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Alan Taylor Awarded Second Pulitzer Prize

Alan TaylorOAH Executive Board Member and University of Virginia Professor Alan Taylor has won his second Pulitzer Prize for his book The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 (W.W. Norton & Company). Taylor recently joined the faculty of University of Virginia after two decades of teaching at the University of California, Davis. Taylor has been a member of the OAH since 1990.

The book is a remarkable reconstruction of a story crucial to both our understanding of slavery and of the War of 1812. Taylor shows how enslaved African Americans in the Chesapeake helped British commanders who had come to the region to attack the United States. His richly detailed narrative reveals the intersection between local knowledge, which slaves possessed but invading soldiers and sailors lacked, and the struggle for supremacy on the eastern shores of North America—a region that the British still hoped to control a generation after the conclusion of the American Revolution. The slaves' actions, in Taylor's telling, went beyond assisting the enemy of the nation. Their hopes of encouraging the British to liberate them served to confirm Virginia planters' fears of an "internal enemy" and thereby made those planters more susceptible, when the time came, to the entreaties of other southern planters who eventually decided to leave the Union. Taylor masterfully puts the careful attention of a miniaturist to the service of a bold, sweeping historical narrative, drawing out the fine lines of individual slave families and planter society to the broader analysis of nineteenth-century American slavery in transatlantic context.

The book was also awarded the OAH Merle Curti Award for the best book published in American social history on April 12, 2014, at the OAH's 107th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Posted: April 15, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, Clio's Kudos