American Historical Association Awards Yale Professor for Book on Slave Trade

At its meeting in Chicago last week, the American Historical Association (AHA) awarded the J. Russell Major Prize to Yale professor Robert Harms for his book, “The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade.”

The J. Russell Major Prize, for “the best work in English on any aspect of French history,” is the second major award “The Diligent,” has garnered. Published by Basic Books in 2001, the book was awarded the Frederick Douglass Book Prize last year by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

The AHA prize citation reads as follows:

“ ‘The Diligent’ reconstructs the story of a French slaving ship from Vannes in the early 1730s–its voyage to the Guinea Coast, thence to Martinique, and back to Vannes. Each of the three worlds of the French slave trade is reconstructed in remarkable detail and with a masterful and intimate eye. The book excels in keeping the broad themes of the history of French slavery in play–moral, political, economic, and global. Harms’s own voice is direct, deeply humane, and fired by conviction, never intrusive but also not faceless. This book is a model of the highest professional standards and exhaustive knowledge turned toward a general readership.”

Harms teaches in the history department at Yale and chairs the African Studies Council of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. His book “Games against Nature: An Eco-Cultural History of the Nunu of Equatorial Africa,” published by Cambridge University Press in 1987, received the George Perkins Marsh Prize of the American Society for Environmental History in 1991.

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