Kalamazoo College History Professor James Lewis has been named one of 12 nominees for the Cundill History Prize for his 2017 book, “The Burr Conspiracy: Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis.” The award, worth $75,000 to the winner, recognizes historical scholarship, originality, quality and broad appeal.
Lewis’s book explores former Vice President Aaron Burr’s travels through the Trans-Appalachian West in 1805 and 1806, gathering support for a mysterious enterprise, leading to his arrest and trial on treason charges in 1807. Rumors at the time stated Burr had enticed some people with plans to liberate Spanish Mexico, others with promises of land in the Louisiana Purchase, and others with talk of building a new empire beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
The book, available through many bookstores and online sites, also examines the political and cultural forces that shaped how Americans made sense of Burr’s intentions and movements, and the crisis after his arrest including concerns about the nation’s fragile union and uncertain republic.
Lewis has taught courses in U.S. history, Native American history, American environmental history, Revolutionary America, the American frontier and Western history, the history of U.S. foreign relations, post-World War II America, American political culture, the trial in American history and a senior seminar in history at K. He is a professional member of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
Lewis’s other books include:
- “The Louisiana Purchase: Jefferson’s Noble Bargain?” (2003);
- “John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union” (2001); and
- “The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood: The United States and the Collapse of the Spanish Empire, 1783-1829” (1998).
Run by McGill University in Montreal, the international Cundill History Prize is awarded by a jury of world-leading historians. The 12 nominees will be pared down to a short list of eight authors by Sept. 25. The three finalists will be announced Oct. 31 at Massey College in Toronto. The winner will be announced Nov. 15 at the Cundill History Prize Gala at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.