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Nanovic Institute Announces the 2017 Laura Shannon Prize

Nations Under God 400x600
Princeton University Press (2015)

February 8, 2017: The Nanovic Institute for European Studies has awarded the 2017 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies to Anna Grzymała-Busse for her book, Nations Under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority to Influence Policy, published by Princeton University Press.  Sir Christopher Clark, Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, described the $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize as “a major landmark in the world of humanities research and publishing” in the Anglophone world.  The Nanovic Institute awards the prize annually to the author of the best book in European studies that transcends a focus on any one country, state, or people to stimulate new ways of thinking about contemporary Europe as a whole, recognizing alternately books in the humanities and in history and the social sciences. 

This cycle considered books in history and the social sciences published in 2014 and 2015.  A. James McAdams, director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, praised Grzymała-Busse’s scholarship, noting “This is a remarkable book. It will fundamentally change the way scholars assess the power of churches in European democracies.” 

The Laura Shannon Prize is also notable for attracting stellar jurors annually, a majority of whom are external to Notre Dame.  Sir Clark noted that the Nanovic Institute “recruits its Laura Shannon Prize jurors from among the leading authorities in this field worldwide—the list of current and former jurors is extraordinarily impressive.”  The members of the final jury for this year were as follows:

George W. Breslauer
Faculty Director of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Emeritus
University of California, Berkeley

E. Mark Cummings
Professor and Notre Dame Chair in Psychology
University of Notre Dame

Geoff Eley
Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History
University of Michigan

Patrick Griffin
Madden-Hennebry Professor of History
University of Notre Dame

Adele Lindenmeyr
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History
Villanova University

The jury commended Grzymała-Busse’s book, stating:

Nations under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority to Influence Policy is an outstanding accomplishment of historically grounded and carefully contextualized comparative political science. Its richness of range and detailed empirical command are no less impressive than its conceptual and methodological sophistication. Together they make an exceedingly rare combination, appealing to historians and political scientists alike, while leaving scholars across the disciplines in its debt. Shining a carefully focused light on a remarkably neglected subject—the complex, variable relationship of religion to politics—Grzymała-Busse captures a patently important question of contemporary social and political life, develops a sophisticated research strategy for its investigation, and delivers outcomes that are as fascinating and suggestive substantively as they are compelling methodologically. The case studies are ambitiously chosen and brilliantly carried off. The study should be enormously influential whether as methodological model or source of arguments and ideas.

Grzymała-Busse is Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor of International Studies and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.  Grzymała-Busse will accept the award and present a lecture in the fall semester of 2017 at the University of Notre Dame.  During the visit, she will engage in discussions with undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty members in a variety of departments.  These visits are an essential part of the award, serving to introduce significant intellectuals to the campus community of scholars.  As Sir Clark has noted, “All book prizes are important, but the Laura Shannon Prize stands out in several ways. . . In particular, the link to the Nanovic Institute connects it with one of the foremost centres for European Studies research in the Anglophone world.”

The Guardians By Susan Pedersen
Oxford University Press (2015)

The jury also awarded an honorable mention to Susan Pedersen for her book The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, published by Oxford University Press.  Pedersen is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History at Columbia University. The jury stated:

In this beautifully crafted book, Susan Pedersen presents the reader with an intriguing story of an internationalist path-not-taken. Though far from romanticizing the League of Nations, Pedersen has written a sympathetic history of a time of lost opportunities that spans the globe. In essence, the mandates system, which the book explores in fascinating detail, represented a moment of imperial planning and aspirations of high order, an attempt by the League of Nations to realize the reforming potential of empires on a global scale.  Of course, the “guardians” failed.  This is imperial history and global history of a high order.  Most interestingly, Pedersen tells what would seem at first glance a tale of inevitability as one hinging on contingency.  An internationalist vision among the mandates system did not emerge by design; rather, as she suggests, vying interests and imperial interests under the internationalist umbrella of the system made for willy-nilly internationalization, even if extraordinary pressures pushed against its success.  The Guardians is a compelling read, an expansive and rigorously done piece of work.

Now in its eighth year, the Laura Shannon Prize has rapidly gained recognition and significance.  Shortly after winning the Shannon Prize, Tara Zahra, went on to receive the “genius award” from the MacArthur Foundation.  At the time of her Shannon Prize award, she noted that “I was not only thrilled and incredibly honored to receive this Prize from a jury of my colleagues, but the prize has made it possible for me to begin new research on the history of European migration. In a moment when there is less and less support and recognition for research in the humanities and social sciences, and in which scholars of Europe are increasingly attempting to transcend the frontiers of nation-states in their work, this is one of the most meaningful awards possible.”

The Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies is made possible through a generous endowment from Michael (’58) and Laura Shannon of Houston, Texas.  Laura serves on the Nanovic Institute’s Advisory Board and Michael serves on Notre Dame’s Advisory Council for Graduate Studies and Research. 

The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame is committed to enriching the intellectual culture of Notre Dame by creating an integrated, interdisciplinary home for students and faculty to explore the evolving ideas, cultures, beliefs, and institutions that shape Europe today. 

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Contact: Monica Caro, 574-631-3547, mcaro@nd.edu