Annal: 2007 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2007.

Book:God's Architect

God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain

Rosemary Hill

Pugin was one of Britain’s greatest architects and his short career one of the most dramatic in architectural history. Born in 1812, the son of the soi-disant Comte de Pugin, at 15 Pugin was working for King George IV at Windsor Castle. By the time he was 21 he had been shipwrecked, bankrupted and widowed. Nineteen years later he died, insane and disillusioned, having changed the face and the mind of British architecture.

God’s Architect is the first full modern biography of this extraordinary figure. It draws on thousands of unpublished letters and drawings to recreate his life and work as architect, propagandist and romantic artist as well as the turbulent story of his three marriages, the bitterness of his last years and his sudden death at 40. It is the debut of a remarkable historian and biographer.

Book:Edith Wharton (Hermione Lee)

Edith Wharton

Hermione Lee

The definitive biography of one of America’s greatest writers, from the author of the acclaimed masterpiece Virginia Woolf.

Delving into heretofore untapped sources, Hermione Lee does away with the image of the snobbish bluestocking and gives us a new Edith Wharton—tough, startlingly modern, as brilliant and complex as her fiction.

Born in 1862, Wharton escaped the suffocating fate of the well-born female, traveled adventurously in Europe and eventually settled in France. After tentative beginnings, she developed a forceful literary professionalism and thrived in a luminous society that included Bernard Berenson, Aldous Huxley and most famously Henry James, who here emerges more as peer than as master. Wharton’s life was fed by nonliterary enthusiasms as well: her fabled houses and gardens, her heroic relief efforts during the Great…[more]

Book:Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes

Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell

Michael Gray

The true story of legendary blues musician and singer Blind Willie McTell, inspiration for the much-loved Bob Dylan track of the same name

Blind Willie McTell, 1903—1959, was one of the most gifted musical artists of his generation, with an exquisite voice and a sublime talent for the twelve-string guitar. As Bob Dylan wrote, “nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell”—yet his repertoire was infinitely wider than that. Why, then, did he drift in and out of the public eye, being ‘rediscovered’ time and again through chance meetings; and why, until now, has so little been written about the life of this extraordinary man?

Blind from birth, McTell never behaved as if he were handicapped by his lack of sight and he explodes every stereotype about blues musicians. Michael Gray has travelled the American South and beyond to unearth the fascinating story of McTell’s life—uncovering…[more]

Book:John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand

John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand

Richard Reeves

John Stuart Mill was a vigorous activist who began campaigning for accessible contraceptive methods when he was just seventeen, shocked into action after finding a recently killed newborn baby in a park. He would become, in time, the highest-ranked English thinker of the century, the author of On Liberty, and one of the most passionate reformers and advocates of his opinionated age. John Stuart Mill is a portrait of a man whose life was spent in pursuit of truth and liberty for all.

Book:Young Stalin

Young Stalin

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Stalin remains one of the creators of our world—like Hitler, the personification of evil. Yet Stalin hid his past and remains mysterious. This enthralling biography that reads like a thriller finally unveils the secret but extraordinary journey of the Georgian cobbler’s son who became the Red Tsar. What forms such a merciless psychopath and consummate politician? Was he illegitimate? Did he owe everything to his mother—was she whore or saint? Was he a Tsarist agent or Lenin’s chief gangster? Was he to blame for his wife’s premature death? If he really missed the 1917 Revolution, how did he emerge so powerful?

Based on astonishing new evidence, Young Stalin is a history of the Russian Revolution, a pre-history of the USSR—and a fascinatingly intimate biography: this is how Stalin became Stalin.

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