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Prof. Bryan Palmer Wins Major National Book Award

Eminent Award Honours History Book Profiling the Life of Early American Communist James P. Cannon

Trent University is pleased to announce that Dr. Bryan Palmer, Canada Research Chair and Chair of the Canadian Studies department, was awarded the prestigious Wallace K. Ferguson Prize from the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) for the best book published in a field of history other than Canadian history.

Professor Palmer’s book James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 won the honour despite stiff competition from numerous and broad ranging contenders. This biography explores the life of James Cannon, a pioneer American communist and later the founder and leader of the American Trotskyist movement.

Past winners of the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize include some of the most distinguished historians in Canada, among them Natalie Zemon Davis, Michael Bliss, Nicholas Rogers, Modris Ekstein, Michael Marrus, and John Beattie.

In the more than thirty years that the CHA has been awarding various prizes, Prof. Palmer is the only historian to have won both the Albert B. Corey Prize (1983), awarded to the best book published reflecting on the related histories of Canada and the United States, and the Ferguson Prize.

Prof. Palmer expressed both surprise and delight with the award. “It truly came as something of a shock to be contacted with the news that my book on James Cannon and the American revolutionary left had been chosen to receive the Ferguson Prize,” he said. “I had no idea that it had been nominated, and other books on the nomination list would have seemed more likely winners. I very much appreciate the Prize Committee’s thoughtful and laudatory citation, and am delighted that a book of this nature was chosen. It is wonderful to be recognized by one’s peers as having produced a meritorious work of scholarship, but it is equally important, I think, that a book addressing someone like Cannon, whose life was dedicated to challenging injustice and building a better world, is acknowledged.”

In its citation of merit, the CHA award committee noted that "under Palmer's pen, biography offers a scale of analysis that allows him to focus on rich contexts and large horizons where historical realities are finely connected, thanks in particular to an impressive array of sources, a judicial use of archival material, and an exemplary mastery of a historiography animated by interpretive shifts. It matters that the Canadian Historical Association rewards one of its outstanding scholars for such a strong and original work of history at a time when intelligent dialogue on the meaning of revolutionary experience has fallen prey to political opportunism and blind party allegiances."

Prof. Palmer is renowned as one of Canada’s leading figures, nationally and internationally, in the fields of labour and social history. His distinguished record of book and journal-article publications, many reappearing in translation around the world, compliment his editorship of Labour/Le Travail, recognized internationally as one of the leading journals in its field. A public intellectual who speaks regularly to trade union and advocacy groups, Prof. Palmer was also recently cited in a Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ relation to collective bargaining.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2008.

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