by Sara Michael
Newsrooms across the nation buzz when the Pulitzer Prize winners are announced. Named for newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer, the awards are given by Columbia University with money originally allocated from Pulitzer’s will in 1917 for "four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one in education, and four traveling scholarships."
Local Colorado College professor Anne F. Hyde was one of four finalists for the $10,000 award “for a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States,” nominated for her book Empires, Nations & Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (University of Nebraska Press).
The 600-page volume was published in July 2011, and Hyde says the Pulitzer nomination “was a HUGE surprise and something I never expected.”
“I'm really happy that more people will read the book as a result of the publicity.”
Hyde has lived in Manitou Springs for 15 years and also serves on the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, but her day job as professor of history consumes most of her time, she says.
Empires, Nations & Families was seven years in the making, researching and writing when Hyde could find the time. “I did it in bits and pieces,” she explains. “Summers, vacations, weekends.”
She sometimes “workshopped” segments of her work in classes for writing practice, but says she avoids using self-authored books as texts for her courses.
Currently, she says she’s working on “tracking the families I learned so much about into the late 19th century to figure out what happens to mixed-race folks in the late 19th century.”
Below is the book description from Amazon.com:
To most people living in the West, the Louisiana Purchase made little difference: the United States was just another imperial overlord to be assessed and manipulated. This was not, as Empires, Nations, and Families makes clear, virgin wilderness discovered by virtuous Anglo entrepreneurs. Rather, the United States was a newcomer in a place already complicated by vying empires. This book documents the broad family associations that crossed national and ethnic lines and that, along with the river systems of the trans-Mississippi West, formed the basis for a global trade in furs that had operated for hundreds of years before the land became part of the United States.
Empires, Nations, and Families shows how the world of river and maritime trade effectively shifted political power away from military and diplomatic circles into the hands of local people. Tracing family stories from the Canadian North to the Spanish and Mexican borderlands and from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Anne F. Hyde’s narrative moves from the earliest years of the Indian trade to the Mexican War and the gold rush era. Her work reveals how, in the 1850s, immigrants to these newest regions of the United States violently wrested control from Native and other powers, and how conquest and competing demands for land and resources brought about a volatile frontier culture—not at all the peace and prosperity that the new power had promised.
The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by the late Manning Marable (Viking).
Also finalists for the award were The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan (Ballantine Books), and Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White (W.W. Norton & Company).