Finalists for George Washington Book Prize Announced

Vernon

Congrats to the nominees!

MOUNT VERNON, VA – Seven books published in 2018 by the country’s most prominent historians have been named finalists for the George Washington Prize. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of early American history.

“This prestigious prize started in 2005, and I am delighted to say that this year has one of the strongest lists of books that we have ever seen,” said Dr. Doug Bradburn, Mount Vernon President & CEO. “Clearly, we are in a golden age for writing on the founding of the United States, and I very much hope we can get the attention of the American people around their founding stories—things that we have in common that we share that make us one people. Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts to teach the story of American history to our citizens.”

Created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards.

Written to engage a wide public audience, the selected books provide a “go-to” reading list for anyone interested in learning more about George Washington, his contemporaries, and the founding of the United States of America.

The 2019 George Washington Prize finalists are:

  • Colin Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation (Oxford University Press)
  • Stephen Fried, Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father (Crown)
  • Catherine Kerrison, Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America (Ballantine Books)
  • Joyce Lee Malcolm, The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold: An American Life (Pegasus Books)
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown (Viking)
  • Russell Shorto, Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Peter Stark, Young Washington: How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Father (Harper Collins)

Kevin Hayes’s *George Washington: A Life in Books* Wins the 2018 George Washington Book Prize

HayesCongrats to Kevin Hayes.   Click here for our Author’s Corner interview with Hayes.

Here is the Mount Vernon press release:

MOUNT VERNON, VA – Author and historian Kevin J. Hayes has won the coveted George Washington Prize, including an award of $50,000, for his new book, George Washington: A Life in Books (Oxford University Press). One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards, now in its 13th year, the George Washington Prize honors its namesake by recognizing the year’s best new books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that engage a broad public audience. Conferred by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the award will be presented to Hayes on May 23 at a black-tie gala at Mount Vernon.

In George Washington: A Life in Books, Hayes presents an intellectual biography of Washington that should permanentlydispel popular misconceptions of America’s leading Founding Father as a man of all action and no ideas. Washington scholars have long known that he owned an impressive library of more than thirteen hundred volumes. Hayes has gone further by meticulously paging through Washington’s surviving books held at the Boston Athenæum, the Washington Library at Mount Vernon, and other collections, as well as nearly nine hundred pages of Washington’s notes on his reading, to create a portrait of him as a reader. By closely examining Washington’s notes, Hayes has uncovered an intellectual curiosity that dozens of previous biographers have missed. As a young man, Washington read popular serials such as The Gentleman’s Magazine and The Spectator, which helps to bridge the long-imagined gap between him and his learned contemporaries like Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams.

“Kevin Hayes shattered myths and calumnies against George Washington and has done much more,” said Douglas Bradburn, President and CEO of Mount Vernon. “He’s added to the depth of the man helping to reveal why Washington is such an effective leader.”

Established in 2005, the George Washington Prize has honored a dozen leading writers on the Revolutionary era including Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton. For this year’s prize, a distinguished jury comprised of notable historians Denver Brunsman, Flora Fraser, and Peter Onuf selected the seven finalists from a field of more than 50 books.

Mount Vernon’s event on May 23 will also honor the six finalists for the 2017 prize:

Max EdelsonThe New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press)

Eric HinderakerBoston’s Massacre (Harvard University Press)

Jon KuklaPatrick Henry: Champion of Liberty (Simon & Schuster)

James E. Lewis, Jr.The Burr Conspiracy: Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis (Princeton University Press)

Jennifer Van HornThe Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America (University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture)

Douglas L. WiniarskiDarkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture)

The 2018 George Washington Book Prize Finalists Announced

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*Was America Founded as a Christian Nation* Was a Finalist in 2012

The 2018 George Washington Prize finalists are:

● S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press)

● Kevin J. Hayes, George Washington: A Life in Books (Oxford University Press)

● Eric Hinderaker, Boston’s Massacre (Harvard University Press)

● Jon Kukla, Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty (Simon & Schuster)

● James E. Lewis, Jr., The Burr Conspiracy Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis (Princeton University Press)

● Jennifer Van Horn, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture)

● Douglas L. Winiarski, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture)

Congratulations!

How Maya Jasanoff Writes

Finalists at Mount Vernon

2011 George Washington Book Prize finalists: Ben Irvin, Maya Jasanoff (winner), Ben Irvin

I’m still mad at Maya Jasanoff for beating me out for the 2012 George Washington Book Prize. 🙂  (I had that $50,000 targeted for a writing shed in my back yard!)

As I deal with my ongoing bitterness, check-out this interview with the prolific Harvard historian:

Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?

Michelle Obama or, though I’d probably lose my appetite, VS Naipaul.

What book changed your life?

Orientalism by Edward Said. I have many disagreements with the book, but its meditation on the intersection of politics and culture hugely influenced my thinking.

When did you first know that you were going to be a writer? I

remember getting turned on to the power of storytelling by Charles Dickens, when my mother read Nicholas Nickleby to me as a child.

Do you have a writing routine?

Edit what I wrote the day before, feel a sense of progress, start a few new paragraphs, feel exhilarated, fine-tune what I wrote in the morning, feel despair, give up for a few hours, force myself back, wrestle with a difficult passage, feel mildly satisfied, turn off computer, rethink everything I wrote that day, realise it’s terrible, go to bed, start again.

Read the entire interview here.

Nathaniel Philbrick Wins the 2017 George Washington Book Prize

PhilbrickHere is a taste of the press release from Washington College, one of the sponsors of the award.

Author Nathaniel Philbrick has won the coveted George Washington Prize, including an award of $50,000, for his book, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking). One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards and now in its 12th year, the George Washington Prize honors its namesake by recognizing the year’s best new books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that engage a broad public audience. Conferred by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the award will be presented to Philbrick on May 25 at a black-tie gala at Mount Vernon.

“To have Valiant Ambition recognized in this way means a tremendous amount to me, especially given the extraordinary quality of the books produced by the other six finalists,” said Philbrick. “My heartfelt thanks to the jurors involved in the selection process and to the George Washington Prize’s sponsoring institutions.”

Valiant Ambition is a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Philbrick creates a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and of the war that gave birth to a nation. He focuses on loyalty and personal integrity as he explores the relationship between Washington and Arnold—an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.

“Philbrick brings both careful craftsmanship and propulsive energy to his storytelling—a hallmark of all his widely read and acclaimed books,” says Adam Goodheart, the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College. “Moreover, Valiant Ambition is also an impressive feat of research: it offers dramatic episodes that have been largely forgotten, such as a naval battle fought by Arnold on Lake Champlain in 1776, which Philbrick turns into a heart-racing adventure story.”   

Established in 2005, the George Washington Prize has honored a dozen leading writers on the Revolutionary era including, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton. For this year’s prize, a distinguished jury comprised of notable historians David Preston, Kathleen DuVal, and Nick Bunker, selected the finalists from a field of nearly 60 books.

Mount Vernon’s event on May 25 will also honor the six finalists for the 2017 prize:

T.H. Breen, George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation (Simon and Schuster)

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf“Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing)

Jane Kamensky, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (W.W. Norton)

Michael J. KlarmanThe Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution (Oxford University Press)

Mark Edward Lender and Garry Wheeler StoneFatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle (University of Oklahoma Press)

Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 (W.W. Norton)

 

George Washington Book Prize Finalists Chosen

alito

I got to meet Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito at the 2012 George Washington Book Prize Gala at Mount Vernon.  My Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction was one of three finalists that year.

And here they are:

Chestertown, MD—In celebration of George Washington’s 285th birthday, seven books published in 2016 by the country’s most prominent historians have been named finalists for the George Washington Prize. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best-written works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of early American history.

Created in 2005 by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards, and this year’s finalists include past Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners.

The finalists’ books combine depth of scholarship and broad expanse of inquiry with vivid prose that exposes the complexities of our founding narrative. Through compelling storytelling, the authors introduce readers to citizen soldiers and statesmen, artists and frontiersmen, heroes and traitors, loyalists and rebels—the ordinary, the ambitious, and the exceptional men and women who, in the chaos and contradictions of revolution, imagined a different world order and gave shape to a new nation.

Written to engage a wide public audience, the books provide a “go-to” reading list for anyone interested in learning more about George Washington, his contemporaries, and the drama of the revolutionary founding of the United States of America.

The 2017 George Washington Prize finalists are:

● T.H. Breen, George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation (Simon and Schuster)

● Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing)

● Jane Kamensky, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (W.W. Norton)

● Michael J. Klarman, The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution(Oxford University Press)

● Mark Edward Lender and Garry Wheeler Stone, Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle (University of Oklahoma Press)

● Nathaniel Philbrick, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking) 

● Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 (W.W. Norton)

A distinguished jury comprised of notable historians David Preston, Kathleen DuVal, and Nick Bunker, selected the finalists from a field of nearly 60 books. The winner of the 2017 prize will be announced, and all finalists recognized, at a black-tie gala on Thursday, May 25 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. More information about the George Washington Prize is available at washcoll.edu/gwbookprize.

Flora Fraser Wins George Washington Book Prize

FloraHere is the press release:

Flora Fraser, whose book The Washingtons offers a rare and comprehensive view of Martha Washington and the relationship between the nation’s inaugural first couple, wins the $50,000 George Washington Prize.

A noted biographer whose work has focused on the women behind the great men of history has won the 2016 George Washington Prize. Flora Fraser earned the $50,000 prize for her book The Washingtons: George and Martha, “Join’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love.”

The award, which is one of the nation’s largest literary prizes, honors the best new works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that engage a broad public audience. Conferred by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, it was presented to Fraser on May 25 at a black-tie gala at the Mount Vernon estate.

“I feel greatly the honor that has been accorded The Washingtons,” Fraser said. “George and Martha’s marriage was an inspiring partnership to chart. The George Washington Prize, fruit of another partnership among three distinguished homes of learning, Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, is an accolade which I shall long treasure.”

Published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf, The Washingtons has drawn widespread praise from scholars and critics. While many books have chronicled George Washington’s life and public service, no other has so thoroughly examined the marriage bonds between him and his wife. Few primary sources exist on the life of Martha Washington, who destroyed all but one of the couple’s personal letters. But Fraser’s diligent research has resulted in a more comprehensive understanding of the nation’s first First Lady—and through her important story, a fuller sense of the nation’s first President. Fraser portrays a couple devoted to each other and steadfast in their loyalty: from their short courtship, through raising a family at Mount Vernon, to the long years of the Revolutionary War, to the first U.S. Presidency, and to retirement at their beloved Virginia plantation.

“Flora Fraser’s book The Washingtons opens a whole new vista on Martha and George Washington’s married life,” said James Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute. “Through Fraser’s stylish prose, this iconic couple becomes more human and accessible. The result is a wonderful read.”

Fraser, who lives in London, is also the author of Beloved Emma: The Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton; The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline; Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III; and Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire. She chairs the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, which she established in 2003 in memory of her grandmother, a historian and author of many noted British biographies; her mother is the noted biographer Lady Antonia Fraser.

The Mount Vernon event also honored six finalists for the 2016 George Washington Prize: Mary Sarah Bilder for Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard), Kathleen DuVal for Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (Random House), Robert Middlekauff for Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader (Knopf), Janet Polasky for Revolutions Without Borders: The Call to Liberty in the Atlantic World (Yale), David Preston for Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (Oxford), and John Sedgwick for War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation (Penguin).

Established in 2005, the George Washington Prize has honored a dozen leading writers on the Revolutionary era including, last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton. Publishers in the United States and the United Kingdom submitted more than 60 books for the 2016 award.

Learn more about the George Washington Prize at washcoll.edu/gwbookprize.

2016 George Washington Book Prize Finalists Announced

FInalists

With 2012 GW Book Prize Finalists at Mount Vernon, Ben Irvin and Maya Jasanoff

When my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction was chosen as a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize in 2012, there were only three books that made the cut.  This year there are seven finalists.  And it is a very impressive group.

Here is the press release:

Chestertown, MD—To mark the holiday celebrating the country’s first president, Washington College today announced seven finalists for the prestigious George Washington Prize. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best written works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of early American history.

Created in 2005 by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards. Past recipients have included Pulitzer Prize-wining historian Annette Gordon-Reed and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.

This year’s finalists represent both the depth of new scholarship and the broad expanse of inquiry into the diversity of people and the political, geographic, economic, and social forces that shaped the American Revolution and the early republic. The books, written to engage a wide public audience, provide a “go-to” reading list for anyone interested in learning more about George Washington and his times.

With superb narrative skill, the authors immerse readers into domestic life at Mount Vernon, a bloody battle on the banks of the Monongahela River, bustling multi-ethnic settlements along the Gulf Coast, onboard ships with revolutionaries crisscrossing the Atlantic world, a depleted encampment at Valley Forge, a contentious convention in Philadelphia in 1787, and the Weehawken dueling grounds at dawn. These were places where well and little known stories of our nation’s past unfolded, revolutionary leaders were forged, and the ideas of liberty, democracy, and republicanism were tested.

The 2016 George Washington Prize finalists are:

* Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard University Press)

* Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (Random House)

* Flora Fraser, The Washingtons: George and Martha, “Join’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love” (Knopf)

* Robert Middlekauff, Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader (Knopf)

* Janet Polasky, Revolutions Without Borders: The Call to Liberty in the Atlantic World (Yale University Press)

* David Preston, Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (Oxford University Press)

* John Sedgwick, War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation (Penguin)

Distinguished historians and writers Sean Wilentz, Libby O’Connell, and James Kirby Martin served as independent jurors who selected the finalists from a field of nearly 60 books published in the past year. The winner of the 2016 prize will be announced at a black-tie gala on Wednesday, May 25 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

More information about the George Washington Prize is available at washcoll.edu/gwbookprize. For more information about the finalists or to arrange interviews, please contact Washington College Director of Media Relations Wendy M. Clarke, (wclarke2@washcoll.edu 410.810.7431) or George Washington Prize Coordinator Jean Wortman (jwortman2@washcoll.edu 410-810-7165).

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES

MARY SARAH BILDER is Professor of Law and Michael and Helen Lee Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School. Her work focuses on the history of the Constitution, the history of judicial review, and colonial and founding era constitutionalism.

KATHLEEN DUVAL is a professor in the History Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Author of The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent, DuVal has also published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and William and Mary Quarterly.

FLORA FRASER is author of Beloved Emma: The Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton; The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline; Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III; and Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire. Fraser is chair of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography. She lives in London.

ROBERT MIDDLEKAUFF is Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728, which won the Bancroft Prize; The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies.

JANET POLASKY is Presidential Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of the prize-winning Revolution in Brussels, 1787-1793; The Democratic Socialism of Emile Vandervelde: Between Reform and Revolution; and Reforming Urban Labor: Routes to the City, Roots in the Country.

DAVID PRESTON is an award-winning historian of early America, and Professor of History at The Citadel. He is the author of The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783, which received the 2010 Albert B. Corey Prize.

JOHN SEDGWICK has been a journalist, novelist, memoirist and a biographer, publishing twelve books altogether. He is best known for his best-selling six-generation family memoir, In My Blood, and his acclaimed psychological novel, The Dark House. He has been a regular at Newsweek, GQ, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, among many other publications.

ABOUT THE SPONSORS OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE

Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, but also a member of its original governing board. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The college’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the Washington Prize, is an innovative center for the study of history, culture, and politics, and fosters excellence in the art of written history through fellowships, prizes, and student programs. For more information: http://www.washcoll.edu.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit devoted to the teaching and learning of American history. Gilder Lehrman draws on top scholars, an unparalleled collection of original historical documents, and a national network of more than 8,000 Affiliate Schools to create and provide a broad range of innovative resources to help teachers, students, scholars, and the general public learn about American history in a way that is engaging and memorable. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Organization of American Historians. For more information: http://www.gilderlehrman.org.

With its latest initiative, The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, George Washington’s Mount Vernon affirms its status as the preeminent center of learning about Washington, his life, character of leadership, and legacy. In addition to safeguarding original books and manuscripts, the Library serves as a center for leadership inspired by Washington’s extraordinary example. Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. For more information: http://www.mountvernon.org.

Lin Manuel-Miranda Wins a "Special" George Washington Book Prize

Lin-Manuel Miranda.Washington College, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, and Mount Vernon has announced that Lin Manuel-Miranda, the creator and star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” will be awarded a special achievement award by the George Washington Book Prize.  

Here is some more information:


NEW YORK—Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright, lyricist, composer, and star of the groundbreaking hit musical Hamilton will be honored with a Special Achievement Award from the Board of one of the nation’s most prestigious literary honors, the George Washington Book Prize. The special award and accompanying prize of $50,000 will be presented to Miranda at a ceremony in New York City on December 14, 2015.
Created in 2005, the Washington Book Prize recognizes new works that offer fresh perspectives on George Washington and our nation’s Founding Era. One of the largest literary honors presented each year, the $50,000 prize is awarded jointly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and Washington College.  
Miranda’s special recognition marks the first time the George Washington Prize has been presented to a play. In announcing Miranda’s selection, a spokesperson for the Washington Book Prize Committee stated, “In capturing the hearts of all who have seen it, Hamilton has clearly made the lessons of our Founding accessible and engaging while hewing to historical fact. We honor Lin-Manuel Miranda with a Special Achievement Award for this extraordinary accomplishment.” 
Miranda’s recognition circles back to the first George Washington Book Prize, which was awarded to Ron Chernow for his biography Alexander Hamilton in 2005. According to Miranda, Chernow’s book was an inspiration for his blockbuster musical. 
Of course it is hard for me to pass up news about the George Washington Book Prize.  Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? was chosen as one of the three finalists in 2012.

Nick Bunker Wins the George Washington Book Prize

It is one the nation’s largest literary awards. 

The George Washington Book Prize is awarded every year to the best book on early American history written for a broad audience.  It is sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.   In 2011, our Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction was one of the three finalists. You can read about that amazing experience here and here.

This year’s winner was Nick Bunker’s An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America. Bunker beat out three other books: Richard Dunn’s A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, Francois Furstenberg’s When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, and Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding.

Congratulations!


Here is a taste of the press release:

An Empire on the Edge is a probing account of Great Britain’s internal political and financial tensions on the eve of revolution. Drawing on a careful study of primary sources from Britain and the United States, Bunker crafts a compelling story of the deepening antagonism between England and her colonies, giving equal weight to the commercial as well as the political ambitions of the British Empire.  Bunker’s series of fully visualized scenes of familiar events like the Boston Tea Party and lesser-known episodes such as the Gaspee Affair, provides a nuanced description of the Anglo-American conflict.
An independent scholar in Lincolnshire, England, Bunker was formerly a journalist for theFinancial Times and an investment banker. Bunker’s background in finance is evident in his insightful portrait of London’s speculative cycles, the financial woes of the East India Company, and the networks of global trade that put the imperial system “slipping into ruin.”
In addition to claiming the Washington Book Prize, An Empire on the Edge was recently announced as a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in history, earning praise for its “bifocal perspective on the countdown to the American Revolution.” Empire on Edge is Bunker’s second book: he previously authored Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History (2010).
“Bunker’s book takes readers from the wharves of Boston to the halls of Parliament and the tea plantations of China,” said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize. “He shows us that the fate of the American colonies depended on events in all of those places. This is historical narrative at its most vivid and engrossing.”

George Washington Book Prize Finalists Announced

I am a big fan of the George Washington Book Prize.  Here is a description of the prize:

In celebration of George Washington’s birthday, Washington College today named four finalists for the 2015 George Washington Book Prize. One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards, the George Washington Book Prize recognizes the best new books on early American history. The $50,000 award is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College. Now in its eleventh year, the award recognizes works that not only shed new light on the nation’s founding era, but also have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history.

As some of you may remember, my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction was one of three finalists in 2012.

This year’s four finalists are:

Richard Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia

Nick Bunker, An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America

Eric Nelson: The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding

Francois Furstenberg, When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation

This year’s judges were Rosemarie Zagarri, Philip Morgan, and Ted Widmer.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

O’Shaughnessy Wins George Washington Book Prize

Since I was away from the blog last week I did not get a chance to write a post on the announcement of the 2014 George Washington Book Prize winner.  This year’s winner was Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s book The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of America.

Some might call this a bit of an upset, but only because another one of the books chosen as a finalist, Alan Taylor’s The Internal Emeny: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for history.  (The other finalist was Jeffrey Pasley’s The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy).  The judges for this year’s award were Gordon Wood, Joyce Appleby, and Annette Gordon-Reed.

As some of you may recall, my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction was one of the three finalists in 2012.

George Washington Book Prize Finalists Announced

The C.V. Starr Center, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, and Mount Vernon have announced the three finalists for this year’s $50,000 George Washington Book Prize.  Two of the three finalists are professors at the University of Virginia.

As some of you may recall, my own Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? was one of the three finalists in 2012.

Here are this year’s finalists:

Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1837 (W.W. Norton)

Jeff Pasley, The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy (Kansas)

Andrew O’Shaunessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of Empire  (Yale)

Good luck!

Stephen Brumwell Wins 2013 George Washington Book Prize

From the C.V. Starr Website:

MOUNT VERNON, VA—One of the nation’s largest literary awards, the annual George Washington Book Prize, has been awarded to Stephen Brumwell for George Washington: Gentleman Warrior (Quercus, 2012).  An independent historian and award-winning author who lives in Amsterdam, Brumwell received the $50,000 prize on Tuesday evening, May 21, at a black-tie dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Most of us think of George Washington as the victorious commander-in-chief and wise statesman, but Brumwell breathes new life into a younger and edgier incarnation of our first president—the feisty frontier warrior who engaged the French and their Indian allies in brutal border skirmishes, the tough mid-career officer who turned the Continental Army into the weapon that defeated the British Empire.  Even while Washington fought the redcoats, Brumwell argues, he relied on British models of military organization and gentlemanly behavior in shaping his distinctive style of leadership. 

The Washington Prize, honoring the year’s best book about America’s founding era, is sponsored by a partnership of three institutions devoted to furthering historical scholarship: Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It particularly recognizes well-written books that speak to general audiences and contribute to a broad public understanding of the American past.

“Stephen Brumwell’s book is a pleasure to read from the very first pages, when he puts you right there, literally looking down the sights of a rifle held by a British officer who’s about to decide whether to kill George Washington,” said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize. “He brings the frontier military experience to life—the vermin, the floggings, the constant fear of ambush and massacre. And readers get a vivid sense of Washington himself as a creation of eighteenth-century military culture.” 

George Washington: Gentleman Warrior is a wonderful read and the scholarship is deeply impressive—Stephen Brumwell was way down in the scholarly weeds sorting out things most eighteenth-century specialists don’t know much about,” added James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which funds the award. “I don’t know if we’ll get a Washington book this good ever again.” 

Born in Portsmouth on England’s South Coast, Brumwell worked for many years as a newspaper reporter before he went back to school to earn a Ph.D. in history. He is the author of Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe (Hambledon Continuum, 2006), which won the 2008 Society of Colonial Wars Distinguished Book Award and the 2008 Charles P. Stacey Prize; White Devil: An Epic Story of Revenge from the Savage War that Inspired The Last of the Mohicans (Weidenfield & Nicholson, 2004); and Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 (Cambridge, 2002). He also co-authored (with W.A. Speck) Cassell’s Companion to Eighteenth Century Britain (Cassell, 2001) and has participated as an historian in numerous television and radio programs.   

The Washington Prize jury praised George Washington: Gentleman Warrior as “well-written and engaging,” and wrote: “In the hands of this fine biographer, Washington emerges as a flesh and blood man, more impressive than the mythical hero could ever be.”  

The Mount Vernon event also celebrated three other finalists for this year’s prize: Eliga H. Gould’s Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire (Harvard, 2012), Cynthia A. Kierner’s Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times (UNC, 2012) and Brian Steele’s Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood (Cambridge, 2012). 

“As Mount Vernon prepares to open a new national library for George Washington this fall, never has it been more important for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association to honor and highlight the contributions of these important authors covering early American history,” said Curtis Viebranz, president of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Finalists were selected by a three-person jury of distinguished American historians: Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History Emerita at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, who served as Chair; Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography and professor of English at Dartmouth College; and Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia and Senior Research Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. Brumwell’s book was named the ultimate winner by a panel of representatives from each of the three institutions that sponsor the prize, plus historian Barbara Oberg of Princeton University.

2013 George Washington Book Prize Finalists Announced

One year ago today I was on cloud nine. It was announced that my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction was one of the three finalists for the prestigious $50,000 George Washington Book Prize offered jointly by the C.V. Starr Center for the American Experience, Mount Vernon, and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.  

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation did not win the prize (it went to Maya Jasanoff’s excellent Liberty’s Exiles), but I was flattered and humbled to have made the final cut. This was a big deal for me, Messiah College, and Westminster-John Knox Press.  I think it was my editor Jana Riess who described it as a real “David and Goliath story.”

Today the batch of finalists for the 2013 GW Book Prize were announced.  They finalists are:

Stephen Brumwell, George Washington: Gentleman Warrior

Eliga H. Gould, Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

Cynthia Kierner,  Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times

Brian Steele, Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood.

This year the jurors were Carol Berkin of Baruch College and CUNY Graduate Center, Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina of Dartmouth College, and Peter Onuf of the University of Virginia.

Congratulations and good luck to the finalists. I am sure that they will enjoy that reception and dinner at Mount Vernon in the Spring!