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Founded in 1968, the Davis Center for Historical Studies is named after Shelby Cullom Davis '30, who provided a generous gift to assure the continuance of excellence in scholarship and the teaching of history at Princeton University.

The Davis endowment funds the George Henry Davis '86 Professorship of American History, which honors the donor's father; the Shelby Cullom Davis '30 Professorship of European History; and the Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professorship in History. In addition, it supports purchases books for the University Library, provides resources for exploratory ventures in undergraduate teaching, graduate student fellowships, special costs of research by members of the department and the Davis Center. Recently, it has instituted the Visiting Stone Professorship, named after Professor Lawrence Stone, the founding director of the Center, which brings one distinguished historian each semester to Princeton for a short period to deliver lectures and engage in scholarly conversations with the members of the History Department. Yet another important initiative is the award of Stone Prizes to outstanding rising seniors for senior thesis research.

Since its inception, the Davis Center's chief function has been to conduct the weekly seminar in which members of the faculty, visitors from other institutions, graduate students, and selected undergraduates participate. For periods of two years, the seminar directs its attention to a single theme or aspect of history. Topics represent relatively new approaches to the study of history. Emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary approaches and subjects that span different geographical areas or periods. Conferences and workshops supplement the seminar series in advancing the exploration of the chosen theme. Significant papers developed through these activities are published as thematic collections of essays.
 
Each year, six to eight scholars are selected out of a large pool of applicants to be in residence in Princeton as Visiting Davis Fellows, where they participate in the seminar and pursue research related to its theme. The deadline for applications and letters of recommendation for fellowships is always December 1 prior to the academic year for which one is applying. Scholars who would like to offer a paper to one of the weekly seminars are asked to send a brief description of their proposal and a current curriculum vitae to the Director by the same deadline. For 2010-11, the theme is "Authority and Legitimation." For further information and inquiries, please contact the Manager, Shelby Cullom Davis Center.