-2022 Awards Cycle opens January 25, 2022
-2022 Award Submission (Postmark) Deadline: April 15, 2022
The WHA office sends award notifications in August. View a list of past recipients.
Department of History
1881 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
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 Review 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.
2021 | Alice Baumgartner, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (Basic Books, 2020)
2020 | Maurice Crandall, These People Have Always Been a Republic: Indigenous Electorates in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1598-1912 (University of North Carolina Press, 2019)
2019 | Monica Muñoz Martinez, The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas (Harvard University Press, 2018)
2018 | Louis Warren for God's Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America (Basic Books, 2017)
2017 | James Brooks for Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat'ovi Massacre (W.W. Norton, 2016)
2016 | Two Recipients: Edward Dallam Melillo for Strangers on Familiar Soil: Rediscovering the Chile-California Connection (Yale University Press) and 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 (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 (The Penguin Press, 2012).
2012 | Anne F. Hyde for Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (University of Nebraska Press 2011).
2011 | Erika Lee and Judy Yung for Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (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) (Oxford University Press, 2008).
2009 | Pekka Hämäläinen for The Comanche Empire (Yale University Press, 2008).
2008 | B. Byron Price for Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007).
2007 | Albert L. Hurtado for John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006).
2006 | Louis Warren for Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (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 (University of Nebraska Press, 2003).
2003 | Will Bagley for Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (University of Oklahoma Press, 2002).
2002 | Donald Worster for A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell (Oxford University Press, 2001).
2001 | Robert V. Hine and John Mack Faragher for The American West: A New Interpretive History (Yale University Press, 2000).
2000 | Walter Nugent for Into the West: The Story of Its People (Alfred Knopf, 1999).
1999 | Elliott West for The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (University Press of Kansas, 1998).
1998 | Malcolm J Rorhbough for Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation (University of California Press, 1997).
1997 | Richard W. Etulain for Re-Imagining the Modern American West: A Century of Fiction, History and Art (University of Arizona Press, 1996).
1996 | David W. Adams for Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 (University Press of Kansas, 1995).
1995 | Clyde A. Milner III, Carol A. O’Connor, Martha A. Sandweiss, eds. for The Oxford History of the American West (Oxford University Press, 1994).
1994 | Robert M. Utley for The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull (Henry Holt, 1993).
1993 | David J. Weber for The Spanish Frontier in North America (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