Award Season

Posted on Thu., April 14, 2011 by Matt Stevens
Cover of The Father of All by Louise Pubols

Pulitzer Prizes will be announced on Monday, April 18, including the categories of history, biography, and general nonfiction. While Huntington scholars have garnered this top honor on several occasions, including Daniel Walker Howe in 2008 for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, they also have won a number of other prestigious awards. Last month, for instance, Louise Pubols won the Ray Allen Billington Prize for her book The Father of All: The de la Guerra Family, Power, and Patriarchy in Mexican California, an account of a prominent Santa Barbara family's resilience in the face of profound economic and political changes, including the U.S.-Mexican War.

The Billington Prize is given biennially by the Organization of American Historians (OAH) to the best book in American frontier history. The prize committee noted that Pubols' book "stood out for its innovation, clarity, and significance to the field of frontier history, as well as to early American history, Latin American history, and women's and gender history."

The award is not only a great accomplishment for Pubols, the chief curator of history at the Oakland Museum of California, but it is also a notable achievement of the Huntington Library Press, which co-published the book with the University of California Press. The Father of All is the first title in Western Histories, a new series of monographs and essay volumes developed through the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West; the institute's director, William Deverell, serves as the series editor.

The Huntington connections extend to the namesake of the award, Ray Allen Billington a noted scholar of frontier history. Coincidentally, he served as senior research associate at The Huntington from 1963 until his death in 1981. The current director of research, Robert C. Ritchie, just announced his own set of awards—fellowships for long- and short-term research for the 2011-12 academic year at The Huntington. Awards are granted for periods of one month up to one year, including 20 fellowships for scholars who will spend the full year in residence.

Louise Pubols
Louise Pubols (photo by Abigail Huller). Copyright Huntington Library Press and University of California Press.

The correlation between research awards and book prizes is striking, especially when skimming the list of past Billington Prize winners. They read like a who's who of current and former research fellows at The Huntington. For example, Daniel Richter, Malcolm Rohrbaugh, and Martha Sandweiss (Billington Prize winners, respectively, in 1993, 1999, and 2003) are currently on-site this year as research fellows and have conducted research at the Library frequently over the years. The list of former winners also includes Elliott West and Albert Hurtado, most recently the NEH Fellow of 2009-10 and the Los Angeles Times Distinguished Fellow in 2007-08, but also recipients of several short- and long-term awards dating back a decade or two.

Pubols herself conducted some of the research for her book while here on fellowships in 1997 and 2005. And also of note among the prizewinners this spring is Daniel Martinez HoSang, who received the James A. Rawley Prize from the OAH for the best book dealing with the history of race relations in the United States. HoSang's book, Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California (University of California Press), stemmed from the dissertation he completed at USC in 2007 and adapted while on two fellowships at the Huntington in 2007 and 2008. He is now an assistant professor of ethnic studies and political science at the University of Oregon.

Matt Stevens is editor of Huntington Frontiers magazine.