Annal: 2000 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2000.

Book:The Collaborator

The Collaborator: The Trial & Execution of Robert Brasillach

Alice Kaplan

On February 6, 1945, Robert Brasillach was executed for treason by a French firing squad. He was a writer of some distinction—a prolific novelist and a keen literary critic. He was also a dedicated anti-Semite, an acerbic opponent of French democracy, and editor in chief of the fascist weekly Je Suis Partout, in whose pages he regularly printed wartime denunciations of Jews and resistance activists.

Was Brasillach in fact guilty of treason? Was he condemned for his denunciations of the resistance, or singled out as a suspected homosexual? Was it right that he was executed when others, who were directly responsible for the murder of thousands, were set free? Kaplan’s meticulous reconstruction of Brasillach’s life and trial skirts none of these ethical subtleties: a detective story, a cautionary tale, and a meditation on the disturbing workings of justice and memory, The Collaborator will stand as the definitive account of Brasillach’s crime and punishment.

Book:In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex—an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear. …[more]

Book:Kosovo: War and Revenge

Kosovo: War and Revenge

Tim Judah

Tim Judah forecast the Kosovo war in his writings before 1999, reported the Rambouillet peace negotiations, and covered the war from the refugee camps in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. Immediately after the Serb withdrawal he went into Kosovo with the NATO forces, interviewing and reporting from both Pristina and Belgrade, which he has continued to visit subsequently.

Using his contacts on all sides of the conflict Judah has written the hidden story of the Balkan conflagration, looking at the historical background, the immediate run-up to the war, the controversy of the NATO bombing, the background to the cease-fire and the NATO peace-keeping operation. This book not only provides the information TV and newspaper coverage didn’t reveal, but gives an intimate account of the conflict as it appeared to those who fought it. There will be other books on Kosovo, but none will be more thorough, informed or immediate.

Book:Resisting Hitler

Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra

Shareen Blair Brysac

This gripping and heartbreaking narrative is the first full account of an American woman who gave her life in the struggle against the Nazi regime. As members of a key resistance group, Mildred and her husband, Arvid Harnack, assisted in the escape of German Jews and political dissidents, and for years provided vital economic and military intelligence to both Washington and Moscow. But in 1942, following a Soviet blunder, the Gestapo arrested, tortured and tried some four score members of the Harnack’s group, which the Nazis dubbed the Red Orchestra.

Mildred Fish-Harnack was guillotined in Berlin on February 16, 1943, on the personal instruction of Adolf Hitler—the only American woman executed as an underground conspirator. Yet as World War II ended and the Cold War began, her courage, idealism and self-sacrifice went largely unacknowledged in America and the democratic West, and were distorted and sanitized in the Communist…[more]

Book:The Right to Vote

The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States

Alexander Keyssar

An esteemed historian offers a compelling re-thinking of the path America has taken toward its goal of universal suffrage

Most Americans take for granted their right to vote, whether they choose to exercise it or not. But the history of suffrage in the U.S. is, in fact,the story of a struggle to achieve this right by our society’s marginalized groups. In The Right to Vote, Duke historian Alexander Keyssar explores the evolution of suffrage over the course of the nation’s history. Examining the many features of the history of the right to vote in the U.S.-class, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, and age-the book explores the conditions under which American democracy has expanded and contracted over the years.

Keyssar presents convincing evidence that the history of the right to vote has not been one of a steady history of expansion and increasing inclusion, noting that voting rights contracted substantially in the U.S. between 1850 and 1920. Keyssar also presents a controversial thesis: that the primary factor promoting the expansion of the suffrage has been war and the primary factors promoting contraction or delaying expansion have been class tension and class conflict.

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