Nanovic Institute awards $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize to 'The Hebrew Republic'

by Jennifer Lechtanski


The University of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies has awarded the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies to Eric Nelson for his book “The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought” (Harvard University Press).

The $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize is presented annually to the author of the best book in European studies that transcends a focus on any one country, state or people to stimulate new ways of thinking about contemporary Europe as a whole, and rotates between the humanities and history and social sciences. This is the second award for the humanities, which judged nominated books published in 2009 and 2010.

"The Hebrew Republic"

The jury commended Nelson’s book, stating:

“An electrifying, bold analysis, Eric Nelson’s ‘The Hebrew Republic’ is a transformative work in political and intellectual history that makes a significant contribution to European studies. Nelson argues persuasively that a European engagement with Jewish political thought was central to the development of modern notions of republican government, the redistribution of wealth, and religious tolerance. Using rabbinical commentaries and examining republican thought, Nelson’s careful scholarship offers a wealth of new and counter-intuitive insights. This is a watershed in presenting the history of political thought and is a very important book with which scholars will engage and argue for decades to come.”

The final jury was composed of Caryl Emerson, A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University; Don Howard, professor of philosophy and director of the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values, Notre Dame; Suzanne L. Marchand, professor of history, Louisiana State University; Mark W. Roche, Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Professor of German Language and Literature, Notre Dame; and Paul Woodruff, professor of philosophy and inaugural dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Eric Nelson

Nelson will accept the award and present a lecture this fall at Notre Dame. Nelson is professor of government at Harvard University. His research focuses on the history of political thought in early-modern Europe and America, and on the implications of that history for debates in contemporary political theory. Nelson received his A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard University (1999) and his Ph.D. from The University of Cambridge (2002). He has been awarded fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has also been a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a British Marshall Scholar.

The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame is committed to enriching the intellectual culture of Notre Dame by creating an integrated, interdisciplinary home for students and faculty to explore the evolving ideas, cultures, beliefs and institutions that shape Europe today. For additional information about the Nanovic Institute, the Laura Shannon Prize, and the authors, please see