Pauline Maier Awarded George Washington Book Prize for “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788”

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: PRNewswire-USNewswire, 5-25-11

The seventh annual George Washington Book Prize, co-sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, honoring the year’s best book about America’s founding era, has been awarded to Pauline Maier for Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon & Schuster, 2010). Maier, author of five previous books on the history of revolutionary America, received the $50,000 prize Wednesday evening, May 25, at a black-tie dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.

“This book will really prove to be an eye-opener to many people who think that drafting the Constitution was the end of a long road to creating a strong and effective government,” said Mount Vernon’s president, James C. Rees. “But getting the document ratified was an uphill struggle most historians ignore, and on more than one occasion, the entire unification process was almost doomed to failure.”

The debates over drafting the Constitution that took place in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 have long been enshrined in American history. But Maier’s book reveals an equally dramatic and essential — though almost forgotten — series of debates that played out during the year that followed, as citizens, journalists, and politicians argued state-by-state over whether to ratify the nation’s founding document.

“This debate was not a secretive discussion among a few gentlemen in Independence Hall, but rather a bare-knuckles, open-air contest throughout the young United States,” said Adam Goodheart, director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize. “Pauline Maier has captured it in all its political and intellectual vigor. And as she makes clear, the struggle over ratification could easily have turned out differently — and forever changed the course of American history.”

The George Washington Book Prize is sponsored by a partnership of three institutions devoted to furthering scholarship on America’s founding era: Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The $50,000 prize is among the nation’s largest literary awards. “We found Ratification to be a rich and very readable book that paints the process elegantly,” says James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which funds the award.

Maier is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of American History at MIT. She is the author of several books on American history, including From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 (W.W. Norton, 1992); The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (Knopf, 1980); and American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, (Knopf, 1997), which was on the New York Times Book Review “Editor’s Choice” list of the best 11 books of 1997 and a Finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award.

The jury that chose Ratification as a finalist from among 59 entries called it “a tour de force of extraordinary research and scholarship.”…READ MORE

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