Historian receives UF Distinguished Alumnus Award for colonial histories.

The Pequot were an indigenous people who inhabited what is now southeastern Connecticut. Much of the tribe was largely lost to war and slavery between the 17th and 19th centuries, and academics have debated the cause of the battle between the Pequot and the Puritans. Historian Alfred A. Cave M’59, PhD’61 is one of the few people to tell the Pequot story. In his groundbreaking book, The Pequot War, Cave reexamines archeological, linguistic, and anthropological evidence and asserts that the Puritans attacked the Pequot for reasons of self-interest. According to the University of Massachusetts Press, “Alfred A. Cave refutes claims that settlers acted defensively to counter a Pequot conspiracy to exterminate Europeans.”

book cover of The Pequot War
The Pequot War (1996)

“My years in Gainesville at the University of Florida were revelatory. They were, I believe, the most important years of my life.”

For this 1996 publication and other notable scholarly achievements, Cave was selected to receive UF’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2015. He displays the physical award on his mantle and says that the award means more to him than any of the awards he’s received from other institutions. “The one honor I value above all others is this award,” he says.

Cave’s work specializes in the history of ethnic conflict in colonial America. His books include The Pequot War, which The New England Quarterly called the “definitive study” of the 17th-century conflict between the Pequot tribe and English colonists, and Prophets of the Great Spirit, which examines religious syncretism among native cultures. He also produced ethnohistories that describe the experiences of colonists and Native Americans under President Andrew Jackson.

Cave received his Master’s in 1959 and his PhD in 1961 from UF, where he later taught. He also received an honorary Doctor of Letters from England’s Salford University. In addition to teaching at UF, he has taught at City College of New York, the University of Utah, and the University of Toledo, where he served as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for 17 years, received an Outstanding Research Award, and is professor emeritus of history. He also received the Ohio Academy of History’s Distinguished Historian Award in 2012. At the end of his illustrious career, Cave looks back fondly on UF. “My years in Gainesville as a graduate student and later as an instructor at the University of Florida were revelatory,” he says. “They were, I believe, the most important years of my life.”

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