Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


November 7, 2013

Local woman earns historians' book awards

Study on French Guiana wins top prizes

Miranda Frances Spieler, associate professor of history at the American University of Paris, has been selected as the winner of the American Historical Association’s 2013 J. Russell Major Prize and 2013 George L. Mosse prize for her book, “Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana” (Harvard Univ. Press, 2012).

The AHA is the largest organization of historians in the U.S. Its J. Russell Major Prize is awarded annually for the best work in English on any aspect of French history. The George L. Mosse Prize is awarded annually for an outstanding major work of extraordinary scholarly distinction, creativity and originality in the intellectual and cultural history of Europe since 1500.

Both prizes will be awarded during a ceremony at the association’s 128th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Jan. 2 through 5.

The daughter of longtime Andover residents Dr. Phyllis Spieler and Dr. Paul Spieler, Spieler was singled out for her “innovative” research.

“Miranda Spieler’s innovative study of French Guiana from the late 18th century to 1870 examines the spatial and legal history of the colony in ways that invite a profound reconsideration of the relationship of France to its colonial territories,” Katherine B. Crawford, chairwoman of the 2013 Major Prize, said in a release.

“Analyzing material and cultural remains, as well as silences and lacunae in the record, Spieler elegantly challenges many presumptions about nation, empire, slavery, incarceration and violence.”

Spieler graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover in 1989 and went on to Harvard University, where she earned her degree magna cum laude in history and literature with a focus on Germany and France.

Before she enrolled in graduate school, she worked as the personal assistant to writer Susan Sontag in New York. She continued her work with Sontag while earning her Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in New York in 2005.

Spieler moved to Tucson, Ariz., in fall 2005 and became assistant professor at the University of Arizona. She was named an associate professor on receiving tenure in 2011. She has also served as a lecturer at Columbia, Wesleyan University in Connecticut and in the Committee on Degrees in history and literature at Harvard.

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