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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The excellence of "Defying Empire" recognized

Some time ago, I posted a piece a most intriguing book, Defying Empire, Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York. This morning, I was delighted to receive an email from the author, Thomas Truxes, confiding that he had received an exciting letter from Fred Anderson, Chair of the Parkman Prize committee of the Society of American Historians.
The letter ran:

Dear Tom, I'm writing on behalf of the Francis Parkman Prize jury (Stan Katz, Kathleen Dalton, and myself) to inform you that we have unanimously voted to name Defying Empire as a finalist for this year's prize. Unfortunately no money accompanies this designation, but the following citation will be entered in the minutes of the annual dinner meeting of the Society of American Historians for 2009.

Thomas M. Truxes, Defying Empire, Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York (Yale University Press): From his opening description of the October night in 1759 when New Yorkers celebrated the fall of Quebec to his account of the trials, three years later, which disclosed that some of New York's most prominent merchants had traded with the enemy throughout the Seven Years' War, Thomas Truxes holds the reader in thrall with a tale of enterprise, deceit, and revenge as compelling as a first-rate novel. Few writers can create history with such narrative drive and populate it with characters so vividly realized; fewer still can do it without sacrificing the rigor and integrity of their scholarship. Thomas Truxes does it all in a book that can be read as much for delight as for enlightenment. Defying Empire is a remarkable achievement.


The judges had over 200 entries to sift through, which may be a record number of submissions for the award. The three finalists were Defying Empire, Brian DeLay's War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War, and On Zion's Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape by Jared Farmer.

Farmer's book was eventually judged the winner, but all three were considered so eminently prizeworthy that the judges insisted they be designated as named finalists, something that the Society permits only in cases where the jury members believe that the books are of exceptional merit.

I echo Mr. Anderson in saying, Congratulations, Tom, on a splendid book.

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