Julia P.R. Mansfield awarded the 58th SAH annual Allan Nevins Prize

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 12:15pm

Society of American Historians Awards Julia P.R. Mansfield for Historical Writing of Exceptional Merit

Allan Nevins Prize goes to Julia P.R. Mansfield for her dissertation, “The Disease of Commerce: Yellow Fever in the Atlantic World, 1793-1805.”

May 14, 2018, NEW YORK, N.Y.—Two prizes honoring historical writing of exceptional literary merit are awarded by the Society of American Historians (SAH) at Columbia University today at its annual dinner at The Century Association in New York City. The Society, founded in 1939 by Allan Nevins, an American journalist and historian, encourages and promotes literary distinction in the writing and presentation of American history. The Society’s members – by invitation only – consist of scholars, journalists, documentarians, filmmakers, essayists, novelists, biographers and poets.


The 58th annual Allan Nevins Prize is awarded to Julia P.R. Mansfield for her dissertation, “The Disease of Commerce: Yellow Fever in the Atlantic World, 1793-1805.”

Mansfield offers historians a new framework for understanding the yellow fever pandemic that swept the Atlantic world at the turn of the nineteenth century. Taking a global approach, she demonstrates how the disease travelled on ships, spread along international trade routes, was disseminated via the slave trade, and became a feature—and a weapon—of warfare. Yellow fever’s story, she argues, is an economic as well as an environmental one, encompassing the efforts of merchants and governmental officials to insure cargoes, manage risk, and pursue financial advantage while addressing devastating public health crises. In the United States, as the fledgling federal government struggled to keep trade routes open and collect customs revenues while the disease raged, officials’ decisions had an unforeseen consequence: enhancing the state’s legal and economic reach. Written with flair and elegance in a confident authorial voice, Mansfield’s dissertation provides a fresh lens through which to capture the yellow fever’s history and legacy.

Julia Mansfield earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University under the supervision of Professor Richard White, and now holds a Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History Department at Yale University.

The Allan Nevins Prize, named for the Society’s founder, is awarded annually for the best-written doctoral dissertation on an American subject. The winning dissertation will be published by one of the publisher members of the Society.

Finalists for the Nevins Prize were Olivier Burtin (Princeton University) for “A Nation of Veterans: The American Legion and the Politics of Veteran Citizenship,” and Max Fraser (Yale University), for “The Hillbilly Highway: A Social History of Transappalachia, 1918-1972.”