Professor of History Anne F. Hyde has been awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for her book “Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860.”
One of the most celebrated awards in its field, the Bancroft Prize is awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University. 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. Hyde’s book, which Columbia University calls “a highly original history of the American West,” was among the 175 books considered for the 2012 prize.
The period covered in Hyde’s book, 1800-1860, spans the fur trade, Mexican War, gold rushes and the Overland Trail, usually very male-dominated fields of study. Hyde took a different approach, and, using letters and business records, documented the broad family associations that crossed national and ethnic boundaries. “These folks turned out to be almost entirely people of great wealth and status who loved and married across racial and cultural lines. It turns out that the West of that period is really a mixed race world that made perfect cultural and economic sense until national ideas made that cultural choice impossible in the 1850s,” Hyde said.