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France to honor U. of I. history professor and past award-winners at Illinois

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
217-333-2177; andreal@illinois.edu

4/6/2005

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — John A. Lynn, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been awarded one of France’s highest honors for academic achievement.

He will receive the Palmes Académiques, or the Academic Palms, for outstanding contributions to French culture and history on Tuesday (April 12) during a campuswide ceremony.

According to Yannick Mercoyrol, the cultural attaché of the French Consulate in Chicago, Lynn has been named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms) for “the remarkable work he has done as a historian and a professor of French history.”

The award, which comes from France’s Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research, can be given to French citizens and to foreigners. Foreign recipients are informally called “Friends of France.”

Lynn is the first historian at Illinois to receive the honor. Nearly all previous U. of I. recipients are or have been professors in the department of French.

“The department of history is delighted to share the honor bestowed on John Lynn,” said Peter Fritzsche, chair of Illinois’ history department. “The Palmes Académiques is extraordinary international recognition for a lifetime of innovative, influential scholarship.”

Lynn has been teaching French history and military history at Illinois since 1978. He is an international expert on early modern European and French military history, from the armies of Louis XIV to those of Napoleon Bonaparte. In recent years he has expanded his research interests to include the history of Western and non-Western military institutions and warfare.

For the past year and a half Lynn has been teaching an undergraduate course on the history of terrorism since 1945. He has been teaching a monthlong U. of I. study-abroad course in France on the history of that country since 2000.

Lynn has won teaching prizes in humanities from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and from the campus, and frequently is ranked by his students as an excellent teacher.

He is author or editor of eight books on military history, the most recent being “Battle: A History of Combat and Culture” (Westview, revised edition, 2004). Plans are nearly complete to publish both “Battle” and his “The Wars of Louis XIV” in French.

Lynn also is president of the U.S. Commission on Military History and vice president of the Society for Military History, the latter an office that automatically leads to the presidency. When he takes the top office at the SMH, he will become the first person ever to hold both presidencies concurrently; only one other person has led both organizations, although at different times.

Mercoyrol will present Lynn with his decoration in a ceremony to begin at 3 p.m. in the Lucy Ellis Lounge of the Foreign Languages Building, 707 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

The invitational ceremony also will recognize 12 previous U. of I. recipients of the Academic Palms and David Chicoine (pronounced SHE-quin), vice president for technology and economic development at Illinois, who last summer received the French National Order of Merit at the rank of knight. The National Order, which rewards meritorious service to society, is the second-highest civilian award France gives.

Also at the ceremony, Illinois faculty members who are serving as principal investigators on collaborative projects with France’s Centre national de la recherche scientifique (the National Center for Scientific Research) and Institut national de la recherche agronomique (National Institute for Agricultural Research), will be recognized, as will two Illinois history professors, Clare Crowston and Mark Micale, who are coordinating the 52nd annual meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies, to be held in April 2006 at Illinois.

According to Charles Stewart, director of International Programs and Studies at Illinois and interim associate provost for international affairs, the April 12 event will shine a light on the U. of I.’s many French linkages.

“This is a moment for the campus to celebrate its multiple and productive research and collaborative ties with institutions and colleagues in France,” said Stewart, also a historian and organizer of the ceremony.

“Professor Lynn joins a distinguished cohort of U. of I. faculty who have been honored by the French government for their contributions to the cultural and scientific disciplines. Our collaboration with CNRS and INRA research groups is among the most successful and vibrant of all our campus linkages with overseas institutions.”

According to Stewart the ceremony also will recognize the U. of I. as “one of the handful of U.S. institutions that have been named a ‘Centre Pluridisciplinaire’ by the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.”

Napoleon established the Palmes Académiques in 1808 to honor academics. The greatest change to its history came by a presidential decree in 1955, when the Palmes was officially raised to the status of a ministerial order, the Order of Academic Palms, and three grades or ranks were designated: knight, officer and commander.

The French minister of national education recommends nominees for the honor to the French prime minister, who, if she or he is in agreement, issues an official decree naming recipients.