The Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson–Brown Foundation are proud to announce that Christopher Phillips is the recipient of the Tom Watson Brown Book Award. Dr. Phillips, Professor and Department Head at the University of Cincinnati, earned the award for The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border, which was published in 2016 by Oxford University Press. The $50,000 award is funded by the Watson-Brown Foundation in honor of the broadcaster, philanthropist, and Civil War enthusiast Tom Watson Brown. In making its selection, the prize committee praised Phillips for weaving together “discussions of geography, politics, culture, religion, economy, and racial attitudes” to craft a “complex, fully realized, and provocative depiction of the ‘middle border’ states” in the Civil War era. Redirecting our view from the simplistic North vs. South binary, The Rivers Ran Backward traces the rise of regionalism as a postwar political force and offers “a deeper understanding of the failure of the Reconstruction (and beyond) to realize emancipationist goals while preserving a country still divided by race, class, and region.”
The Watson Brown Book Award jury consisted of Lesley Gordon, Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History, University of Alabama; John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Joan Waugh, Professor & Vice Chair for Academic Personnel, University of California, Los Angeles; and Tad Brown, President of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc. Tad Brown will present the award to Dr. Phillips at the Tom Watson Brown Book Award dinner, which will be held on November 10 at the Southern Historical Association’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas.