Annal: 2003 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2003.

Book:Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

Janet Browne

In 1858 Charles Darwin was forty-nine years old, a gentleman scientist living quietly at Down House in the Kent countryside, respected by fellow biologists and well liked among his wide and distinguished circle of acquaintances. He was not yet a focus of debate; his “big book on species” still lay on his study desk in the form of a huge pile of manuscript. For more than twenty years he had been accumulating material for it, puzzling over questions it raised, trying—it seemed endlessly—to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Publication appeared to be as far away as ever, delayed by his inherent cautiousness and wish to be certain that his startling theory of evolution was correct.

It is at this point that the concluding volume of Janet Browne’s biography opens. The much-praised first volume, Voyaging, carried Darwin’s story through his youth and scientific apprenticeship, the adventurous Beagle voyage, his marriage…[more]

Book:Gellhorn

Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life

Caroline Moorehead

The first major biography of legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, whose life provides a unique and thrilling perspective on world history in an extraordinary time

Martha Gellhorn’s heroic career as a reporter brought her to the front lines of virtually every significant international conflict between the Spanish Civil War and the end of the Cold War. The preeminent-and often the only-female correspondent on the scene, she broke new ground for women in the male preserve of journalism. Her wartime dispatches, marked by a passionate desire to expose suffering in its many guises and an inimitable immediacy, rank among the best of the twentieth century.

A deep-seated love of travel complemented this interest in world affairs. From her birth in St. Louis in 1908 to her death in London in 1998, Gellhorn passed through Africa, Cuba, China, and most of the great cities of Europe, recording her experiences…[more]

Book:White Mughals

White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India

William Dalrymple

From the early sixteenth century, it was common for British colonizers in India to embarrass the Crown by “turning Turk” or “going native.” Few caused greater scandal than James Kirkpatrick, a British resident in the Court of Hyderabad, who converted to Islam and spied on the East India Company in the midst of an affair with Khair un-Nissa, the great-niece of the region’s prime minister.

White Moguls is rich with many eccentric characters, from “Hindoo Stuart,” who traveled with his own team of Brahmins, to Alexander Gardner, an American whose self-invented costume was showcased by a tartan turban with egret plumes.

A remarkable love story set in an exotic and previously unexplored world, White Moguls is full of secrets, intrigue, espionage, and religious disputes and conjures all the resonance of a great nineteenth-century novel.

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