The 2021 George Washington Prize has been awarded to Dr. Mary Beth Norton for her book 1774: The Long Year of Revolution. One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards, the George Washington Prize honors its namesake by recognizing the year’s best new books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that engage a broad public audience. Conferred by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the award will be presented to Norton in May 2022 at Mount Vernon.
Norton’s 1774 (Knopf/Vintage) covers the sixteen months stretching from the destruction of East India Company tea in Boston Harbor to the marching of troops to Lexington and Concord. Readers experience the uncertainty and unpredictability of this prelude to revolution. “I have long thought that historians have unfortunately overlooked crucial developments in that year just prior to the outbreak of war,” wrote Norton after learning she had won the George Washington Prize. “It was in fact then — and not before — when many Americans decided that seeking independence would be desirable. Tracing precisely how that happened proved enlightening to me and I hope it will be the same for readers of the book.”
“This vividly narrated history brings to light a moment when America’s future — and in a sense, also the world’s — hung in the balance,” said Adam Goodheart, director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which cosponsors the Washington Prize. “At a time when questions about America’s past are so central to understanding democracy’s present-day challenges, Mary Beth Norton’s book is essential reading.”
The other finalists for the 2021 George Washington Prize include (in alphabetical order):
- Mark Boonshoft, Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic (University of North Carolina Press)
- Vincent Brown, Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Harvard University Press)
- Peter Cozzens, Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation (Alfred A. Knopf)
- Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press)
- Michael W. McConnell, The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Constitution (Princeton University Press)
- William G. Thomas III, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (Yale University Press)
Created in 2005 by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards. Previous winners Prize include Ron Chernow, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nathaniel Philbrick, Annette Gordon-Reed, and Rick Atkinson.
ABOUT THE SPONSORS OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE
Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth-oldest college in the nation and the first one chartered after American independence. It enrolls approximately 1,250 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.
Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores the American experience in all its diversity and complexity, seeks creative approaches to illuminating the past, and inspires thoughtful conversation informed by history. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, the Starr Center bridges the divide between the academic realm and the broader world, while offering dynamic hands-on opportunities to Washington College undergraduates from a wide range of majors. More information can be found at starrcenter.washcoll.edu.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. In 2013, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association opened the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which safeguards original books and manuscripts and serves as a center for research, scholarship, and leadership development. Learn more at mountvernon.org.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education. The Institute is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. Its mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, the Gilder Lehrman Institute is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, and the Council of Independent Colleges. Learn more at gilderlehrman.org.