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Starr Center for the


Study of the American Experience

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

Nathaniel Philbrick, the 2017 George Washington Prize winner for Valiant Ambition, will speak at Washington College on September 19.

Nathaniel Philbrick, whose Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, won the 2017 George Washington Prize, will visit Washington College on Sept. 19 to discuss his book and the craft of writing narrative nonfiction.

Philbrick’s talk at Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, will start at 5:30 p.m. A book signing will precede the talk at 4:15 p.m. in Underwood Lobby, and a reception will follow. Hosted by the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, all events are free and open to the public.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The hero and the anti-hero, George Washington and Benedict Arnold, loom large in the story of our nation’s founding. These charismatic men shared traits like ambition and an obsession with honor, yet while one rose to lead the revolution and win the war, the other tragically fell to traitorous notoriety.

The Washington Prize jurors praised Valiant Ambition for its “narrative bravura.” Adam Goodheart, the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, describes Philbrick’s work as “an impressive feat of research” that transforms “dramatic episodes largely forgotten into a heart-racing adventure story.”

A best-selling and prizewinning author, Philbrick is well-known for his works that bring to life America’s history including In the Heart of the Sea (National Book Award) Mayflower (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Bunker Hill, and Sea of Glory. A maritime historian and former collegiate sailing champion, Philbrick earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He lives on Nantucket with his wife Melissa.

The full schedule for the Washington Prize celebration follows:

4:15 – 5:15 p.m.
Book signing with Nathaniel Philbrick, Underwood Lobby, Gibson Center for the Arts;
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
“Making History: A Conversation with Nathaniel Philbrick and Adam Goodheart,” Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts;
6:45 p.m.
Public reception, Underwood Lobby.

The George Washington Prize campus celebration is co-sponsored by Washington College Department of History, American Studies Program, Department of English, Sophie Kerr Committee, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Center for Environment & Society, and the History Society, Phi Alpha Theta.

Philbrick received the $50,000 Washington Prize at a black-tie dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in May. Sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Mount Vernon, the Washington Prize is one of the largest literary prizes in the nation. Awarded annually for the year’s best written work about America’s founding era, it particularly recognizes works that contribute to a broad public understanding of the American past.

Established in 2005, the George Washington Prize has honored a dozen leading writers on the Revolutionary era including the Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda and Pulitzer Prize winning historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Alan Taylor. Over 60 books were submitted for the 2017 prize.

About the Prize

The George Washington Prize honors the year’s best new works on early American history, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history. Created in 2005, the George Washington Prize was presented that year to Ron Chernow for Alexander Hamilton. One of the nation’s largest literary awards, the prestigious $50,000 Prize is sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Each year, a three member jury chooses prize finalists who are announced on George Washington’s birthday. A final selection committee reviews the finalists and chooses a winner.

Contact Information

Stephen McLeod
E-mail: smcleod@mountvernon.org
Telephone: 703-780-3600
George Washington Prize
Fred W. Smith National Library
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
3600 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, VA 22121