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