The Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era is delighted to announce the Wayne Morgan Prize for the best book published in political history of United States in the period 1865-1920s.
Former JGAPE editor, Alan Lessoff has written this tribute to remember Morgan’s legacy:
During a half century of scholarship and academic work, H. Wayne Morgan (1934-2014) came to occupy a special place among historians of the Gilded Age. A prolific, wide-ranging writer, as well as a dedicated editor, a lively teacher, and a generous colleague—with lengthy careers at both the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma—“Wayne” Morgan did more than any single scholar to reshape the study of the Gilded Age from a set of loose preconceptions and dismissive images into a coherent, well-grounded area of research. The two editions of his essay collection, The Gilded Age (1963, 1970), brought together the variety of themes—economic, social, cultural, and political—that came to characterize professional historical writing on the era, in addition to giving a forum to then-upcoming scholars whose work would set agendas for a generation and more. Author and editor of over a half-dozen books on art and literature, Morgan demonstrated how decisive the Gilded Age had been for the institutional, professional, and thematic development of American art and culture, while underscoring how indispensable cultural history is to a full understanding of the era. An adept historian of public policy, Morgan in 1982 published Drugs in America: A Social History, 1800-1980, for decades the standard historical account of that contentious topic. His edited books include primary source collections on environmental issues as well as drug problems in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
For all his diverse accomplishments, Morgan in his time became most identified with his innovative work in political history. His 1963 biography, William McKinley and His America, and his 1969 overview, From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896, set new standards for examining in a professional way events and personalities that previous writers had frequently treated as melodrama. Morgan’s influence is apparent in the range of scholars over the next half century who have insisted that—whatever one thinks of the successes and failures of U.S. politics in the Gilded Age—it is essential to understand issues and situations as they appeared to political figures at the time. On top of his enduring works on mainstream party politics, Morgan published useful work on U.S. foreign relations, as well as on Socialist politics, including Eugene Debs: Socialist for President (1962), which began as his master’s essay. When in 1997, the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era inaugurated its Distinguished Historian award, Dr. Morgan was a natural choice for the honor. In offering the H. Wayne Morgan Prize for Political History, SHGAPE seeks to pay tribute to Morgan’s own spirit, his distinctive combination of broad-mindedness, originality, and professionalism.
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