

 “Tracy Campbell has written a remarkable book, offering a refreshingly new perspective on America’s entry into the Second World War, focused on the battles being waged on the home front, rather than in the Pacific,” said Pam Schafler, chair of New-York Historical’s Board of Trustees.  “In the eyes of our judging committee, The Year of Peril is meticulously researched and eminently readable, bringing to the fore the myriad crises FDR faced as he tried to forge some sense of common purpose among the citizens of a nation still grappling with the aftermath of the Great Depression and the cries of isolationists who objected to America’s involvement in other countries’ conflicts. It is our pleasure to present the title of American Historian Laureate to Tracy Campbell.”

“I am deeply honored to receive the Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize from the New-York Historical Society, especially since its purpose is to reach wider audiences and to appreciate the relevance of history,” said Tracy Campbell. “We live in a moment that demonstrates how we need to move past comfortable and reassuring myths, and to confront our history with a critical eye.  A fundamental premise of the book is that we can best understand a society by seeing it under its greatest stress, when its very survival is at stake. That is when the true character of communities and institutions are exposed like no other time. I hope The Year of Peril demonstrates the central importance of a functioning government, of individuals working toward something larger than themselves, and the resilience and fragility of democracy.”

The Year of Peril: America in 1942 recounts a moment in time when America seemed to be on the brink of defeat and was beginning to splinter from within. Exploring this precarious period, Campbell paints a portrait of the deep social, economic, and political fault lines that pitted factions of citizens against each other in the post–Pearl Harbor era, even as the nation mobilized, government-aided industrial infrastructure blossomed, and parents sent their sons off to war. This look at how American society responded to great stress reveals the various ways, both good and bad, that the trauma of 1942 forced Americans to redefine their relationship with democracy that continues to affect the country today. The book was selected by a prize committee comprising historians and New-York Historical leadership from a field of 149 submissions.

Tracy Campbell is the E. Vernon Smith and Eloise C. Smith Professor of American History at the University of Kentucky. His previous books include The Gateway Arch: A Biography and Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition, 1742–2004.

Previous winners of the book prize in American History include Rick Atkinson for The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777; Benn Steil for The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War; John A. Farrell for Richard Nixon: The Life; Jane Kamensky for Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley; Eric Foner for Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad; Jill Lepore for The Secret History of Wonder Woman; Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; David Nasaw for Andrew Carnegie; Daniel Walker Howe for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848; Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War; Gordon S. Wood for Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815; Ron Chernow for George Washington: A Life; John Lewis Gaddis for George F. Kennan: An American Life; Robert Caro for Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power; and Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy for The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation containing more than ten million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings. It is also one of only 20 libraries qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024. Information: (212) 873-3400. Website: Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

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Monday, March 15, 2021
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