Renowned historian wins AHA book awards

Author: Arts and Letters


Sabine G. MacCormack, Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Professor of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame, has been awarded two American Historical Association (AHA) book prizes for “On the Wings of Time: Rome, the Incas, Spain and Peru,” published last year by Princeton University Press.

MacCormack is the recipient of the 2007 James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic history, which recognizes outstanding historical writing that explores aspects of integration of Atlantic worlds before the 20th century, and the John E. Fagg Prize honoring the best publication in the history of Spain, Portugal or Latin America.

“These prestigious book awards reinforce Sabine’s standing as one of the world’s most eminent scholars of both classical antiquity and colonial Latin America,” said Mark Roche, Notre Dame’s I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

Challenging long-held assumptions about the cultural impact of the Spanish conquest of Peru, “On the Wings of Time” provides a more sophisticated understanding of Latin America, both in a historical and contemporary context.

Among historians, it long has been taken for granted that the Spanish imposed their culture and religion on the indigenous populations during the 16th and 17th centuries. Using original sources, MacCormack asserts that civil society was born of the intellectual endeavors that commenced with the invasion itself, as the invaders sought to understand an array of cultures.

“The book shows that European and Spanish culture was much less monolithic than is usually supposed,” MacCormack said. “The intellectual and cultural experience of engaging with the Mediterranean ancient world conditioned those Spanish who were interested in Andean cultures to think of cultural multiplicities. They did not assume that their own political and cultural traditions were the only possible or even the best ones. In comparing the Inca empire to that of Rome, Spaniards recognized Inca political and cultural achievements as exemplary and highlighted aspects of governance, including communications and the management of natural catastrophes, where the Incas had been infinitely more successful than their European contemporaries.”

An internationally renowned scholar of ancient Rome and the Spanish empire, MacCormack specializes in late antiquity and colonial Latin America. Her scholarly publications include “The Shadows of Poetry: Vergil in the Mind of Augustine,” “Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru,” and “Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity.”

MacCormack, recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a past recipient of a $1.5 million Distinguished Achievement Award for scholars in the humanities from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She was named a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 2000 and of the American Philosophical Society in 1997, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1999.

Previously a professor of classical studies and history at the University of Michigan, MacCormack holds a joint appointment at Notre Dame in the Departments of History and Classics and is a faculty fellow in the University’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. She earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Oxford University.

Contact: Sabine G. MacCormack, 574-631-9303,

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on November 15, 2007.