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Taylor wins Pulitzer: The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
W.W. Norton & Company

The University of Virginia announced today that the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, Alan Taylor -- a recent addition to the department -- has now won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832," the story of the struggle for liberty among the slaves along the Chesapeake, who thought of the numerous British sailing ships they saw as "freedom’s swift-winged angels."

The publisher -- W. W. Norton & Company -- writes:

"... Over many nights, hundreds of slaves paddled out to the warships seeking protection for their families from the ravages of slavery. The runaways pressured the British admirals into becoming liberators. As guides, pilots, sailors, and marines, the former slaves used their intimate knowledge of the countryside to transform the war. They enabled the British to escalate their onshore attacks and to capture and burn Washington, D.C. Tidewater masters had long dreaded their slaves as "an internal enemy."

By mobilizing that enemy, the war ignited the deepest fears of Chesapeake slaveholders. It also alienated Virginians from a national government that had neglected their defense. Instead they turned south, their interests aligning more and more with their section. In 1820 Thomas Jefferson observed of sectionalism: "Like a firebell in the night [it] awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once the knell of the union." The notes of alarm in Jefferson's comment speak of the fear aroused by the recent crisis over slavery in his home state. His vision of a cataclysm to come proved prescient. ..."

This is Professor Taylor's second Pulitzer Prize in History. His first Pulitzer was based on the life and times of James Fenimore Cooper, "William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic,” which was awarded in 1996. That work also garnered the Bancroft Prize and the Beveridge Award.

In addition to its winning the Pulitzer, "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832" also was a finalist for Nonfiction for the 2013 National Book Award, and is also a finalist for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize, along with Jeffrey L. Pasley, of the University of Missouri, for "The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy;" and Andrew O'Shaughnessy -- another University of Virginia Professor and Director of the International Center for Jefferson Studies, for "The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire."

Born in Portland, Maine in 1955, Taylor was educated at Colby College and at Brandeis University. He then taught at Boston University until coming to the University of California at Davis in 1994 -- where he was highly regarded as a teacher as well as his being well-known for his "rigorous" scholarship.

Professor Taylor spoke about this 2nd Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832," on C-SPAN's BookTV at the National Book Festival in August.

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