April 19, 2011
By Pillarisetti Sudhir
Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, and a former president of the AHA (for 2000), received the 2011 history Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which was published in 2010 by W.W. Norton.
The book, which has already been awarded the Bancroft and Lincoln prizes, has been called “the definitive account of this crucial subject” by David Brion Davis. The Library Journal has described it “as the most sensible and sensitive reading of Lincoln’s lifetime involvement with slavery and the most insightful assessment of Lincoln’s—and indeed America’s—imperative to move toward freedom.”
Foner is noted for his many books on 19th-century American history, including Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War; Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863–77; and The Story of American Freedom. As he explains in an interview with the Columbia University Record, Foner thinks that Lincoln is very relevant to our times, and he felt that it would be useful, therefore, to add to the Lincoln literature a new and fresh look that focused on Lincoln’s attitudes to and relationship with the issue of slavery.
Two other historians (both members of the AHA) who figured as finalists for the prize in this category are Stephanie McCurry (Univ. of Pennsylvania), for her book, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South, published by Harvard University Press; and Michael Rawson (Brooklyn Coll., CUNY) for his book, Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, also published by Harvard University Press.