Alan Taylor, a professor of history at UC Davis for two decades, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize – the second of his career – for his account of a little-known episode in the history of slavery in the United States.
Taylor, the author of seven books, was named the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for history for his book “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.” Pulitzer jurors described it as “a meticulous and insightful account of why runaway slaves in the colonial era were drawn to the British side as potential liberators.”
Taylor, who recently joined the faculty at the University of Virginia, was in Philadelphia on Monday, preparing for a lecture there, when he received news of the award. It comes 18 years after he received his first Pulitzer for history in 1996 for “William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic,” which used the life of 19th century novelist James Fenimore Cooper’s father as a lens for the nation’s early years.
“It’s still stunning news,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “I’m on the road right now, getting ready to do a talk tonight, so not in an optimal setting to field all this. Not that I’m complaining.”
“The Internal Enemy” tells the story of about 3,000 enslaved Africans from the Chesapeake region who escaped slavery by fleeing to the British and helping them wage war against the United States in the War of 1812.
Ron Mangun, dean of Social Sciences at UC Davis, said Monday that he was not surprised Taylor won a Pulitzer once again. He recalled reading Taylor’s first Pulitzer-winning book and being astounded by the rigorous scholarship.
Mangun described Taylor as “a person who discovers new knowledge. That’s what a good historian does. … He is an example of what the University of California is all about.”
Taylor, 58, was born in Portland, Maine. He attended Colby College and earned his doctorate in American history at Brandeis University. He taught at Boston University before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1994, teaching courses in early North American history, the history of the American West and the history of Canada.
Mangun noted that Taylor is not only a respected scholar, but also a beloved teacher. “He’s the complete package,” Mangun said. “The students love the guy.”
In 2002, Taylor received the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement as well as the Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association, Teaching Excellence Award.
In August, he will assume his new post as the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia.
Mangun said UC Davis hates to lose Taylor, but he will remain affiliated with the campus as a distinguished professor emeritus.
Taylor is a colonial historian, and the opportunity to occupy the Thomas Jefferson chair at the university Jefferson founded is something a scholar could hardly pass up, Mangun said.
“We celebrate this at UC Davis,” he said.
Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.