Media Releases

UofT historian wins prestigious international prize

March 16, 2010

TORONTO, ON – Natal­ie Zemon Davis, pro­fes­sor emeri­ta from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and now a Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to his­to­ry schol­ar whose books have reached a wide audi­ence, has won one of the world’s top aca­d­e­m­ic prizes.

The Hol­berg Prize — estab­lished by the Nor­we­gian par­lia­ment in 2003 and worth $700,500 US — is award­ed for out­stand­ing schol­ar­ly work in the arts and human­i­ties, social sci­ences, law or the­ol­o­gy.  Philoso­pher Ian Hack­ing, also of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, won the prize last year.

“This is sim­ply out­stand­ing news for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, and such a fit­ting trib­ute to the stature of our human­i­ties schol­ars in the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” says Peter Lewis, act­ing vice-pres­i­dent, Research, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

Pro­fes­sor Davis has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as a top schol­ar and a pop­u­lar lec­tur­er of the ear­ly mod­ern era. A pio­neer of ear­ly mod­ern his­to­ry, social and cul­tur­al his­to­ries and the study of women and gen­der, Davis has been praised for her archival work, her cre­ativ­i­ty, her com­pelling nar­ra­tion and her work in his­to­ry on film.   She is wide­ly read out­side of aca­d­e­m­ic cir­cles and has a long his­to­ry of polit­i­cal activism in civ­il rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and issues of free speech. Her pub­li­ca­tions include Soci­ety and Cul­ture in Ear­ly Mod­ern France (1975), The Return of Mar­tin Guerre (1983), Fic­tion in the Archives: Par­don Tales and their Tellers in Six­teenth-Cen­tu­ry France (1987), Women on the Mar­gins: Three Six­teenth-Cen­tu­ry Lives (1995), The Gift in Six­teenth-Cen­tu­ry France (2000), Slaves on Screen: Film and His­tor­i­cal Vision (2000), and Trick­ster Trav­els: A Six­teenth-Cen­tu­ry Mus­lim Between Worlds (2006).   A Pas­sion for His­to­ry, a book of con­ver­sa­tions about her life as a his­to­ri­an, is to appear in May 2010. A pop­u­lar essay writer, she has pub­lished over 70 arti­cles.

Davis is adjunct pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry and pro­fes­sor of Medieval stud­ies at U of T, and the Hen­ry Charles Lea Pro­fes­sor of His­to­ry Emeri­ta at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty.  Born and raised in Detroit, Michi­gan, she grad­u­at­ed from Smith Col­lege and then received her master’s degree at Rad­cliffe Col­lege in 1950. She received her doc­tor­ate from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan in 1959 and has since been award­ed many hon­orary degrees. Her teach­ing career has tak­en her to Brown Uni­ver­si­ty, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, and Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. Pro­fes­sor Davis was also pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion in 1987, the sec­ond woman to hold the posi­tion.

The Hol­berg Prize will be award­ed at a cer­e­mo­ny on June 9 in Bergen.


For more infor­ma­tion:

April Kemick
Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to

Kim LukeCom­mu­ni­ca­tions
Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to