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Two UVa History professors, finalists for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize

The University of Virginia announced on February 16th that Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy and Alan Taylor -- both professors in the Corcoran Department of History at UVa -- had each been nominated for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize. The third finalist-honoree is Jeffrey L. Pasley, a professor at the University of Missouri.

Honoree Andrew O’Shaughnessy's spotlight on ten prominent British men has dispelled the 'incompetence myth,' by uncovering the secrets of the Continental Army's unexpected victory.
Yale University Press
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Mount Vernon

In “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire," Andrew O’Shaughnessy provides a change of perspective in the course of his review of the American Revolution, and addresses in particular the disposition of the British leading up to that conflict, from the adversary's point-of-view; and corrects certain 'popularly-held' misconceptions of the British people, their officers, and their King. In summarizing their reasons for this selection, the jury notes:

“In a series of deeply researched and clearly written chapters focused on the major British political and military figures, he persuasively demonstrates that the British leadership was remarkably talented and able. But he also shows the tremendous limitations under which these leaders had to operate, and in the process, he helps readers understand the eventual American victory.”

Professor O’Shaughnessy is also the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, and the author of “An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean,” and interacts with the public through the Monticello Fellows Forums, a series of lectures given by researchers who visit Monticello from locations around the world.

Alan Taylor was appointed as the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia, following a distinguished career of 20 years' teaching at the University of California, Davis. In describing their reasons for having selected Alan Taylor’s book, the jurors write that his book, "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832,” is:

“a tour de force that is also a complete delight to read. With great insight and sensitivity, Taylor focuses on the War of 1812 and unveils the heretofore-understudied story of black people’s involvement in that conflict, creating a seamless, and quite rare, melding of social, military, and political history.”

Alan Taylor is an award-winning author of several books, including “The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution,” "Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820," and “William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize and the Beveridge prize.

Jeffrey Pasley is a professor of history at the University of Missouri, is the author of the selection, "The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy," the first study in 50 years to focus specifically on the election of 1796. Professor Pasley is also the author of a prize-winning book on the early American press, “The Tyranny of Printers: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic.

Professor Pasley was a journalist and a speechwriter on Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign, before coming to the University of Missouri, and blogs extensively about for Common-Place, the unique resource for early American history, sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society, founded by Harvard professor Jill Lepore (a finalist herself for the National Book Award for her biography of Benjamin Franlin's sister, “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin,” and Brandeis professor Jane Kamensky, following their very successful collaboration for the novel “Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise.”

In expressing their support for professor Pasley's selection, the jury writes:

“Pasley captures with verve and wit the frothy politics that emerged unexpectedly at the end of the eighteenth century,” the jury noted. “The First Presidential Contest makes it very unlikely that the 1796 presidential campaign will ever be thrust into the shadows again.”

A jury of three distinguished historians, who were chaired by Gordon S. Wood, joined by Joyce Appleby and Annette Gordon-Reed, selected the finalists from among 40 books that had been published in 2013. All three jurors are each distinguished experts in early American history, and in the history of the founding era, especially.

The jurors were charged with selecting those books that best provided a better understanding of George Washington's sphere of influence in both American and world history.

Joyce Appleby, is a professor emerita of the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism,” “Thomas Jefferson,” “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans,” and “Telling the Truth about History.” Professor Appleby is the past president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Society for the History of the Early Republic, whose research has focused the 17th and 18th centuries in England, France, and America, especially on the consequences of an expanding world market and the way that various societies came to understand and discuss that experience.

Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School, professor of history in Harvard University’s History Department, and also a professor at the Radcliffe Institute. Among her books are “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010, and was also the George Washington Book Prize winner for that year; and “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.” Professor Gordon-Reed also was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Gordon S. Wood who served as the Jury Chair, is a professor emeritus at Brown University, and author of several award-winning works, including “The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787,” which won the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize, and “The Radicalism of the American Revolution,” which won the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize and the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for History. His book, “The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin,” was awarded the Julia Ward Howe Prize. His volume in the Oxford History of the United States, “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815” won the Association of American Publishers Award for History and Biography, the American History Book Prize, and the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize, in 1999. In 2011, he was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Obama, and a number of other awards.

More information about the George Washington Book Prize is available at their website.