Journal of the American Revolution Announces 2016 Book of the Year Award Winners


January 9, 2017
by Editors Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

Journal of the American Revolution, the popular online magazine and annual book, today announced its winner and runner-up for the 2016 Book of the Year Award.

The annual award goes to the non-fiction volume that best mirrors the journal’s mission: to deliver passionate, creative and smart content that makes American Revolution history accessible to a broad audience. The award honors meticulous, ideally ground-breaking research combined with a well-crafted narrative that appeals to scholars and non-academic readers alike.

There were many great candidates this year, which says good things about ongoing research and writing on our favorite topic, but that made it especially challenging to decide on a winner. We chose Brothers at Arms, American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It by Larrie D. Ferreiro (Knopf, 2016). Although not the first book to focus on the global aspects of the conflict, Ferreiro’s work looks closely at the American alliance with France and, in turn, the French alliance with Spain, both critical factors in the outcome of the war. The motivations behind the alliances are explained, the financial and logistical aspects examined, and the military events outlined. From the Journal of the American Revolution review (forthcoming):

Larrie D. Ferreiro, in his excellent new book, persuasively argues that the United States could never have won its war against Great Britain without France, and France could never have fought the war without Spain as an ally. Thus, he concludes, the United States was born as a centerpiece of an international coalition, which together worked to defeat a common adversary.

Ferreiro also persuasively argues that not only was the Declaration of Independence intended to motivate patriots at home, it was, in fact, an engraved invitation asking France and Spain to join America in its fight. Congress had to send a clear message to France and Spain that the conflict was not merely a civil war but a serious attempt at independence. As John Adams succinctly summarized it, “Foreign powers could not be expected to acknowledge us, till we had acknowledged ourselves . . . as an independent nation.”

An honorable mention goes to a study of a widely-overlooked side of the United States’ most revered founding father. First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His — and the Nation’s — Prosperity by Edward G. Lengel (Da Capo Press, 2016) studies Washington the businessman, and how his acumen in that role was foundational to his capabilities as a military leader and as a president. From the Journal of the American Revolution review:

Washington was self-taught in the ways of business. This knowledge did not come easily. Through observation and practical experience as surveyor, his early association with the military, and managing the estate that would become Mount Vernon, he learned the value of thrift, precise record keeping, avoidance of debt, investments, markets and a multitude of requirements which molded him into a successful business manager. For many years he fought to free himself, and eventually the country, from the British colonial system which suppressed American business and forced dependence upon, and a cycle of continuous debt to, the British. 

Realizing that the Continental Army was in many respects a business that to be successful must function as a business he continually sought responsible management even in the most dire of times. He was bold, but not reckless. He always kept in mind that the army, which was his business, had to survive and continue to exist. For years Washington had not only to fight on the battlefield but also fight for the financial resources, as stable as possible, to remain in the field. Lengel, who knows more about Washington’s papers than anyone, provides a multitude of documents revealing Washington’s business-like thinking even during the most trying of military situations.

The Journal of the American Revolution takes care to review significant contributions to field. Despite being excellent contenders, we do not consider JAR Books for our awards. Other valuable works for 2016 can be accessed through the Book Review page. For more information about the Journal of the American Revolution Book of the Year Award, please visit Past winners were:

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