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And the Best New Books on Early American History Are …

  • Eric Nelson
    Eric Nelson
  • Francois Furstenberg.
    Francois Furstenberg.
    Will Kirk/Homewood Photos/JHU
  • Richard Dunn.
    Richard Dunn.
  • Nick Bunker.
    Nick Bunker.
February 20, 2015
The four finalists for the 2015 George Washington Book Prize – Nick Bunker, Richard Dunn, François Furstenberg and Eric Nelson – offer new insights into the American Revolution, its impact on the rest of the world, and the very meaning of liberty.

CHESTERTOWN, MD, Feb. 20, 2015—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.

This year’s four honorees spark new thinking on the American Revolution: its causes and principles, the meaning of liberty and freedom in the young democracy, and the impact of the Revolution that reverberated throughout the 18th century Atlantic world.  Nick Bunker’s An Empire on the Edge:  How Britain Came to Fight America (Knopf) probes Great Britain’s internal tensions on the eve of revolution.  In The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding (Harvard) Eric Nelson turns upside down the conventional image of the war as a rebellion against a tyrannical king.  Richard Dunn’s new book, A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia (Harvard), tackles one of the American Revolution’s most challenging issues: human bondage in an age of liberty.  And rounding out the slate of finalists, François Furstenberg’s collective biography, When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation (Penguin Press), explores how former French revolutionaries, émigrés to Philadelphia, influenced the growth of the new American republic.

An independent scholar in Lincolnshire, England, Bunker was formerly a journalist for the Financial Times and an investment banker, and is the author of Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History (2010) Dunn is Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor Emeritus of American History at the University of Pennsylvania.  Among his many publications is Sugar and Slaves (1972), an acclaimed analysis of the Caribbean plantation slave society.  Furstenberg is an associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins. His first book, In the Name of the Father: Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation, was a finalist for the 2007 George Washington Book Prize.  Nelson is Robert M. Beren Professor of Government at Harvard and the author of The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (2010) and The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought (2004).

Distinguished historians Rosemarie Zagarri, Philip Morgan and Ted Widmer served as the jury that selected the four finalists from a field of nearly 70 books published in the past year.  The winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced at a black-tie gala on May 20 at Mount Vernon.

More information about the George Washington Book Prize is available at washcoll.edu/gwbookprize. For more information about the four finalists or to arrange interviews, please contact Washington College Director of Media Relations Kay MacIntosh (kmacintosh2@washcoll.edu, 410-810-7408), or George Washington Book Prize Coordinator Jean Wortman (jwortman2@washcoll.edu, 410-810-7165).



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: 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 6,000 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. Each year the Institute offers support and resources to tens of thousands of teachers, and through them enhances the education of more than a million students. 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: 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: www.mountvernon.org.


Last modified on Mar. 22nd, 2015 at 12:33pm by .