MOUNT VERNON, VA – The 2021 George Washington Prize has been awarded to Dr. Mary Beth Norton for her book 1774: The Long Year of Revolution. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance a broad public understanding of early American history.

1774 tells the important story of the sixteen months that separated the destruction of the East India Company tea in Boston Harbor to the marching of troops to Lexington and Concord. Readers are able to experience the uncertainty and unpredictability of this revolutionary moment. “As I explain in the book, I have long thought that historians have unfortunately overlooked crucial developments in that year just prior to the outbreak of war,” wrote Norton after learning she had won the George Washington Prize. “It was in fact then -- and not before -- when many Americans decided that seeking independence would be desirable. Tracing precisely how that happened proved enlightening to me and I hope it will be the same for readers of the book.”

Doug Bradburn, president and CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, congratulates Norton: “While Americans today are as fixated as ever on questions about our formative history, the George Washington Prize continues to deliver exceptional examples of great new scholarship on our revolutionary origin story. Mary Beth Norton’s 1774 masterfully persuades us that the causes of the revolution were complicated, contested, and truly transformational—a tremendous book and a worthy laureate.”

President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, James Basker, praises the winner: "For the student of history and for the general reader, Mary Beth Norton's 1774 will radically challenge the traditional view of the American Revolution -- and it is a wonderful read!"

“At a time when questions about America’s past are so central to discussions of our nation’s present and future, books like these are essential reading,” said Adam Goodheart, director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

The other finalists for the 2021 George Washington Prize included (in alphabetical order):

  • Mark Boonshoft, Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic (University of North Carolina Press)
  • Vincent Brown, Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Harvard University Press)
  • Peter Cozzens, Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Michael W. McConnell, The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Constitution (Princeton University Press)
  • William G. Thomas III, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (Yale University Press)

Created in 2005 by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards. Previous winners include Ron Chernow, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nathaniel Philbrick, Annette Gordon-Reed, and Rick Atkinson.

There will be a reception honoring Norton next spring at Mount Vernon.

More information about the George Washington Prize is available at www.mountvernon.org/gwprize

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ABOUT THE SPONSORS OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. In 2013, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association opened the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which safeguards original books and manuscripts and serves as a center for research, scholarship, and leadership development. Learn more at mountvernon.org.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education. The Institute is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. Its mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, and the Council of Independent Colleges. Learn more at gilderlehrman.org.

Washington College

Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, but also a member of its original governing board. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The college’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores the American experience in all its diversity and complexity, seeks creative approaches to illuminating the past, and inspires thoughtful conversation informed by history. Learn more at www.washcoll.edu.

For more information please contact:

Matt Briney

Vice President, Media & Communications

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

o: 703-799-6852

c: 703-608-3413

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