The Sixteenth Century Society announces the inauguration of the Natalie Zemon Davis Prize, recognizing the best book published in English in the preceding year in the field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the Early Modern Era (1450 – 1750). The prize honors Prof. Davis’s stature in the field, and her long involvement with the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, which stretches more than half a century. At the very first Sixteenth Century Society conference in 1969, Professor Davis was invited to give the plenary address on the “Social Aspects of the Reformation,” and was elected a member of SCSC’s first council. She has given several more plenary talks since—including one at the SCSC’s first venture outside the US in Guelph, Ontario—and been a member of many panels, workshops, and sessions.
Natalie Zemon Davis (b. 1928) is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Emerita at Princeton University. Before Princeton, Professor Davis taught at Brown University, the University of Toronto, and the University of California at Berkeley. Her early work, including Society and Culture in Early Modern France (1975), The Return of Martin Guerre (1983), and Fiction in the Archives (1987), focused primarily on France. She ranged wider geographically in Women on the Margins (1995), Trickster Travels (2006), and countless articles, and continues to do so in her forthcoming work. Whatever her topic, Professor Davis has developed innovative interdisciplinary methodology, introducing early modern historians to anthropological methods, ethnography, cultural theory, and other approaches. She makes use of a huge variety of sources, particularly to explore the lives of ordinary people. Those people include women, as from her earliest essays to her most recent work, Prof. Davis has examined the exterior and interior lives of women. She was also one of the first to argue that men should be studied as men, thus advocating analysis of gender before that word was first applied to historical studies. Professor Davis has received honorary degrees from nearly 20 institutions and has been awarded both the Holberg Prize and the National Humanities medal, for which President Barack Obama praised « her insights into the study of history and her exacting eloquence in bringing the past into focus.”
Professor Davis has also been a stellar teacher, adviser, and mentor. She designed and co-taught one of the first women’s history courses in North America, along with courses that connected history to other disciplines. Over the course of her career, Professor Davis directed scores of dissertations at Toronto, Berkeley, and Princeton. She was a second reader and outside reader on many, many more dissertations. Her students remember her as inspiring and rigorous, but also supportive. In addition, she mentored and provided advice and encouragement to generations of young scholars who were not her own students, always willing to engage in conversation and debate and to listen to ideas and proposals. All who know her cherish her wit and humor.
The Natalie Zemon Davis Prize will be awarded at the Sixteenth Century Society’s annual conference beginning in 2024. It recognizes the best book published in English in the preceding year in the field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the Early Modern Era (1450 – 1750).
Criteria for selection shall include:
quality and originality of research
methodological skill and/or innovation
development of fresh and stimulating interpretations or insights
If you wish to help support the Natalie Zemon Davis Prize, please donate here.
Nominations for the prize may be made by anyone. Either the publisher or the author shall arrange for copies of the book to be sent to the Executive Director of the Society no later than 1 April.