The Journal of the American Revolution is pleased to announce The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton by Andrew Porwancher as winner of the 2021 Journal of the American Revolution Book-of-the-Year Award.
Honorable Mention is awarded to Resisting Independence: Popular Loyalism in the Revolutionary British Atlantic by Brad A. Jones.
The award—an international award dedicated to nonfiction books specifically on the Revolutionary and Founding eras—has been given annually since 2014 to the work that best reflects the mission of the Journal: to deliver engaging, creative, and intelligent content that makes American Revolution history accessible to a broad audience. The award honors original research combined with a well-crafted narrative that appeals to scholars and non-academic readers alike. Past winners include The Boston Massacre: A Family History by Serena Zabin, Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution by John Gilbert McCurdy, and The Indian World of George Washington by Colin G. Calloway. The award is judged by a panel of both professional and public historians.
From the panelists:
The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton by Andrew Porwancher (Princeton University Press, 2021)
In Andrew Porwancher’s The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton, readers will find an engaging book that provides a unique look at Hamilton’s life as well as the history of Jews in the Revolution and early national period. In this innovative study that illuminates previously obscured details of Alexander Hamilton’s childhood, Porwancher contends that Hamilton had a Jewish upbringing. Porwancher deftly pieces together sources from Hamilton’s childhood in the West Indies and places them within context to demonstrate the ways in which scholars have misrepresented his childhood due to misinterpretation of the resources available. Following Hamilton to America, there is the suggestion of an unspoken alliance—as Hamilton never mentioned any affiliation with Judaism—that led Hamilton to champion equality for a population against whom most of the other founders discriminated. This volume provides unique insight into a part of Hamilton’s life that has remained largely hidden and forgotten and also serves as a concise yet fairly comprehensive history of the challenges and experiences of Jews in America during this time period.
Resisting Independence: Popular Loyalism in the Revolutionary British Atlantic by Brad A. Jones (Cornell University Press, 2021)
In Resisting Independence: Popular Loyalism in the Revolutionary British Atlantic, Brad A. Jones provides a valuable contribution to studies on loyalism in the Revolution. The book examines four port cities of the British empire—New York, New York; Kingston, Jamacia; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Glasgow, Scotland—to illustrate that more than creating just rebellion, the events of the Revolution served to create a transatlantic British ideology of loyalism. In his comparative study of these four cities, Jones takes readers beyond the feud as it is often portrayed and provides a much broader scope that gives insight into the ways in which the refutation of the colonies’ rebellion called into question what being British meant. Each of these four cities had unique qualities that created specific emphases in defining Britishness that led to divisions and unity co-existing, but an underlying devotion to the responsibility of the British government to protect rights and liberties tied these cities together. A solid piece of scholarship, this book is a worthy addition to studies of loyalism and the effects of the Revolution on a grander scale.
The Other Finalists:
The Brethren: A Story of Faith and Conspiracy in Revolutionary America by Brendan McConville (Harvard University Press)
North Carolina is the setting for this tense account of the Brethren, a group of farmers concerned enough about the effect of revolutionary ideals on their Protestant beliefs that they planned an assassination. Professor McConville’s narrative explores how the patriots were perceived to be a threat to religious freedom and how the loyalties of ordinary people were constantly in flux.
Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History by Katherine Carte (Omohundro Institute/University of North Carolina Press)
A detailed examination of how the Protestant religion of the British empire united the colonies before the Revolution. Katherine Carte focuses on how the war and its ideals impacted communities of faith and how all religious establishments were changed by the end of the conflict. A careful study of colonial Protestant institutional politics and imperial bureaucracy in the colonies.
Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery by Bruce A. Ragsdale (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)
The most important role of George Washington’s life was not that of soldier, general, politician, or statesman: it was that of farmer. This unique book showcases Washington’s achievements as farmer, from husbandry and innovations to distilling whiskey. Washington recognized that the enslaved labor force at Mounty Vernon was crucial to his success, but his views changed over time regarding the institution’s efficacy. An excellent study of this rarely viewed aspect of Washington’s world.
The “Jewish World” is award is well-deserved. Great writing, great citations, great structure. A great choice.