Vassar Today

A History of Distinction

For the second time, a book by James Merrell, Lucy Maynard Salmon Professor of History, has been given the highest honor for a work published in American history. The Bancroft Prize, awarded annually since 1948 by Columbia University, was awarded in April to Merrell's 1999 book Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (W.W. Norton).

Merrell's first book, The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (University of North Carolina Press, 1989), received the Bancroft Prize in 1990. In both works Merrell studies the interaction between Native Americans and Europeans in early colonial America. The Indians' New World focused on populations in the Carolinas; Into the American Woods is an account of Europeans and Indians who moved between cultures on the Pennsylvania frontier between 1680 and 1750 in ultimately futile efforts to maintain the peace. It is also a reflection on the meanings of wilderness to the colonists and natives of the New World.