William Koren, Jr. (1901-1956)

Friends of the late William Koren, Jr. contributed the prize fund to the Society for French Historical Studies in 1957 to endow a memorial to a man who began his career as an historian, was attracted particularly to French history as a graduate student at Harvard, and throughout his life as teacher and public servant retained his interest in France and its history.

Koren graduated from Princeton University in 1930, spent 1930-31 in travel and study in Europe as a Palmer Scholar, and went on to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 1931-34. Returning to the United States in 1934 he became a member of the staff of the Foreign Policy Association. In 1935-36 he taught in the Department of History at Princeton, and in 1936 he entered Harvard University to study for a doctorate in history. He became a student of William L. Langer and under his direction began a dissertation on the French in Algeria, 1839-1841. From 1939 to 1941 he was an instructor in history at Princeton, leaving in 1941 to become an assistant to Professor Langer in the Office of the Coordinator of Information, the predecessor of the Office of Strategic Services, in Washington, D.C. During the war years he served in the O.S.S., the Department of State, and the United States Naval Reserve in Washington, London, and Paris. Soon after the war he joined the Foreign Service of the United States. He was assigned to the American Embassy in Paris from 1948 until 1954, when he became the Political Counsellor in the American Embassy in Tehran. He was there only one year before his career was cut short by his untimely death in 1956.

The announcement of the establishment of the prize in his memory was made at the annual conference of the Society for French Historical Studies in 1958. Since then it has been awarded annually to the author of "the best article on French history by a citizen of the United States or Canada published during the preceding year in a historical journal." 

David Pinkney
University of Washington, Seattle
Excerpted from French Historical Studies 40, no. 2 (1977): 353-55.