Annal: 1996 Pulitzer Prize for History

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 1996.

Book:William Cooper's Town

William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic

Alan Taylor

In this story of a frontier village in the early American Republic, Alan Taylor explores the lives of Judge William Cooper and the novelist James Fenimore Cooper—father and son. As frontier speculator, landlord, and politician, the father played a leading role in the conquest, resettlement, and environmental transformation of the early nation. Drawing upon his childhood memories of the New York frontier, the son created the historical fictions that made him the most popular, influential, and controversial American novelist of the early nineteenth century.

Taylor makes it clear that in a rapidly changing nation William Cooper’s development of Cooperstown and his son’s creation of the village of Templeton in The Pioneers were different stages of a common effort, over two generations, to create, sustain, and justify a wealthy and powerful estate. Both sought that unity of social, economic, political, and cultural authority idealized…[more]

Book:Dark Sun

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

Richard Rhodes

In this work of history, science and politics, Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, tells for the first time the secret story of how and why the hydrogen bomb was made; traces the path by which “the Bomb,” the supreme artifact of twentieth-century science and technology, became the defining issue of the Cold War; and reveals how close the world came to nuclear destruction before the United States and the former Soviet Union learned the lesson of nuclear stalemate—a stalemate, Rhodes makes clear, that forced the superpowers to tenuous truce for more than four decades, in the end bankrupting and destroying the Communist state and foreclosing world-scale war.

From the day in September 1941 when the first word of Anglo-American atomic-bomb research arrived in Moscow via Soviet espionage to the week of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when Curtis LeMay goaded President Kennedy to attack the USSR with everything in the US arsenal, this book is full of unexpected—and sometimes hair-raising—revelations based on previously undisclosed Soviet as well as US sources.

Book:The Sacred Fire of Liberty

The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic

Lance Banning

James Madison was the finest democratic theorist that the United States has ever produced. His was the pivotal philosophical role in framing the Constitution and establishing the principles on which a wholly new form of government was to be based. Yet this widely informed and profoundly original thinker has been considered by most scholars to be an intellectual pragmatist who reacted variably and inconsistently to the changing circumstances of the Revolution and the Confederation.

Lance Banning’s powerful and persuasive reexamination of Madison’s thought at the critical early and central stages of his career now changes that presumption, and provides a new base from which thinking about Madison and the Founding must start. The Sacred Fire of Liberty follows Madison from his appearance on the national stage (in Congress in 1780) through the end of 1792. By the end of this period, he had achieved his mature understanding of the Constitution, and his collision with many of…[more]

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