Historian Wins Prize for Research on Swiss History

Max Geilinger Foundation honors Randolph C. Head

Randolph C. Head

Randolph C. Head

RIVERSIDE, California – Randolph C. Head, professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, has won the 2017 Max Geilinger Foundation Prize for a body of research on Swiss history.

The award, which the Zurich-based foundation will formally present to Head in November, carries a cash prize of 25,000 Swiss francs (approximately $25,000). The foundation was established in 1962 by Zurich poet Max Geilinger to advance literary and cultural ties between Switzerland and English-language regions of the world.

Head was selected because of his “impressive series of publications and studies on Swiss history, and thus as a mediator of Swiss culture for the English-speaking world,” Peter Mousson, president of the foundation, wrote in the award letter. “Particularly worthy of mention is ‘Jenatsch’s Axe,’ which members of the council read in advance with great pleasure.”

“Jenatsch’s Axe, Social Boundaries, Identity, and Myth in the Era of the Thirty Years’ War” (2008, translated into German in 2011), traces the career of Georg Jenatsch (1596-1639), the son of a Protestant pastor who became a ruthless soldier and politician. Jenatsch helped assassinate a powerful politician, Pompeius von Planta, in 1621 using an ax, and in 1639 was murdered by a man – dressed in a bear costume — wielding an ax. Rumors soon spread that Jenatsch was killed by the same ax he had used to assassinate von Planta. The story grew and inspired Conrad Ferdinand Meyer’s popular 1876 novel, “Jurg Jenatsch,” which is still in print today.

Head joined the UCR faculty in 1992. His research focuses on political and institutional culture in Switzerland and Europe around 1600 from various perspectives, including political culture in Switzerland. He co-authored the “Cambridge Concise History of Switzerland” and has edited several volumes of essays and a special issue of the journal Archival Science. His research has been supported by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, the American Philosophical Society, the Newberry Library, and the Herzog-August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in anthropology from Harvard.

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Randolph C. Head
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