Rick Atkinson wins American History Book Prize

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Rick Atkinson wins American History Book Prize
The prize comes with a $50,000 award. Past winners include Eric Foner, Jane Kamensky, Jill Lepore and Gordon Wood.

by Jennifer Schuessler

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Rick Atkinson, the author of “The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777,” has been named the winner of the New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize, awarded each year to the best work in the field of U.S. history and biography.

The 800-page doorstop, published last year by Henry Holt, starts with the early skirmishes and continues past the Declaration of Independence, with an intent of dispelling settled, sentimental clichés that have accumulated around public understanding of the Revolution. Historian Joseph Ellis, writing in The New York Times Book Review, praised its combination of deep research, including “almost endless endnotes,” and “novelistic imagination that verges on cinematic.”

Atkinson, a journalist by training, emphasizes the costs and brutality of the Revolution, a conflict, he writes, in which a higher portion of the population died than in any other U.S. conflict, save the Civil War (in part because of infectious disease). It’s a darker view that’s in tune with recent scholarship on the Revolution, as well as with Atkinson’s previous work, including his trilogy about World War II.

“I’ve spent a professional lifetime writing about American wars to figure out how and why they were fought, and in hopes of conveying to readers that every one of them was fundamentally tragic,” Atkinson, the son of an Army officer, said in a statement.

The prize comes with a $50,000 award. Past winners include Eric Foner, Jane Kamensky, Jill Lepore and Gordon Wood.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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