About The Prize About

PAST - Macro History

Past 2019.web

Macro History is a form of scholarship devoted to long stretches of time and often space. Macrohistorians trace the nature, development, and impact of humans’ activity on the Earth and on one another—their movements, settlements, social organizations, cultures, economies, political systems, religions, and natural and built environments beginning far back in time. For some, historical time opens not in ancient Mesopotamia or China, as historians have long supposed, but in a distant epoch when hominids first affected the Earth’s ecosystems and atmosphere. Such a “deep history” of the human species favors what traditional historians have termed “pre-history” and locates the customary province of “history,” the era of written records, near the end of a timeline vastly longer than the one that has generally represented “the past.”

Because Macrohistorians commonly work on periods long before written records were kept, their work tends to be multidisciplinary. Macrohistorians use the insights, theories, findings, and approaches of anthropology, archaeology, geography, geology, sociology, and political science—among other disciplines—in addition to history. Certain natural sciences such as neuroscience, geology, botany, and biology can also figure in.

In the 20th century, the most prominent group of scholars working on what can be termed Macro History was France’s Annales School, whose early leaders devoted considerable attention to the longue durée, or long stretches of time. Within that longue durée, Annales scholars focused on large, slowly changing structures such as geographical formations, climate, agricultural practices, social organization, and peasant mentalities.

Influenced in part by the Annales School, historians outside of France turned to a different form of Macro History, which they termed “world history.” This approach to the past turned above all to global phenomena such as the large-scale movement of people, patterns of international trade, slave systems and the slave trade, the interaction of different legal systems, and comparative economic development, especially between Europe and Asia. Certain historical sociologists can also be considered Macrohistorians, since they study the development of particular social and political phenomena over many centuries and in different parts of the world.

The 2019 Dan David Prize in the Past Time Dimension will be awarded to an outstanding individual or organization whose ongoing, groundbreaking research is making a significant contribution to the field of Macro History.

PRESENT - Defending Democracy

Present 2019.web

Democracy, its institutions, norms and values have recently come under siege.

Far from heralding the End of History, developments in some post-communist societies have, after initial promising starts, moved in neo-authoritarian directions - not only in Russia but also in Visegrad countries, accompanied by xenophobic expressions bordering on racism. Similarly, the Arab Spring has mostly fizzled out, and Turkey clearly pivots towards authoritarianism.

These tendencies appear now to be on the ascendant also in well-established and even traditionally exemplary liberal and tolerant societies. Nationalistic, xenophobic, authoritarian, populist and even racist ideologies linked to movements, parties and individual leaders are gaining strength in numerous European countries, while grave political discourse on democratic values emerges in the United States.

In some cases, these developments entail attacks on the rule of law, the judiciary and the free press, even on the very legitimacy of political opposition. The post-1945 and post-1989 democratic consensus may be in serious jeopardy.

The Dan David Prize in the Present Time Dimension for 2019 addresses these issues and calls for nominations of individuals, organizations and institutions that are engaged in a political and intellectual struggle against these anti-democratic and authoritarian tendencies. New ideas and strategies on how to defend democracy, enhance and strengthen it, as well as expand its reach, are crucial and need encouragement and support.

FUTURE - Combatting Climate Change

Future 2019.web

Climate change is upon us.  In response to the long-term increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), features of our global weather, oceans and ecosystems are shifting in important ways.  Combatting climate change requires avoiding future atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) if our goal is to stay on a pathway that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial values.  Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important GHG because it is produced by fossil fuel use which drives our global economy.  Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide are the next most important GHGs.  Avoiding emissions requires a portfolio of tasks including developing technologies and infrastructure to create and distribute carbon-neutral energy; developing governance and business frameworks that promote and support avoiding GHG emissions as local and national goals; and enhancing public awareness of roles and responsibilities in avoiding future emissions.  Combatting climate change may also involve conducting climate intervention to remove CO2 from the atmosphere or to reduce warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. Climate intervention requires efforts to identify methods that are feasible at scales large enough to offset current warming while minimizing unintended consequences.

The 2018 Dan David Prize in the Future Time Dimension will be awarded to a visionary and innovator who has made outstanding achievements in research or technology to combat climate change by avoiding or reducing GHG abundances or their climate impact.