A Winner on History’s Losers
One of the nation’s largest literary awards, the annual George Washington Book Prize, was awarded to Maya Jasanoff for Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf, 2011). Jasanoff, a professor of history at Harvard University, received the $50,000 prize at a black-tie dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum and Gardens in early June.
While it has long been said that history is written by the victors, Jasanoff vigorously challenges that idea in her powerful account of the lives of those who fought against the American Revolution. Liberty’s Exiles is a riveting story of the losers in America’s struggle for independence, loyalists who found themselves in a world turned upside down. Yet Jasanoff also describes how these exiles – who fled their lost colonies for the distant corners of the globe, from Nova Scotia to West Africa to India – helped shape the future of the British Empire.
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.
“Told through the eyes of American loyalists, Liberty’s Exiles is a masterful combination of archival research and narrative storytelling,” says James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which funds the award. “Jasanoff delivers brilliant insight into the lives and motives of the 60,000 loyalists who sought refuge around the world after independence, depicting the global impact of that mass exodus and providing a fresh and engaging perspective on the American Revolution.”
In praising Liberty’s Exiles, the Washington Prize jury applauded the book’s “impressive archival research, its sweeping conceptualization, perspectives and aims, its enviable prose style and the penetrating insights it yields into its characters’ lives.”