The Second Annual Tom Watson Brown Book Prize

I am usually pretty good about staying on top of new Civil War titles.  Many of the university presses send me advanced copies for the blog, which helps to save money and keep me on top of the historiography.  Somehow, this title fell through the cracks.  Not only did it escape my attention, but I just learned that Mark W. Geiger’s book, Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865 (Yale University Press, 2010) has been selected by the Society of Civil War Historians as this year’s Tom Watson Brown book prize winner. The award comes with a check for $50,000.

Above you will find a short video of Professor Geiger discussing his new book.  Geiger will accept his award and give a talk at the SCWH dinner, which takes place as part of the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association.  It’s always a good time.

Congratulations.

 

4 responses... add one

Interesting. Last years was Sutherland’s Savage Conflict, and the first year of the award. I have had some pretty good discussions with friends and scholars over the rising propensity of our field to focus on the more “modern” aspects of the Civil War, such as guerrilla conflict. Most center around the fear that we may be focusing too much on something that is ill-defined (what is modern warfare?) and perhaps too presentist (impacts of the current decade-long conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq?). I am curious as to your thoughts on this.

I will stress that this observation does not take away anything from the work of Mark W. Geiger or this book. Like you , I was not aware of it until now and know about three people working on Civil War Missouri who need to be made aware of this work. My purpose is to hear what others may think of the potentials/problems of emphasizing the “modern” aspects of the Civil War.

The thought definitely crossed my mind, but those influences are always present, though you are probably right that it is more pronounced over the past ten years. I read Sutherland’s book and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I probably don’t have a sufficient grasp of the literature to comment on whether these books exaggerate the importance of guerrilla warfare.

I reviewed this for the American Historical Review, and it’s a worthy winner. Geiger is a former fraud investigator who discovered in local records a heretofore unknown and massive bank fraud in Missouri at the beginning of the war. Essentially, a bevy of interconnected pro-Confederate elites with ties to state government looted state banks to equip troops, leaving only promissory notes. When the Union held the state, new pro-Union bank directors called in those notes and financially ruined the borrowers. Geiger then establishes a strong link between the debtors and guerrillas–80 percent of the guerrillas in his sample represented debtor families. In the end it’s more financial history than guerrilla history, but it’s a fascinating read throughout.

Thanks for the comment, Ken. I am going to have to check it out at some point.

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