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Sarah Maza Awarded Ver Steeg Fellowship

Monographs on French history explore ambiguities, controversies surrounding social identities

  • Fellowship supports research and scholarship by a tenured Northwestern professor
  • Maza studies social and cultural history of France from the 18th to the 20th century
  • Maza’s work noted for its creative use of cross-disciplinary methods

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Sarah Maza, the Jane Long Professor in the Arts and Sciences and professor of history in Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has been named the 11th recipient of the Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship Award. 

The Ver Steeg Fellowship supports research and scholarship by a tenured Northwestern professor whose work enhances the national and international reputation of the University. It carries an award of $39,000.

“Sarah Maza exemplifies the mission of the Ver Steeg Research Fellowship,” said Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer, whose office bestows the honor annually. “Her research is very influential abroad, and Sarah has been recognized with many prestigious honors, a tribute to her outstanding scholarship on French history.” 

Growing up in France in an American expatriate family, Maza specializes in the field of social and cultural history of France from the 18th to the 20th century.

Maza has written four monographs on French history, all of which explore ambiguities and controversies surrounding social identities. Her publications include a book on 18th-century domestic servants and their masters and a monograph about a series of scandals in pre-revolutionary France that targeted the aristocracy. 

Her most recent publication, “Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris” (University of California Press, 2011) is a densely layered account of a high-profile case in 1930s Paris that raised contentious issues of parricide, incest and social ambition. Her most controversial book, “The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750-1850” (Harvard University Press, 2003), caused a stir among historians by making the case that in the 18th and 19th centuries “the bourgeoisie” in France was less a specific social group than a myth that served to express a range of different social and political anxieties. 

Notable for its creative use of cross-disciplinary methods drawn from anthropology, legal studies and especially literature, Maza’s work also includes several articles about historical theory and methods. Next year the University of Chicago Press will publish her volume on the subject, “Thinking About History.”

Directing the University’s Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies since 2012, Maza has won major prizes from the Society for French Historical Studies and the American Historical Association among others, and her work has been reviewed by publications such as The New York Times. 

Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Maza is a past president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Her scholarship is influential abroad, especially in France, where she has twice been invited as a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the board of editors of the American Historical Review.

The Ver Steeg Fellowship was established and endowed by the late Clarence Ver Steeg and his wife, Dorothy. Clarence Ver Steeg was a faculty member in Northwestern’s department of history from 1950 to 1992 and served as dean of The Graduate School from 1975 to 1986.

Administered by the Office of the Provost, the fellowship is the first endowed award for excellence in research by a faculty member. A complete list of recipients can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

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