Annal: 1997 Pulitzer Prize for History

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 1997.

Book:Original Meanings

Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

Jack N. Rakove

What did the U.S. Constitution originally mean, and who has understood its meaning best? Do we look to the intentions of its framers at the Federal Convention of 1787, or to those of its ratifiers in the states? Or should we trust our own judgment in deciding whether the original meaning of the Constitution should still guide its later interpretation? These are the recurring questions in the ongoing process of analyzing and resolving constitutional issues, but they are also questions about the distant events of the eighteenth century. In this book, Jack Rakove approaches the debates surrounding the framing and ratification of the Constitution from the vantage point of history, examining the range of concerns that shaped the politics of constitution-making in the late 1780s, and which illuminate the debate about the role that “originalism” should play in constitutional interpretation. In answering these questions, Rakove reexamines the classic issues that the framers of the Constitution had to solve: federalism,…[more]

Book:The Battle for Christmas

The Battle for Christmas

Stephen Nissenbaum

Anyone who laments the excesses of Christmas might consider the Puritans of colonial Massachusetts: they simply outlawed the holiday. The Puritans had their reasons, since Christmas was once an occasion for drunkenness and riot, when poor “wassailers” extorted food and drink from the well-to-do. In this intriguing and innovative work of social history, Stephen Nissenbaum rediscovers Christmas’s carnival origins and shows how it was transformed, during the nineteenth century, into a festival of domesticity and consumerism. Drawing on a wealth of period documents and illustrations, Nissenbaum charts the invention of our current yuletide traditions, from St. Nicholas to the Christmas tree and, perhaps most radically, the practice of giving gifts to children.

Book:Founding Mothers & Fathers

Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society

Mary Beth Norton

In this pioneering study of the ways in which the first settlers defined the power, prerogatives, and responsibilities of the sexes, one of our most incisive historians opens a window onto the world of Colonial America. Drawing on a wealth of contemporary documents, Mary Beth Norton tells the story of the Pinion clan, whose two-generation record of theft, adultery, and infanticide may have made them our first dysfunctional family. She reopens the case of Mistress Ann Hibbens, whose church excommunicated her for arguing that God had told husbands to listen to their wives. And here is the enigma of Thomas, or Thomasine Hall, who lived comfortably as both a man and a woman in 17th century Virginia. Wonderfully erudite and vastly readable, Founding Mothers & Fathers reveals both the philosophical assumptions and intimate domestic arrangements of our colonial ancestors in all their rigor, strangeness, and unruly passion.

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