Annal: 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2006.

Book:Polio

Polio: An American Story

David M. Oshinsky

All who lived in the early 1950s remember the fear of polio and the elation felt when a successful vaccine was found. Now David Oshinsky tells the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines—and beyond.

Here is a remarkable portrait of America in the early 1950s, using the widespread panic over polio to shed light on our national obsessions and fears. Drawing on newly available papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and other key players, Oshinsky paints a suspenseful portrait of the race for the cure, weaving a dramatic tale centered on the furious rivalry between Salk and Sabin. Indeed, the competition was marked by a deep-seated ill will among the researchers that remained with them until their deaths. The author also tells the story of Isabel Morgan, perhaps the most talented of all polio researchers, who might have beaten Salk to…[more]

Book:New York Burning

New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan

Jill Lepore

A gripping tale and groundbreaking investigation of a mysterious, and largely forgotten, eighteenth-century slave plot to destroy New York City.

Over a few weeks in 1741, ten fires blazed across Manhattan. With each new fire, panicked whites saw more evidence of a slave uprising. Tried and convicted before the colony’s Supreme Court, thirteen black men were burned at the stake and seventeen were hanged. Four whites, the alleged ringleaders of the plot, were also hanged, and seven more were pardoned on condition that they never set foot in New York again. More than one hundred black men and women were thrown into a dungeon beneath City Hall, where many were forced to confess and name names, sending still more men to the gallows and to the stake.

In a narrative rich with period detail and vivid description, Jill Lepore pieces together the events and the thinking…[more]

Book:The Rise of American Democracy

The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln

Sean Wilentz

A grand political history in a fresh new style of how the elitist young American republic became a rough-and-tumble democracy.

In this magisterial work, Sean Wilentz traces a historical arc from the earliest days of the republic to the opening shots of the Civil War. One of our finest writers of history, Wilentz brings to life the era after the American Revolution, when the idea of democracy remained contentious, and Jeffersonians and Federalists clashed over the role of ordinary citizens in government of, by, and for the people. The triumph of Andrew Jackson soon defined this role on the national level, while city democrats, Anti-Masons, fugitive slaves, and a host of others hewed their own local definitions. In these definitions Wilentz recovers the beginnings of a discontent—two starkly opposed democracies, one in the North and another in the South—and the wary balance that lasted until the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked its bloody resolution.

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