Professor of History, Yale University
Economic and social historian, demographer, scholar of war, of culture and of memory, Jay Winter is also a public historian, media maven and museum professional. In thirty extraordinarily productive years (is this les trente glorieuses?), Professor Winter has done what historians of modern Europe often talk about, but less often accomplish.
Escaping the borders of the nation state and national language, his mastery of English, French and German sources and scholarship has permitted him to make groundbreaking comparative studies of a continent at war. But Jay Winter leaps methodological bounds with equal grace. As such he can see societies as wholes, combining economic, demographic, political and cultural/artistic perspectives. And as a further result, his pioneering studies speak to scholars in fields from economic, cultural and military history to anthropology, sociology, art history and literature.
It is no coincidence that Professor Winter's teaching career has been equally international. Having begun his university duties at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he swiftly went on to the University of Warwick and then Cambridge, where he was a fellow of Pembroke College for over twenty years. A recent competition among Ivy League institutions for his talents took him to Columbia and now Yale, where he is presently Professor of History. Winter's visiting appointments have ranged from the Hebrew University's Institute of Advanced Studies and the University of Paris I to the New School, the University of Texas and Berkeley.
Others have recognized Professor Winter's unique and unparalleled contributions. Grants from the Wellcome Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung sit alongside a Nuffield Research Fellowship in the Social Sciences, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, Leverhulme grants, an H.F. Guggenheim Foundation grant, and finally a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. For his singular contributions and the impact of his work, Jay Winter has also been elected a fellow of the prestigious Royal Historical Society.
Professor Winter's numerous works have been hailed as major, even crucial, contributions to our understanding of the last century. Socialism and the Challenge of War (1974) was called an excellent study; his The Great War and the British People (1985) was a benchmark and an impressive example of quantitative historical analysis, just as The Experience of World War I (1988) was labeled extraordinarily rich. The reviewer of The Fear in Population Decline (1986) (written with Michael S. Teitelbaum) confessed he felt it impossible to capture the richness and subtlety of [its] analysis. All who have read it will probably agree that Winter's cultural study of the reaction to the first world war, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning (1955) is at once intellectually rich and challenging and an extremely moving book. Capital Cities at War (1997) (written with Jean-Louis Robert) was important, pioneering, sophisticated and a model of what a collaborative study should be.
Winter controls more than statistics and the written word. He was the chief historian for the television series, The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century, broadcast on BBC and PBS. The series garnered awards that would be the envy of any documentary film-maker: the Kodak visionary Award from the Producers Guild of America, the Peabody Award for Public Service, the Columbia University Dupont Award, and an Emmy from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
But television is only one arrow in Jay Winter's media quiver. He was appointed by the Conseil Gnral de la Somme as academic advisor to the museum, the Historial de la grande guerre (Historical Museum of the First World War) in Pronne. As a member of the Board of Directors of that international enterprise, Jay Winter and his colleagues will soon celebrate the tenth anniversary of this most original and powerful military museum.
In prose, both erudite and powerful, through the language of images and of objects, Jay Winter has revolutionized our understanding of war and culture, of memory and mourning, of economics and population. He has confronted us with the richness of Western culture, and its destructive capacity, in the last, frequently terrible century.