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Tom Watson Brown Book Award

The Society of Civil War Historians gives an annual Tom Watson Brown Book Award for the best book published on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War. This includes, but is not exclusive to, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies. Works of fiction, poetry, anthologies, and textbooks are not considered. Jurors consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.

The prize is presented at the SCWH banquet at the Southern Historical Association annual meeting, where the winner delivers a formal address that will be published in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era.

2020 Winner of the Tom Watson Brown Book Award:

Thomas J. BrownThe Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson-Brown Foundation are proud to announce that Thomas J. Brown is the recipient of the Tom Watson Brown Book Award. Dr. Brown, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, earned the award for Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America, published in 2019 by The University of North Carolina Press. The $50,000 award is funded by the Watson-Brown Foundation in honor of Tom Watson Brown, a dedicated student of the Civil War. Dr. Brown’s book is a sweeping analysis of Civil War monuments across the US erected between the 1860s and 1930s. It shows how these monuments moved Americans away from a wariness about warfare toward a national embrace of military values.  “Meticulously researched, cogently argued, and elegantly written,” explains the prize committee, “Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America fundamentally reconceives and enlivens the field of Civil War commemoration.”

Thomas J. Brown earned a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization program at Harvard University after a brief career as an attorney. He has taught at the University of South Carolina since 1996. His first book, Dorothea Dix, New England Reformer (1998), focused on an antebellum exemplar who saw her reputation shattered as Superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union Army. His subsequent research has centered on Civil War remembrance, culminating in the publication of Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina (2015) and Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America (2019). His interest in commemoration has led to involvement in public history, and he has helped Historic Columbia transform the Woodrow Wilson Family Home from a presidential shrine into a community museum of Reconstruction. He is presently working on a cross-national study of Zouaves with his wife and colleague, French historian Carol E. Harrison.

The Watson Brown Book Award jury consisted of Sarah Gardner, Distinguished University  Professor of History at Mercer University; Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Fred C. Frey Professor and Department Chair at Louisiana State University; Brenda Stevenson, Professor and Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in History at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Tad Brown, President of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc. Tad Brown will present the award to Dr. Brown at the Tom Watson Brown Book Award dinner, which will be held at the Southern Historical Association’s annual meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.

2021 Nomination Information:

The Society of Civil War Historians solicits nominations for the Tom Watson Brown Book Award for books published in 2020. Publishers are asked to send books, along with a cover letter nominating the work for the Tom Watson Brown Award, directly to the four prize jurors no later than January 31, 2021. Only books published in 2020 will be considered.

All genres of scholarship on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War are eligible. This includes, but is not exclusive to, edited volumes, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies. Works of fiction, poetry, and textbooks will not be considered. Jurors will consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.

The winner will be announced by August 1, 2021. The prize will be presented at the SCWH banquet at the Southern Historical Association annual meeting, where the winner will deliver a formal address that will be published in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era.

Nominated books with cover letters should be sent to:

  • Tad Brown, President, Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., 310 Tom Watson Way, Thomson, GA 30824
  • April Holm, 1825 Galloway Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112
  • Patrick J. Kelly, 2125 Watts Road, Houston, TX 77030
  • Amy Murrell Taylor, (chair), 1703 Patterson Office Tower, Department of History, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506

The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2021.

Previous Tom Watson Brown Book Award Winners:

2019: Amy Murrell Taylor, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky, for Embattled Freedom: Journeys Through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps (University of North Carolina Press, 2018)

2018: Andrew Lang, Assistant Professor of History, Mississippi State University, for In the Wake of War: Military Occupation, Emancipation, and Civil War America (Louisiana State University Press, 2017)

2017: Christopher Phillips, John and Dorothy Hermanies Professor of American History and University Distinguished Research Professor in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, University of Cincinnati, for The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border (Oxford University Press, 2016)

2016: Earl J. Hess, Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History, Lincoln Memorial University, for Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness.  (Louisiana State University Press, 2015)

2015: Shauna Devine, Professor, Schulich School of Medicine and Department of History, Western University, for Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science. (The University of North Carolina Press, 2014)

2014: Ari Kelman, Chancellor’s Leadership Professor of History, University of California, Davis, for A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013).

2013John Fabian Witt, Allen H. Duff Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School and a Professor of History in the Yale History Department, for Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (Simon & Schuster, 2012).

2012Gary W. Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia, for The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2011).

2011Mark W. Geiger, a 2011-12 Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University Library of Congress and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, for Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865 (Yale University Press, 2010).

2010Daniel E. Sutherland, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas, for A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War  (University of North Carolina, 2009).