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UVa historian Alan Taylor is awarded his 2nd Pulitzer for 'The Internal Enemy'

University of Virginia's Corcoran Department of History, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Chair
University of Virginia's Corcoran Department of History, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Chair

A recent addition to the University of Virginia, Alan Taylor will be serving as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, and he has now won his second Pulitzer Prize in that discipline, for "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832."

The book tells the story of the struggle for liberty among the slaves living all along the Chesapeake, who thought of the numerous British sailing ships they saw daily, as as "freedom’s swift-winged angels."

This searing story of slavery and freedom in the Chesapeake by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian reveals the pivot in the nation’s path between the founding and civil war.

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.

Born in Portland, Maine in 1955, Alan Taylor was educated at Colby College and at Brandeis University, and taught at Boston University until his 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 very "rigorous" scholarship.

In their press release for the book, 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."

In 1820, referring to the newly-developing sectional interests that he had always feared, Thomas Jefferson writes:

"Like a firebell in the night [it] awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once the knell of the union."

Professor Taylor's first Pulitzer Prize was based on the life and times of James Fenimore Cooper, entitled "William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic,” and was awarded in 1996. That work also garnered the Bancroft Prize as well as 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 a finalist for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize -- along with the work of Jeffrey L. Pasley, of the University of Missouri, for "The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy;" and the work of Andrew O'Shaughnessy -- another University of Virginia Professor and the Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, for his book entitled "The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire."

The George Washington Book Prize is given annually, and "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 winner will be announced May 20 at Mount Vernon. More information about the 2014 Prize and the finalists can be found here.

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