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W&M professor wins prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship

  • Guggenheim Fellowship:
    Guggenheim Fellowship:  Ronald Schechter, professor of history at William & Mary, has been awarded the 2019 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Intellectual and Cultural History.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Ronald Schechter, professor of history at William & Mary, has been awarded the 2019 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Intellectual and Cultural History.

Schechter’s fellowship is one of just three awards given this year in the area of intellectual and cultural history. 

William & Mary is enormously proud of Professor Schechter for this well-deserved accomplishment,” W&M President Katherine A. Rowe said. “The Guggenheim is very competitive. Ron’s notable scholarship has distinguished himself as well as the university. We congratulate him on this honor.”

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. In total, 168 fellowships were awarded to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientist selected from almost 3,000 applicants from the U.S. and Canada as part of the Foundation’s 95th competition.

Schechter described a high level of enthusiasm upon hearing the news.

“My level of excitement is high; I can tell you,” Schechter said. “I’m sometimes understated, but my level of excitement is high.”

Schechter is a specialist in the history of France, and particularly the 18th century, with a strong focus on the French Revolution.

His book, Obstinate Hebrews: Representations of Jews in France, 1715-1815 (2003) won the American Historical Association’s Leo Gershoy Award and the Society for French Historical Studies’ David Pinkney Prize, and it was a finalist for the Koret Jewish Book Award in the category of history.  Schechter is also the author (with Liz Clarke, illustrator) of Mendoza the Jew: Boxing, Manliness, and Nationalism. A Graphic History (2014). His most recent book is A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France (2018).

He is the editor of The French Revolution: The Essential Readings (2001), and the translator and editor of Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing with Related Documents (2004).  He is also the editor of Shifting Boundaries, Rethinking Paradigms: The Significance of French Jewish History, a special issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 32:1 (2006).  Among the venues of his journal articles have been Past and Present, Representations and Eighteenth-Century Studies

Schechter is currently working on a book about the secret library of Marie Antoinette, and what her collection of books reveals about the inner life of the French queen. That was the topic of his W&M Tack Faculty Lecture in March.

"I am so happy that the Guggenheim Foundation has recognized Ron Schechter’s work on Marie Antoinette’s library with a fellowship award," said Kate Conley, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences. "The Guggenheim is probably the most prestigious fellowship available to scholars in the humanities. Ron’s award is a well-deserved honor for him, the history department, Arts & Sciences and William & Mary."

The Guggenheim Fellowship isn’t easy to get, Schechter said, and brings much more than its monetary award. First among other things, it will give him the time he needs to finish his book.

“It increases my visibility,” Schechter said, describing how a full-page ad in Wednesday’s The New York Times prompted congratulations from people who saw it.

“The other thing is honestly it just gives me a shot in the arm, gives me some affirmation that I’m on the right track in terms of my scholarship. I’m really humbled by it.”

Schechter is the seventh William & Mary professor to receive the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.  Former recipients are Professors Susan Verdi-Webster (Fine Arts Research, 2011); Sean Keilen (English, 2008); Nikos Chrisochoides (Computer Science, 2007); Barbara King (Anthropology, 2002); Talbot Taylor (English, 1994); and James Axtell (History, 1981).

Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $360 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, poets laureate, members of the various national academies and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Turing Award, National Book Award and other significant, internationally recognized honors.

The full list of 2019 fellows may be viewed at