Tom Watson Brown Book Award

The Society of Civil War Historians gives an annual Tom Watson Brown Book Award for the best book published on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War. This includes, but is not exclusive to, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies. Works of fiction, poetry, anthologies, and textbooks are not considered. Jurors consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.

The prize is presented at the SCWH banquet at the Southern Historical Association annual meeting, where the winner delivers a formal address that will be published in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era.

2017 Winner of the Tom Watson Brown Book Award:

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.

2018 Nomination Information:

The Society of Civil War Historians solicits nominations for the Tom Watson Brown Book Award for books published in 2017. Publishers are asked to send books, along with a cover letter nominating the work for the Tom Watson Brown Award, directly to the four prize jurors no later than January 31, 2018. Only books published in 2016 will be considered.

All genres of scholarship on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War are eligible. This includes, but is not exclusive to, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies. Works of fiction, poetry, and textbooks will not be considered. Jurors will consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.

The winner will be announced by August 1, 2018. The prize will be presented at the SCWH banquet at the Southern Historical Association annual meeting, where the winner will deliver a formal address that will be published in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era.

To be announced — Nominated books with cover letters should be sent to:

  • Tad Brown, President, Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., 310 Tom Watson Way, Thomson, GA 30824

The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2018. 

Previous Tom Watson Brown Book Award Winners:

2016: Earl J. Hess, Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History, Lincoln Memorial University, for his book, Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness.  (Louisiana State University Press, 2015)

2015: Shauna Devine, Research Fellow at the Schulich School of Medicine and an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario, for Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science. (The University of North Carolina Press, 2014)

2014: Ari Kelman, Professor, University of California, Davis, for A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013).

2013John Fabian Witt, Allen H. Duff Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School and a Professor of History in the Yale History Department, for Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (Simon & Schuster, 2012).

2012Gary W. Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia, for The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2011).

2011Mark W. Geiger, a 2011-12 Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University Library of Congress and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, for Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865 (Yale University Press, 2010).

2010Daniel E. Sutherland, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas, for A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War  (University of North Carolina, 2009).