As part of a national celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize, California Humanities will convene a series of discussion forums throughout the state as part of the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative. Aimed at deepening the public’s engagement with contemporary issues through a humanities lens, On the Road with California Humanities will connect Pulitzer-prize winning authors, artists, journalists, and other notable thinkers who are helping to guide California along the road to a vibrant future. The first in the series will feature a conversation on the need for historical perspective in our times and is presented in partnership with the Huntington Library and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

March 25th 7:30pm – Huntington Library, Los Angeles

What Good Is History?
William Deverell, Professor of History, University of Southern California

History Department Chair, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Vice-Chair, California Humanities Board of Directors

Two of America’s most talented historians talk about the relevance of history and the humanities in today’s times, and we should listen to them. Why? Because history matters, because history is the fragile tether that not only connects us to what and who came before us, it is by way of history that “then” has become “now.” Asking questions of history brings perspective, knowledge, maybe even lessons. And it is always fascinating.

Between them, our speakers have been awarded three Pulitzer Prizes. Two have gone to Professor Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia. A renowned scholar of early America, Alan Taylor’s historical research ranges across questions of belonging, of racial politics and identity in the colonial era, and of the politics and economics of the infant American republic. Though centered in the 18th and 19th century, his books ask enduring and yet timely questions about American meanings, American people, and American values. Elizabeth “Lil” Fenn is the Walter and Lucienne Driskill Professor of Western American History and Chair of the History Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her innovative history of the Mandan peoples of the northern Great Plains, and she is also the author of a penetrating study of the role of smallpox in the history of North America.

This event at The Huntington Library, a research institution close to the hearts and minds of both of our guests, will feature Taylor and Fenn in conversation with one another. Why do they do what they do? How does their present influence their perceptions of the past, and, more important, how do they imagine their analyses of the past can be of use to their students, their peers, and all of us in our complex and often troubled world of today? What good, after all, is history?

This forum is free and open to the public. For registration information and more information on the series, please visit