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C.V. Starr Center for the


Study of the American Experience

Washington Book Prize

The George Washington Book Prize recognizes the year’s best books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history.

Nick Bunker Wins 2015 George Washington Book Prize with Vivid Countdown of Events Leading to the
American Revolution

His Empire on the Edge receives the $50,000 Prize at a gala event hosted Wednesday evening by Mount Vernon.

 

The winner of one of the nation’s largest literary awards, the George Washington Book Prize, was announced Wednesday evening, May 20, at a black-tie gala at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The $50,000 prize went to Nick Bunker’s An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America (Knopf).

The George Washington Book Prize honors the year’s best new books on early American history, especially books that are written for a broad audience. The three institutions that sponsor the prestigious prize — Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon — are devoted to furthering historical scholarship that contributes to the public understanding of the American Revolution and the founding era.

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 the Financial 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.”

The Mount Vernon event also honored the three other finalists for this year’s Washington Prize: Richard S. Dunn’s A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia (Harvard University Press), François Furstenberg’s When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation (Penguin) and Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding (Harvard University Press).

Books are available for purchase at the College Bookstore

About the Prize 

Created in 2005, the George Washington Book Prize was presented that year to Ron Chernow for Alexander Hamilton. Other winners are Stacy Schiff (2006) for A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, Charles Rappleye (2007) for Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution, Marcus Rediker (2008) for The Slave Ship: A Human History,  Annette Gordon-Reed (2009) for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which also won the Pulitzer Prize for History, the National Book Award and the Frederick Douglass Prize, and Richard Beeman (2010) for Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. In 2011, the Prize was awarded to Pauline Maier for Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1789 and in 2012 the winner was Maya Jasanoff for Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. The 2013 Prize was awarded to Stephen Brumwell for George Washington: Gentleman Warrior. The tenth Book Prize was awarded in 2014 to Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy for The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire.

The George Washington Book Prize recognizes the year’s best books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history. The $50,000 Prize is sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Contact Information

Jean Wortman, George Washington Book Prize Coordinator 
E-mail: jwortman2@washcoll.edu
Telephone: (410) 810-7165
Fax: (410) 810-7175

Submissions should be sent to: 
George Washington Book Prize 
101 South Water Street
Chestertown, MD 21620

Photo Galleries

  • Gallery Photo Thumbnail
    Washington College recently celebrated the 10th year of the George Washington Book Prize. 2014 winner Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy visited campus on Nov. 7th.
  • Gallery Photo Thumbnail
    The 2014 George Washington Book Prize was awarded on May 20 during a black-tie gala at Mount Vernon.  Sponsored by Washington College with Mount Vernon and the Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History, the $50,000 ...
  • Gallery Photo Thumbnail
    The 2014 George Washington Book Prize finalists tackle fresh and engaging topics about the nation’s founding era. In The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire ...
  • Gallery Photo Thumbnail
    The C. V. Starr Center for the study of the American Experience honors Stephen Brumwell, author of George Washington: Gentleman Warrior .
  • Gallery Photo Thumbnail
    On Tuesday, May 21, the winner of the 2013 George Washington Book Prize was announced at a black-tie gala that began on the Piazza of Mount Vernon. The winner was Stephen Brumwell for George ...
  • Gallery Photo Thumbnail
    Guests enjoyed a lovely evening at Mount Vernon for the 2013 George Washington Book Prize gala. Sponsored by Washington College with Mount Vernon and the Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History, the $50,000 prize honors ...