Stanford historian Richard White earns a Pulitzer finalist spot

American history professor RICHARD WHITE‘s publication, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, has earned him a finalist spot in the 2012 Pulitzer Prize history category.

The selection committee is comprised of esteemed historians and White said although he didn’t win a Pulitzer, it was a “great honor” to be recognized by his peers.

Twelve years ago, White began to investigate how the creation of the railroad system affected the development of the American West. Along the way, he uncovered tales of political intrigue, bribery and outright scandal that resonated with readers when his book was published in 2011.

“The financial crisis and scandals of the last few years were terrible for the country, but good for the book,” said White, who also is faculty co-director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

White’s findings go beyond the traditional accounts of the railroads as the first modern corporations. His research reveals “how closely intertwined the railroads were with the political system” and demonstrates how they were “as much creatures of commerce as creatures of politics.”

White is no stranger to the Pulitzer process. In 1992, his book, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, was a Pulitzer Prize nominated finalist. He has also been on the selection committee.

White is currently working on a history of the American “gilded age” from 1865 to 1896, which will be published as part of the Oxford History of the United States series.


Other Stanford affiliates in this year’s Pulitzer mix are MARY SCHMICH, columnist for the Chicago Tribune and an alum of the Stanford journalism program, who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and former Stegner Fellow TRACY K. SMITH, who won the prize in poetry for her collection Life on Mars.



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