The Harry M. Ward Book Prize committee is pleased to announce the winner of the 2021 competition: Donald F Johnson, Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020).
Johnson’s work is an original and novel contribution to the literature of the Revolution. At one time or another during the long years of the War for Independence, the British occupied all of America’s major populations centers. These included the important port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, and Wilmington. In Occupied America, Johnson carefully describes the “everyday experience of ordinary people living under military occupation . . . .[and] recounts how men and women from a variety of backgrounds navigated harsh conditions, mitigated threats to their families and livelihoods, took advantage of new opportunities, and balanced precariously between revolutionary and royal attempts to secure their allegiance.” Other historians have touched on these subjects, but not in any comprehensive way; nor have they matched Johnson’s convincing explanation of why most Americas living under long periods of occupation did not return to British allegiance. Harsh living conditions, military rule, and the Crown’s failure to crush the rebellion all gradually eroded popular faith in Britain’s ability to restore peace and social and economic prosperity. Occupied America is deeply researched and clearly written, and the volume is well worth the attention of all readers interested in how colonial city-dwellers from all walks of life bore-up under the tribulations of war.
The committee also is pleased to announce the following titles as this year's Honorable Mentions:
Mary Beth Norton, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020).
Arthur S. Lefkowitz, Colonel Hamilton and Colonel Burr: The Revolutionary War Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (Lanham, MD: Stackpole Books, 2020).
T. Cole Jones, Captives of Liberty Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).
--Mark Lender, Chairman, Book Prize Committee