Prestigious Dan David Prize names 9 innovative historians as winners

Tel Aviv University award goes to scholars researching array of historical subjects, including dust in ancient dental plaque, interfaith rifts after Holocaust

A Tel Aviv University building on campus. (Tel Aviv University)
A Tel Aviv University building on campus. (Tel Aviv University)

Nine emerging scholars of history from around the world were announced Tuesday as winners of Israel’s prestigious Dan David Prize, with each awardee receiving $300,000 to advance their work.

The Dan David Prize board said it is recognizing the historians for “changing our understanding of the past” by delving into under-researched topics.

The winning research topics are staggering in their range: Dust in ancient dental plaque, interfaith rifts after the Holocaust, and white women’s complicity in slave ownership in American history, to name just a few.

The award is administered by Tel Aviv University.

“Insights about the past should circulate through every part of every community,” said Aviad Kleinberg, historian and Dan David Prize board member. “A culture that does not understand its past is like an individual with acute amnesia.”

Dan David, the Romanian-born businessman who set up the foundation in 2001, initially aimed to recognize “outstanding contributions to humanity” with a $1 million prize each for three winners.

Past winners have included renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert.

But in 2021, the award shifted its focus to recognizing and supporting an array of historical scholars in the nascent stages of their career who might otherwise lack the resources to expand their research.

Many of the winning researchers this year employed innovative tools, with Adam Clulow from the University of Texas at Austin using virtual reality and video games to make Cambodian history accessible to young people and Chao Tayiana Maina from Kenya using technology to preserve African artifacts.

The other 2023 winners include: Saheed Aderinto from Florida International University, Ana Antic from the University of Copenhagen, Karma Ben Johanan from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Elise Burton from the University of Toronto, Krista Goff from the University of Miami, Stephanie Jones-Rogers from the University of California Berkeley, Anita Radini from the University College, Dublin.

An awards ceremony is scheduled in May.

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