Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize Awarded to Abram Van Engen

Abram Van Engen recognized for City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism

The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) has awarded the 2021 Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize to Abram Van Engen for his book City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism, published in 2020 by Yale University Press. The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize is given to the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year. Van Engen will receive the award at an event on Thursday, 17 February 2022.

After reviewing 17 submissions that interpret the history of Massachusetts through a wide range of subjects and time periods, the Peter J. Gomes Book Prize selection committee chose City on a Hill as the winner this year. The committee declared that City on a Hill “does critically important historical work,” explaining that the book, “is a major contribution to the historical scholarship on Puritanism and American exceptionalism. Van Engen’s argument is convincingly supported by extensive primary research in subjects that range from the theological beliefs of English Puritans to the development of American Studies as a separate field.” The judges praised Van Engen for engaging “the scholarship on every relevant topic, including memory studies, the history of the book, and the history of genealogy” in his notes. They conclude, “And because Van Engen thoughtfully analyzes how Pilgrims and Puritans have been remembered, misremembered, denigrated, and celebrated over the centuries, this book will ultimately influence how New England ‘Pilgrims’ and ‘Puritans’ are presented in textbooks and taught in classrooms at every level. This is truly an influential book.”

Van Engen is Associate Professor of English and Associate Professor of Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern University and previously taught at Trinity University. Van Engen is also the author of Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (Oxford University Press, 2015). He co-edited A History of American Puritan Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and Feeling Godly: Religious Affection and Christian Contact in Colonial North America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2021). Van Engen is the recipient of multiple fellowships and awards including the Benjamin F. Stevens Fellowship from the Massachusetts Historical Society.

About the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize
The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize, for the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year, honors the memory of a respected Harvard scholar and beloved Fellow of the MHS. Peter J. Gomes (1942-2011) was elected to the MHS in 1976 and joined the Board of Overseers in 2010. He was Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University. The prize will be awarded at an event on 17 February 2022.