Caughey Western History Prize

The WHA announces the Caughey Book Prize given annually for the most distinguished book on the history of the American West, broadly defined. This prize is made possible by the generous support of the John and LaRee Caughey Foundation. All submissions must have a 2017 publication date. Presses should submit nominations to each member of the award committee listed below. View a list of past recipients.

Award Submission Deadline: April 18, 2018



2017 Caughey Western History Prize Committee

 Sarah Deutsch, Chair
 Duke University
 Department of History
Box 90719
 Durham, NC 27708-0719
 sarah.deutsch@duke.edu

 Andrew Needham
 New York University
53 Washington Square South
 Fourth Floor
 New York, NY 10012
 andrew.needham@nyu.edu

 Edward Melillo
 Amherst College
103 Beneski Building
PO Box AC # 2238
 Amherst, MA 01002-5000
emelillo@amherst.edu


John W. Caughey (1902-1995) Born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1902, John Caughey graduated with honors from the University of Texas in 1923 and then attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied the history of the Spanish Borderlands under Herbert Eugene Bolton. Soon after earning his Ph.D. in 1928, he began teaching at UCLA in 1930, where he focused his teaching and writing on the history of California and the West. Among his many publications were A History of the Pacific Coast (1933) and California (1940). His Gold is the Cornerstone (1948) was later reprinted in 1975 as The California Gold Rush. Caughey served as an editor of the Pacific Historical Quarterly from 1937 to 1968. There he contributed to significant developments in the field of western history, including promoting an emphasis on the 20th-century West. In 1972, his colleagues in the Western History Association recognized his prolific and path breaking work by electing him as their president. Caughey was also known for his support of civil liberties and civil rights. In 1950, when the University of California required loyalty oaths of its faculty, Caughey refused, arguing that such oaths violated academic freedom. For this, he was fired. He took action, joining others in pursuing legal measures to get their jobs back. They won their case, and, by 1954, Caughey was allowed to resume his teaching duties at UCLA. He remained there until his retirement in 1970. The experience inspired him to increase his involvement in the American Civil Liberties Union and to write about the danger of academic censorship in his 1958 book, In Clear and Present Danger: The Crucial State of Our Freedoms. Beginning in the late 1960s, Caughey and his wife, LaRee, published works about racially segregated education in Los Angeles. His most important publication, To Kill a Child’s Spirit: The Tragedy of School Segregation in the Los Angeles Schools, appeared in 1973. He also collaborated with John Hope Franklin and Ernest May in 1966 to write Land of the Free: A History of the United States, an eighth grade textbook that was an early effort to produce a multicultural social history for K-12 students. Caughey was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the United Civil Rights Council. John W. Caughey died on December 15, 1995, in Lexington, Massachusetts, at the age of 93.

Authored by: Steve Amerman, Southern Connecticut State University. Sources: Stephen Dow Beckham, “John Walton Caughey, Historian and Civil Libertarian,” Pacific Historical Review 56 (November 1987): 481-493; John W. Caughey, “The Insignificance of the Frontier in American History, or ‘Once Upon a Time There was an American West,’” Western Historical Quarterly 5 (Spring 1974): 4-16.



Past Recipients

2016 | Edward Dallam Melillo for Strangers on Familiar Soil: Rediscovering the Chile-California Connection (Yale University Press)

Joshua Reid for The Sea Is My Country: The Maritime World of the Makahs (Yale University Press)

2015 | Andrew Needham for Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest (Princeton University Press, Fall 2014)

2014 | Keith R. Widder for Beyond Pontiac's Shadow: Michilmackinac and the Anglo-Indian War of 1763 (East Lansing and Mackinac Island: Michigan State University Press and Mackinac State Historic Parks, 2013). 

2013 | Frederick E. Hoxie for This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made (New York: The Penguin Press, 2012).

2012 | Anne F. Hyde for Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 2011). 

2011 | Erika Lee and Judy Yung for Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). Click here to read more.

2010 | Elliott West for The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story (Pivotal Moments in American History) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

2009 | Pekka Hämäläinen for The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). 

2008 | B. Byron Price for Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007). 

2007 | Albert L. Hurtado for John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006). 

2006 | Louis Warren for Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2005). 

2005 | Jeffrey Ostler for The Plains Sioux and U.S. Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee (Cambridge University Press, 2004). 

2004 | Colin G. Calloway for One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003). 

2003 | Will Bagley for Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002). 

2002 | Donald Worster for A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). 

2001 | Robert V. Hine and John Mack Faragher for The American West: A New Interpretive History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). 

2000 | Walter Nugent for Into the West: The Story of Its People (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1999). 

1999 | Elliott West for The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1998). 

1998 | Malcolm J Rorhbough for Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997). 

1997 | Richard W. Etulain for Re-Imagining the Modern American West: A Century of Fiction, History and Art (Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 1996). 

1996 | David W. Adams for Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1995). 

1995 | Clyde A. Milner III, Carol A. O’Connor, Martha A. Sandweiss, eds. for The Oxford History of the American West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). 

1994 | Robert M. Utley for The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull (New York: Henry Holt, 1993). 

1993 | David J. Weber for The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992). 


Prior to 1993, the Caughey prize was known as the

Western History Association Prize for a “distinguished body of writing.”

1992 | Howard Lamar

1991 | W. Turrentine Jackson

1990 | Wallace Stegner

1989 | William T. Hagen

1988 | Robert M. Utley

1987 | Francis Paul Prucha

1986 | Paul W. Gates

1985 | No Award Given

1984 | No Award Given

1983 | Robert G. Athearn


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