Starr Center Fellow Wins Pulitzer!
CHESTERTOWN, MD—Historian Alan Taylor, a national expert in Colonial America and the early U.S. republic, this week received a Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, a book that Washington College played a part in supporting. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience awarded Taylor its 2012 Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellowship, bringing him to campus that April for a stint of research, writing, and recreation.
The Pulitzer Prize committee commended The Internal Enemy as “a meticulous and insightful account of why runaway slaves in the colonial era were drawn to the British side as potential liberators.” The citation continued: “Taylor’s riveting narrative re-creates the events that inspired black Virginians, haunted slaveholders, and set the nation on a new and dangerous course.” His prize-winning book was shortlisted for a National Book Award, and is also a finalist for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize, cosponsored by Washington College.
Taylor, whose critically acclaimed work is characterized by detailed, groundbreaking research and broadly accessible writing, has received many prestigious awards. This is his second Pulitzer: In 1996, he won the History prize for William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic. Taylor was selected in 2011 as a finalist for the Washington Book Prize for The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies.He was recently appointed to the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia after teaching at the University of California at Davis for 20 years.
During his two-week fellowship at Washington College, Taylor combed local archives, worked on his manuscript, presented a public lecture, visited classes, and toured local War of 1812 sites (including the Caulk’s Field battlefield). Before his departure, he was challenged to an epic townball grudgematch by Associate Professor of History Kenneth Miller, who had been Taylor’s graduate advisee and athletic protégé at the UC Davis. Taylor played for “Team West” while Miller proudly represented “Team East.” Townball is a colonial version of baseball played on the campus green by students, faculty, and staff. In his preface to The Internal Enemy, after thanking the College and Starr Center for their support, Taylor praises the spirit of “justice and decency” that prevailed in the infamous townball match.
“We’re proud of the modest contribution that the Starr Center made to Alan Taylor’s important work,” said Adam Goodheart, the Center’s Hosdon Trust-Griswold Director. “And I think it’s safe to say that this is the only Pulitzer Prize-winning book that has ever given a shout-out to the Washington College townball team.”
Established through a generous gift from Maurice Meslans and Margaret Holyfield of St. Louis, the Starr Center’s annual Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellowship brings to campus an individual engaged in the study or interpretation of African-American history or a related field. Besides providing the recipient an opportunity for a period of focused research and writing, the fellowship also offers Washington College students and faculty a chance to spend time with some of today’s leading interpreters of African-American culture. Additional grant funds support students who undertake research projects in the field under the mentorship of College faculty.
The winner of the 2014 George Washington Book Prize will be announced at a gala event at Mount Vernon on May 20. In addition to Taylor, this year’s finalists are Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy for The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (Yale); and Jeffrey L. Pasley for The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy (Kansas). For more information about the prize, please see www.washcoll.edu/gwbookprize.
Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For more information, visit www.washcoll.edu. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public