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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Historian Pekka Hämäläinen Receives 2009 OAH Merle Curti Award
by Indian Country Today staff
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Pekka Hämäläinen, University of California, Santa Barbara, has been selected by the Organization of American Historians to receive the 2009 Merle Curti Award, which is given annually for the best book published in American social and/or intellectual history. The award was presented March 28 by OAH President Pete Daniel and President-Elect Elaine Tyler May during the 102nd annual meeting of the organization.

“The Comanche Empire,” Hämäläinen’s uncommonly ambitious book traces how, during the high tide of imperial struggles in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries, a powerful Comanche empire eclipsed its various European rivals in military prowess, political prestige, economic power, commercial reach and cultural influence in the fiercely contested lands of the American Southwest, the southern Great Plains, and northern Mexico.

In using the word “empire” to describe the Comanche social formation, built on mastery of horses, Hämäläinen has taken a bold step that will not be accepted by all. Although his terminology may remain controversial, his learned, vast and brilliantly original documentation of the Comanches’ centuries-long ability to thrive and grow by the strategy of “raid-and-trade,” forces a reorientation of the study of the West.

“The Comanche Empire” compels serious rethinking of the apparent inevitability of white domination of the North American continent and every feature of the standard history, from inter-group Native American relations, to French and Spanish imperial successes and failures, to the early history of Mexico, to American imperial ambitions and the efforts of the post-Civil War United States military, have been put in new perspective by Hämäläinen.

Founded in 1907, OAH is the largest learned society and professional organization dedicated to the teaching and study of the American past. OAH promotes excellence in the scholarship, teaching and presentation of American history, and encourages wide discussion of historical questions and equitable treatment of all practitioners of history. Members in the U.S. and abroad include college and university professors; students; pre-collegiate teachers; archivists, museum curators, and other public historians employed in government and the private sector.

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