Stanford professor wins American Historical Association lifetime achievement award

2014 ASD Baker
Keith Baker (Photo courtesy Kent Safford/Stanford Humanities Center)

Stanford history Professor KEITH BAKER has won an Award for Scholarly Distinction from the American Historical Association. Each year the AHA honors senior historians in the United States for lifetime achievement in the discipline. Baker is one of three to win the award for 2014.

“This came as a complete surprise,” Baker said. “I was a bit taken aback at the thought that it was a ‘lifetime’ award – I’m not ready to close up shop yet! But I’m delighted to be honored in this way.”

An expert on 18th-century France, Baker’s scholarship on the cultural and political origins of the French Revolution has offered a new understanding of that event and its significance in the creation of modern politics. The J. E. Wallace Sterling Professor in the Humanities, Baker also wrote a definitive study of the Marquis de Condorcet, one of the great figures of the French Enlightenment and Revolution.

“Keith Baker has been one of the most influential voices in helping us to understand exactly how the nature and terms of politics and the very shape and purpose of knowledge changed in the era of the French Revolution,” said PAULA FINDLEN, chair of the History Department. “This award is a wonderful and fitting tribute to the impact that he has had on multiple generations of scholars, colleagues and students.”

Baker, who has taught at Stanford since 1988, directed the Stanford Humanities Center from 1995 to 2000. During his tenure, he introduced the Geballe Research Workshops, an integral part of the programming at the center that continues to flourish today.

“The workshops form the largest research program in the humanities at Stanford outside the departments,” said CAROLINE WINTERER, current director of the Humanities Center. “The workshops are a tribute to Keith’s vision of the importance of rigorous, creative interchange as part of the basic process of humanistic inquiry.”

Baker has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, has been named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society.

“The AHA has recognized internationally what Keith Baker’s colleagues and students experience locally at Stanford every day,” Winterer said. “His extraordinary capacity to crack open a scholar’s project in the most generous way, to help us to see its largest dimensions and highest stakes.”

The American Historical Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 with the mission of promoting historical studies.

Each year the AHA offers awards and prizes honoring exceptional books, distinguished teaching and mentoring in the classroom, public history, and other historical projects. For the 2014 prizes, 38 winners were selected out of more than 1,100 nominations from across the discipline.

Prizes will be presented during a ceremony at the association’s 129th Annual Meeting in New York City in January

BY TANU WAKEFIELD, communications assistant for the Stanford Humanities Center