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2011 Jacques Barzun Prize

2011 award presented in November 2012

Barbara Ann Naddeo

The American Philosophical Society awarded the Jacques Barzun Prize for the best book in cultural history published in 2011 to Professor Barbara Ann Naddeo in recognition of her book Vico and Naples – The Urban Origins of Modern Social Theory. The award was presented by Keith Thomson, Executive Officer of the Society.

Barbara Ann Naddeo is currently an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Master’s Degree Program in History at the City College of New York and The Graduate Center. She specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of early modern Europe, especially Italy. In particular, she is interested in the advent of the metropolis and its significance for the social sciences in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Vico and Naples is an intellectual portrait of the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) that reveals the politics and motivations of one of Europe’s first scientists of society. According to the commonplaces of the literature on the Neapolitan, Vico was a solitary figure who, at a remove from the political life of his larger community, steeped himself in the recondite debates of classical scholarship to produce his magnum opus, the New Science. Naddeo shows, however, that at the outset of his career Vico was deeply engaged in the often-tumultuous life of his great city and that his experiences of civic crises shaped his inquiry into the origins and development of human society.

Barbara Ann Naddeo’s fine study of Vico’s social ideas, unlike virtually all other works, concentrates not just on speculation about his formal ideas but on the cultural context, showing that his book, New Science, moves beyond his earliest work by establishing that his social theories “constitute a discrete field of knowledge” that expands the western intellectual tradition.

The Barzun Prize selection committee consisted of Donald R. Kelley (chair), James Westfall Thompson Professor of History Emeritus, Rutgers University; Glen W. Bowersock, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study; and Michael Wood, Charles Barnwell Straut Professor of English, Princeton University.