The Bodleian Libraries are delighted to announce the presentation of the Bodley Medal to Robert Caro, America’s most distinguished historian.
The Bodleian Libraries will hold the first North American edition of its Annual Lecture on 26 October in Carnegie Hall and will present the Libraries’ prestigious ‘Bodley Medal’ to distinguished historian, Robert Caro. The ceremony will feature Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, in conversation with Mr. Caro.
Mr. Caro began his career as an investigative journalist, winning numerous awards for his reporting, but it is his work as a biographer and historian that has redefined the concept of biography itself. For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Mr. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, has twice won the National Book Award (once for Lifetime Achievement), has three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has won virtually every other major literary honor, including the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best 'exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.' The London Sunday Times has said that Caro is 'the greatest political biographer of our times'.
His first book, The Power Broker, focusses on the life of Robert Moses, whose career in New York politics transformed the landscape of the city and its environs. The book shows how power is both acquired and used, and how the drive, determination, skill, and ruthlessness of one man could alter the trajectory of an entire city. It was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest non-fiction books of the twentieth century, and has remained in print since its publication some fifty years ago.
Mr. Caro has since devoted his work to reporting on the life and times of President Lyndon B. Johnson, bringing the reader into the world that created the man who would become America’s 36th President. Caro shows how Johnson was able to make profound changes to American society through his political acumen and use his experience to drive through transformative policy and legislation. The Years of Lyndon Johnson has been published in four volumes to date. Mr. Caro is currently working on volume five.
Caro’s work is notable for its extensive and meticulous use of libraries and archives, and his respect for the evidence provided by primary sources. His process and methodology as a writer and historian were laid out in his most recent book, Working, a book which compliments and enriches our understanding of Caro’s life work.
Of his award, Mr. Caro said:
As someone who has relied upon the resources of libraries and generosity of librarians throughout my career, being named a Bodley Medal recipient is one of the great honors of my life. I accept it not only for myself, but for my wife Ina, who has been my research partner throughout. I am struck by the list of past recipients, and humbled to be in their company.
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said:
Robert Caro is simply one of the greatest American historians. He has used libraries and archives extensively to paint the most vividly illuminating portrait of American politics and society in the 20th century through his biographies on Robert Moses and Lyndon B Johnson. Caro’s work demonstrates a rigorous respect for facts and the persistent determination of a researcher. There could be no better person to inaugurate the Bodley Lecture in North America and to receive the Bodley Medal.