Richard White

Leading American West scholar

June 23, 2011

Richard White, U.C. Santa Cruz, History '69

Richard White graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz in 1969 with a B.A. in History, and is now considered one of the nation's leading scholars in three related fields: the American West, Native American history, and environmental history. His current position is as the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University.

White joined Stanford in 1998 and is the author of six books, including his classic The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republic in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, which was named a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize and received five major history prizes. The Middle Ground was recently re-released in a 20th anniversary edition. White's forthcoming Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (2011) is an incisive history of the transcontinental railroads and how they transformed America in the decades after the Civil War.

Among other honors, White received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1997 and the Andrew Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities in 2006. He is the principal investigator for the Shaping the West project, part of Stanford's Spatial History Project. Shaping the West is an attempt to create collaborative projects that employ visualizations as well as narratives to understand the past.

White says that his UCSC undergraduate education provided a solid foundation for his later work. "The faculty at Santa Cruz taught me to think, and the student body encouraged me to take chances. The university as a whole made me realize that no position, discovery, or opinion is any better than your ability to explain it, justify it, and defend it."