The Allan Sharlin Memorial Award is presented annually for an outstanding book in social science history published in the previous year. This year, the award was presented to Alan L. Olmstead, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of California, Davis, and Paul W. Rhode, Professor and Chair of U-M Department of Economics. They were recognized for their book, Arresting Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts over Animal Disease Control (Harvard University Press).
To honor the memory of their son and brother, Allan, the Sharlin family has generously donated funds to the Social Science History Association to promote scholarly contributions in the fields in which Allan was active.
Allan exemplified the finest traditions of social science history. His training and scholarship were broadly interdisciplinary and he used both quantitative and more traditional methodologies. He received his B.A. in History from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin, he studied demography for two years at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, and, at the time of his death in March 1983, he was on the faculty of the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. During his brief scholarly career he published articles on sociological theory, on social and spatial mobility in German cities, and on new techniques for estimating demographic parameters in historical populations.
Authors or their publishers may choose to enter a book in either the President’s Book Award competition or the Allan Sharlin Memorial Award competition, but may not enter their book in both SSHA award competitions
The Allan Sharlin Memorial Award is presented annually for an outstanding book in social science history published in the previous year (2015).
A magisterial work of social science history, Arresting Contagion engages the interdisciplinary methods that the Award memorializes. Olmstead and Rhode rely on several disciplines necessary to their account: economic theory, political, social and environmental history, and the medical sciences. Contagious diseases in the economically vital livestock industry of the late 19th century United States presented an obdurate conflict between national and state interests, and between advocates of free markets and government regulation. While individuals, industries, states and localities might have strong economic reason to favor little regulation, communicable diseases and pathogens injurious to animals and humans were indifferent to these justifications and to jurisdictional boundaries. Arresting Contagion records the remarkable success of the Bureau of Animal Industry in asserting the national interest over that of individuals, industries, states and localities. The Bureau—established in 1884-- was among the first federal agencies to exercise more than nominal power in reshaping market activity. Achieving its goals of sanitary meat distribution often entailed significant losses for certain market actors. In assessing its successful campaign to control animal diseases, the authors deftly shift perspective. Case studies examine local politics in the United States, congressional debates over states' rights, and international disputes in an expanding global trade in livestock. In this account, science serves as the handmaiden to progress, but not without its own sharp divisions, especially over the germ theory of disease. The authors conclude that the agency's salutary, efficient exercise of federal power demonstrates the need for public interest rather than public choice models for government policy. The United States emerged, somewhat ironically, as an exemplar of appropriate government control, a paradigm the authors imply might have contemporary value.