University of New Mexico Professor Emeritus of History John L. Kessell is the winner of the 2013 Weber-Clements Prize for Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America, for his volume Miera y Pacheco: A Renaissance Spaniard in Eighteenth-Century New Mexico (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013). Kessell will be honored at an event in Dallas next week.
Kessell specializes in the American Southwest during the Spanish colonial period. He is the author of Spain in the Southwest: A Narrative History of Colonial New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and California and numerous other volumes.
The judging committee wrote:
"John Kessell’s Miera y Pacheco is a model of historical writing. It draws on exhaustive primary research and the author’s deep familiarity with eighteenth-century New Spain to illuminate a most remarkable man in a most remarkable time and place. Somehow, Don Bernardo Miera y Pacheco manages to be everywhere that matters, when it matters: in the deserts of the Great Basin with Dominguez and Escalante in 1776, and at Anza’s side in the great battle with Cuerno Verde’s Comanches in 1779. His skill as a mapmaker and artist, together with his hard-earned successes and notable failures, personalize a distant era for contemporary readers. Kessell writes with uncommon grace and not a little wit to give us a compelling narrative that should inspire new appreciation for a seminal period in borderlands history. Kessell's fellow historians will agree that Miera y Pacheco sets a lofty example for packing high scholarship and reading delight within the same set of covers."
The $2,500 Weber-Clements Book Prize, administered by the Western History Association, honors fine writing and original research on the American Southwest. The competition is open to any nonfiction book, including biography, on any aspect of Southwestern life, past or present. The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies is part of SMU's Dedman College and affiliated with the Department of History. It was created to promote research, publishing, teaching and public programming in a variety of fields related to the American Southwest.