ACLS mourns the passing of Natalie Zemon Davis G’71, celebrated social and cultural historian and the 1997 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecturer. The New York Times notes that “her imaginative and deeply researched investigations of the lives of marginalized figures — peasants, long-forgotten women, border crossers of all sorts — profoundly influenced the discipline.”

Born in Detriot, Michigan in 1928, Davis earned her PhD from the University of Michigan. She taught at Brown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Princeton University, but her career was often centered at the University of Toronto. Davis pioneered interdisciplinary courses in history and anthropology, history and film, and history and literature; the study of women and gender; and the history of the Jews in early modern Europe and in Jewish studies.

Natalie Zemon Davis was awarded a 1971 ACLS Grant-in-Aid for research on the reformation in Lyon and popular culture in 16th century France. In 1997, ACLS named her the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecturer. The Haskins Prize Lecture series is entitled “A Life of Learning” and celebrates scholarly careers of distinctive importance.

Read her full obituary in the New York Times.

The study of the past provides rewards for moral sensibility and tools for critical understanding…No matter how bleak and constrained the situation, some forms of improvisation and coping take place. No matter what happens, people go on telling stories about it and bequeath them to the future. No matter how static and despairing the present looks, the past reminds us that change can occur. At least things can be different.

Natalie Zemon Davis

“A Life of Learning,” 1997 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture

Read Natalie Zemon Davis’ Haskins Lecture
ACLS Occasional Paper, No. 39: A Life of Learning