Editor's Letter

Shedding More Light on the Founding Era

October 2017

A special issue of American Heritage offers excerpts from seven books nominated for the prestigious George Washington Prize.

We can feel significant satisfaction in the quality of historical scholarship being published today, considering the seven books nominated for this year's George Washington Book Prize. Each of the seven in its own way is an important contribution to the large body of writing about the Founding Era. And a pleasure to read!

By arrangement with the organizers of the Prize, we have created a special issue of American Heritage with excerpts from each of the seven finalists, enabling us to create an impressive  lineup of essays.

The George Washington Book Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards. Now in its tenth year, the $50,000 prize honors our First President by recognizing the year’s best new books on early American history. The Prize is administered by Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, and the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College.

The Prize is one of a number of new initiatives in recent years at Mount Vernon, which has greatly expanded its scholarship and educational efforts with the opening of the the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington under the leadership of Founding Director of Douglas Bradburn, Ph.D.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History also continues to expand its efforts, offering some of the best educational programs in American history today. 

And on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience led by historian Adam Goodheart offers programs to bridge the gap between academia and the world at large and foster the art of written history. The Center is part of Washington College, a liberal arts college established with 50 guineas from Washington himself in 1782. The General thought the school could become a national college of sorts, since Chestertown, Maryland, was the geographical center of the nation at the time.

The judges ultimately awarded the Prize to Nathaniel Philbrick for Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking). Philbrick last published in American Heritage in 2010 with an article on the Battle of the Little Big Horn

The other George Washington Prize finalists for 2017 were: