Harvard history professor Maya Jasanoff won the George Washington Book Prize on Monday night for “Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World.”
The annual award, which comes with $50,000, honors the previous year’s best book about America’s founding era. “Liberty’s Exiles,” published by Knopf, is the story of the losers in America’s struggle for independence: British loyalists who found themselves on the wrong side of history. Jasanoff describes how these exiles, who fled their lost colonies for Nova Scotia, West Africa and India, helped shape the future of the British Empire.
This is the second major honor for “Liberty’s Exiles.” In March, Jasanoff won the National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction.
Adam Goodheart, director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize, said, “Jasanoff brings the past to life by putting readers in the shoes of these characters, from wealthy merchants to African American slaves.”
James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which funds the award, said, “ ‘Liberty’s Exiles’ is a masterful combination of archival research and narrative storytelling. Jasanoff delivers brilliant insight into the lives and motives of the 60,000 loyalists who sought refuge around the world after independence, depicting the global impact of that mass exodus and providing a fresh and engaging perspective on the American Revolution.”
A review in The Washington Post last year called “Liberty’s Exiles” an “ambitious, empathetic and sometimes lyrical book.”
The award ceremony Monday night at the George Washington museum at Mount Vernon also recognized two finalists: John Fea’s “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?” (Westminster John Knox) and Benjamin H. Irvin’s “Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors” (Oxford University).