Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton

Darnton in 2006
Born (1939-05-10) May 10, 1939
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Historian, Librarian
Subject Cultural History, 18th Century France, History of the Book
Notable works The Great Cat Massacre
Relatives Byron Darnton
John Darnton

Robert Choate Darnton (born May 10, 1939) is an American cultural historian and academic librarian who specializes in 18th-century France.


Darnton was born in New York City. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1957 and Harvard University in 1960, attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, and earned a Ph.D. (D. Phil.) in history from Oxford in 1964, where he studied with Richard Cobb, among others. He worked as reporter at The New York Times from 1964 to 1965. Joining the Princeton University faculty in 1968, he was appointed Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982. He served as President of the American Historical Association in 1999.[1]

On July 1, 2007, he transferred to emeritus status at Princeton, and was appointed Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library, succeeding Sidney Verba,.[2] In January 2016 Ann Blair succeeded him as the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor.[3]

In 1983 he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, the Netherlands, under the title The Meaning of Mother Goose.

Darnton is a pioneer in the field of the history of the book. He is writing about electronic publishing. He is founder of the Gutenberg-e program, sponsored by Mellon Foundation.

Darnton is a trustee of the New York Public Library.[4]

Awards and honors

His first major prize was the Leo Gershoy Award for The Business of Enlightenment in 1979. He has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).

In 1999 he was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur, an award given by the French government, in recognition of his work. In 2004 he was awarded the Gutenberg prize by the International Gutenberg Society.

In 2005 he received an award for distinguished achievement from the American Printing History Association.[5]

On February 13, 2012, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal 2011 by President Barack Obama, for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone.

In 2013 he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca lifetime achievement award.[6]

On January 29, 2016, Darnton received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Arts at Uppsala University, Sweden.[7]


His brother is the retired New York Times editor and author John Darnton, and his father was the war correspondent Byron Darnton.


See also


  1. Robert Darnton; Liz Townsend; Robert Townsend (2000). "AHA Presidential Addresses: Robert Darnton, 1999". American Historical ASsociation. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  2. Princeton's Robert Darnton To Succeed Verba as Harvard Library Director – 5/25/2007 – Library Journal
  4. Taylor, Kate. "Amherst President is Expected to Be Named Chief of the New York Public Library," New York Times. October 6, 2010.
  5. Books reveal volumes about times past, Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Princeton Weekly Bulletin, March 28, 2005.
  6. "Robert Darnton Awarded Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca". Harvard University Library. 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  7. "Faculty of Arts awards honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
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