Is Your Book Worth $50,000?

petersburgThe Society of Civil War Historians has announced the First Annual Tom Watson Brown Book Award.  The award recognizes “an outstanding scholarly book published in 2009 on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War.”  The prize will be awarded at the November 2010 Southern Historical Association meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.  What kinds of books are qualified?

All genres of scholarship within the field will be eligible, including, but not exclusive to, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies.  Works of fiction, poetry, and textbooks will not be considered.  Jurors will consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as to the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.

George Rable, Charles G. Summersell Professor of Southern History at the University of Alabama and the immediate past-president of the SCWH, will chair the first prize jury. The other members are Elizabeth Leonard, John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College, and Peter Carmichael, Eberly Family Professor of Civil War Studies at West Virginia University. Publishers are asked to send nominated books (only those published in 2009 will be considered) directly to the jurors and to the Foundation no later than January 31, 2010.

I am nominating Earl Hess’s In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortification & Confederate Defeat.  In doing so, I acknowledge the enormous amount of research that has gone into all three volumes and the extent to which these studies have forced us to reconsider the importance of earthworks and their effect on the evolution and outcome of the War in the East.

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4 comments… add one

  • Will Hickox Sep 6, 2009

    I think your choice of Hess’ book is excellent, and if he wins, perhaps that respectable chunk of change will convince him to do similar work on the Western or coastal campaigns.

  • Kevin Levin Sep 7, 2009

    Thanks. I would love to know what Hess has up his sleeve for future projects.

  • Brooks Simpson Sep 7, 2009

    These prizes are problematic, especially since they rarely go to one book, and there’s a great deal of controversy no matter the outcome. There’s also a great deal of behind the scenes back-and-forth with these prizes that remains subdued because to air complaints might damage one’s chances of winning in the future. I’ve had some first-hand experience on this, and I came away scratching my head about the whole thing.

  • Kevin Levin Sep 7, 2009

    Brooks,

    I hadn’t thought about the fact that it might go to more than one book. Obviously, I can’t say much about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Last year I served on the awards committed for Shepherd College’s Peter Seaborg Award. I received a copy of the finalist’s books and a checklist that allowed me to rank them. It’s seemed like a fairly straightforward process, but than again, we weren’t talking $50,000.

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