University of Georgia

History professor awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship

Scott Nelson, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Humanities in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

Nelson, who specializes in 19th-century American social history in the department of history, has authored or co-authored five books, most recently “A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters.”

“The Guggenheim Fellowship is a great honor. It’s one of the top accolades a historian can earn, and I am excited to represent the University of Georgia,” Nelson said, adding that he is encouraged that the Guggenheim Foundation found his scholarship to be worthy of such a prestigious award. “This is a recognition that people were moved by my work, and that is amazing.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship program, established in 1925 by U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife, Olga, in honor of their late son John, bestows funds on scholars, scientists and artists to devote time to a creative or scholarly project. The award is given to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or creative work. This year a total of 168 scholars, artists and writers were chosen from among nearly 3,000 applications.

Nelson said the fellowship will allow him to complete work on a manuscript for a book that ties the food revolution in eastern Europe in the 1860s to the American Civil War. Nelson plans to delve deeper into the shift in society from humans working for most of each day to secure their food to having the ability to purchase food at grocery stores, which he relates back to a financial crisis in Europe and North America in 1873.

“I want to get at what caused the Panic of 1873 and its ramifications, all the way up to the Russian Revolution,” he said. “I believe this is a major turning point in history, and I look forward to publishing my findings.”

Nelson has received several honors over the course of his career. His 2007 book about the life and death of John Henry, “Steel Drivin’ Man,” inspired others to retell the story of the person behind the folk story in a play and a musical. It also won four national awards, including the National Award for Arts Writing and the Merle Curti Prize for best book in U.S. history. “Ain’t Nothing But a Man,” a young adult book he co-authored to describe how historians conduct research, won the Aesop Prize and the Jane Addams Prize from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Nelson is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and he has served as a visiting scholar in France and the Netherlands.

“The Guggenheim Fellowship is one of the nation’s most prestigious academic honors, and I am delighted that one of our faculty members is a 2019 recipient,” said Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Libby V. Morris. “Outstanding faculty members like Dr. Nelson are the reason that the University of Georgia is one of America’s leading public universities.”