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2018 FINALIST

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Caroline Fraser

Little, Brown (UK)
Metropolitan Books (CAN/US)


The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the "Little House on the Prairie" books. Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and the national mythology of self-reliance.

Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. She is the author of God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, which was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and of Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution. Fraser’s writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University. Born in Seattle, Washington, Fraser currently lives in New Mexico. 

2018 WINNER

The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World

Maya Jasanoff

William Collins (UK)
Penguin Random House (CAN, US)


A visionary exploration of the life and times of Joseph Conrad, his turbulent age of globalization and our own, from one of the most exciting young historians writing today. Migration, terrorism, the tensions between global capitalism and nationalism, and a communications revolution: these forces shaped Joseph Conrad's destiny at the dawn of the twentieth century. In this brilliant new interpretation of one of the great voices in modern literature, Maya Jasanoff reveals Conrad as a prophet of globalization. As an immigrant from Poland to England, and in travels from Malaya to Congo to the Caribbean, Conrad navigated an interconnected world, and captured it in a literary oeuvre of extraordinary depth. His life story delivers a history of globalization from the inside out, and reflects powerfully on the aspirations and challenges of the modern world. Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, to Polish parents in the Russian Empire. At sixteen he left the landlocked heart of Europe to become a sailor, and for the next twenty years travelled the world's oceans before settling permanently in England as an author. He saw the surging, competitive "new imperialism" that planted a flag in almost every populated part of the globe. He got a close look, too, at the places "beyond the end of telegraph cables and mail-boat lines," and the hypocrisy of the west's most cherished ideals. In a compelling blend of history, biography, and travelogue, Maya Jasanoff follows Conrad's routes and the stories of his four greatest works - The Secret AgentLord JimHeart of Darkness, and Nostromo. Genre-bending, intellectually thrilling, and deeply humane, The Dawn Watch embarks on a spell-binding expedition into the dark heart of Conrad's world - and through it to our own.

Maya Jasanoff is Coolidge Professor of History at Harvard University. Her first book, Edge of Empire, was awarded the 2005 Duff Cooper Prize and was a book of the year selection in numerous publications including the Economist, Guardian and Sunday Times. Her second, Liberty’s Exiles, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction and was shortlisted for the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize (now Baillie Gifford Prize). A 2013 Guggenheim Fellow, Jasanoff won the prestigious 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize for Non-Fiction. Her essays and reviews appear frequently in publications including the Guardian, New York Times, and New York Review of Books. She was a finalist for the 2011 Cundill History Prize with Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World.

2018 FINALIST

A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America

Sam White

Harvard University Press (UK, CAN, US)

When Europeans first arrived in North America, they faced a cold new world. The average global temperature had dropped to lows unseen in millennia, and its effects were stark and unpredictable: blizzards and deep freezes, droughts and famines, and winters when even the Rio Grande froze. This period of climate change has come to be known as the Little Ice Age, and it played a decisive role in Europe’s encounter with the lands and peoples of North America. In A Cold Welcome, Sam White tells the story of this crucial period in world history, from Europe’s earliest expeditions in an unfamiliar landscape to the perilous first winters at Santa Fe, Quebec, and Jamestown. Weaving together evidence from climatology, archaeology, and the written historical record, White describes how the severity and volatility of the Little Ice Age climate threatened to freeze and starve out the Europeans’ precarious new settlements. Lacking basic provisions and wholly unprepared to fend for themselves under such harsh conditions, Europeans suffered life-threatening privation, and their desperation precipitated violent conflict with Native Americans.In the twenty-first century, as we confront an uncertain future from global warming, A Cold Welcome reminds us of the risks of a changing and unfamiliar climate.

Sam White is associate professor of history at the Ohio State University and currently Norman Freehling Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan. He received his M.A. from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) and Ph.D. from Columbia University.  He is co-founder and director of the Climate History Network and steering committee member of the PAGES working group Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies (CRIAS). His other publications include The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2011); The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History (Palgrave, 2018); and numerous chapters and articles on environmental history, Middle East history, and the history of science. He has received awards from the American Society for Environmental History, the Middle East Studies Association, the Agricultural History Society, and the Ohio Academy of History, among other organizations. His current research focuses on climate, disaster, and migration.

Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine

Anne Applebaum

Penguin Random House (UK, CAN, US)

From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag and Iron Curtain, winner of the Cundill History Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award, a revelatory history of Stalin's greatest crime. In 1929, Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization - in effect a second Russian revolution - which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people perished between 1931 and 1933 in the U.S.S.R. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum reveals for the first time that three million of them died not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy, but because the state deliberately set out to kill them. Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: that Stalin set out to exterminate a vast swath of the Ukrainian population and replace them with more cooperative, Russian-speaking peasants. A peaceful Ukraine would provide the Soviets with a safe buffer between itself and Europe, and would be a bread basket region to feed Soviet cities and factory workers. When the province rebelled against collectivization, Stalin sealed the borders and began systematic food seizures. Starving, people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil.

Anne Applebaum is a columnist for The Washington Post, a Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics, and a contributor to The New York Review of Books. Her previous books include Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, winner of the Cundill Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award; and Gulag,winner of the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction and a finalist for several other major prizes. She lives in Poland with her husband, Radek Sikorski, a Polish politician and their two children.

Grant

Ron Chernow

Head of Zeus (UK)
Penguin Random House (CAN/US)


A dramatic portrait of one of America's most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, by Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, author of the book on which the astonishing musical Hamilton is based. As late as April 1861, when the American Civil War broke out, Ulysses S. Grant was a dismal failure. A competent officer in the war against Mexico, he had resigned from the army over his drinking and had sunk into poverty as a civilian, losing all his money in hopeless investments. He had failed to secure the command of a volunteer unit and was about to return to his abject life working in his family's leather-goods store when he was offered the colonelcy of an Illinois regiment. Less than four years later he was the commanding general of the victorious Union armies and was hailed as a military genius. He later served two terms as President of the United States. This is the epic biography of a very unheroic American hero, a modest, reticent and principled man who surprised the world and changed it for the better.

Ron Chernow is the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Washington: A Life (2011). Alexander Hamilton and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., were both nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography. Chernow lives in New York.

Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World

Joshua Freeman

W.W. Norton & Company (UK, CAN, US)

We live in a factory-made world: modern life is built on three centuries of advances in factory production, efficiency, and technology. But giant factories have also fueled our fears about the future since their beginnings, when William Blake called them "dark Satanic mills." Many factories that operated over the last two centuries - such as Homestead, River Rouge, and Foxconn - were known for the labor exploitation and class warfare they engendered, not to mention the environmental devastation caused by factory production from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution up to today. In a major work of scholarship that is also wonderfully accessible, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution and the factory towns of New England to the colossal steel and car plants of twentieth-century America, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union and on to today’s behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam. The giant factory, Freeman shows, led a revolution that transformed human life and the environment. He traces arguments about factories and social progress through such critics and champions as Marx and Engels, Charles Dickens, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Ford, and Joseph Stalin. He chronicles protests against standard industry practices from unions and workers’ rights groups that led to shortened workdays, child labor laws, protection for organized labor, and much more. In Behemoth, Freeman also explores how factories became objects of great wonder that both inspired and horrified artists and writers in their time. He examines representations of factories in the work of Charles Sheeler, Margaret Bourke-White, Charlie Chaplin, Diego Rivera, and Edward Burtynsky. Behemoth tells the grand story of global industry from the Industrial Revolution to the present. It is a magisterial work on factories and the people whose labor made them run. And it offers a piercing perspective on how factories have shaped our societies and the challenges we face now.

Joshua B. Freeman is a Distinguished Professor of History at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY. His previous books include American Empire and Working-Class New York, among others. He lives in New York City.

A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War

Tim Grady

Yale University Press (UK, CAN, US)

This book is the first to offer a full account of the varied contributions of German Jews to Imperial Germany’s endeavors during the Great War. Historian Tim Grady examines the efforts of the 100,000 Jewish soldiers who served in the German military (12,000 of whom died), as well as the various activities Jewish communities supported at home, such as raising funds for the war effort and securing vital food supplies. However, Grady’s research goes much deeper: he shows that German Jews were never at the periphery of Germany’s warfare, but were in fact heavily involved. The author finds that many German Jews were committed to the same brutal and destructive war that other Germans endorsed, and he discusses how the conflict was in many ways lived by both groups alike. What none could have foreseen was the dangerous legacy they created together, a legacy that enabled Hitler’s rise to power and planted the seeds of the Holocaust to come.

Tim Grady is reader in modern history, University of Chester, and author of The German Jewish Soldiers of the First World War in History and Memory. His book A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018. He lives in Merseyside, UK.

The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and The Emergence of Modern Europe

David I. Kertzer

Oxford University Press (UK)
Penguin Random House (CAN, US)


The Pulitzer-winning author of The Pope and Mussolini takes on a pivotal, untold story: the bloody revolution that spelled the end of the papacy as a political power and signaled the birth of modern Europe. The longest-reigning pope, Pope Pius IX, also oversaw one of the greatest periods of tumult and transition in Church history. When Pius IX was elected in 1846, the pope was still a king as well as a spiritual leader, and the people of the Papal States sang his praises, hopeful that he would reform the famously corrupt system of "priestly rule" over which his much unloved predecessor, Gregory XVI, had presided. At first, Pius IX tried to please his subjects, replacing priests with laymen in government and even granting the people a constitution. But, as the revolutionary spirit of 1848 swept through Europe, the pope found he could not both please his subjects and defend the rights of the church. The resulting drama - involving a colorful cast of characters, from Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and his rabble-rousing cousin Charles Bonaparte, to Garibaldi, Tocqueville, and Metternich - was one of treachery, double-dealing, and international power politics. By its end, the Papacy--and Europe--was transformed.

David I. Kertzer is the Paul Dupee, Jr. University Professor of Social Science and professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University, where he served as provost from 2006 to 2011. He is the author of twelve books, including The Pope and Mussolini, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the American Historical Association prize for best book on Italian history, and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He has twice been awarded the Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies for the best book on Italian history and in 2005 was elected to membership in the American Association of Arts and Sciences. He and his wife, Susan, live in Providence, Rhode Island.