Professor Ernest May Nabs Top Honor

The American Historical Association bestowed one of its top honors on a Harvard history professor last month.

Warren Professor of American History Ernest May, who studies 20th-century America and specializes in the Cold War, received the group’s Award for Scholarly Distinction, an award given to one or two historians each year at the association’s annual meeting.

The association commended May, also a professor at the Kennedy School of Government for more than forty years, for pioneering scholarship in international relations.

May teaches two popular Core courses—Historical Study A-80, “The Cold War,” and Historical Study B-68, “America and Vietnam 1945-1975,” which he teaches with Young Professor of Sino-Vietnamese History Hue-Tam Ho Tai.

May—whose recent book The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis was the basis for last year’s film Thirteen Days—said he maintains diverse research interests.

“My favorite project is whatever I happen to be working on at the moment,” he said. “But my work has been centrally about the 20th-century U.S. The U.S. tends to be my main character.”

As a scholar of international relations, May has published extensively on historical reasoning and policy analysis. He turned to European history in his latest book, Strange History: Hitler’s Conquest of France, which was published in 2000.

May has held several top administrative posts at Harvard. He has served as dean of the College, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, director of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, and chair of the Department of History.