Historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner Alan Shaw Taylor delivered the keynote speech and received an honorary degree at the University of Maine at Farmington’s 2016 Commencement ceremony.
An historian, scholar, educator, author and Maine native, Alan Shaw Taylor is only the fourth person to win two Pulitzer Prizes for American history since the establishment of the award in 1917. A notable expert on Colonial America, the Revolution and the Early American Republic, he is known for finding new stories in history and looking at them in ways that other historians might not, according to historians in Maine.
“Alan Taylor has the well-deserved reputation of being an historian’s historian,” said University of Maine at Farmington President Kathryn A. Foster. “He is notable for his extensive knowledge, scholarly research and unique talent to make history come alive again. It is an honor to have him addressing our graduates on this important day.”
Born in Portland, Taylor is a Bonny Eagle High School and Colby College graduate, who returns often to Maine. His first book, in 1990, Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820, focused on Maine’s early settlement, before statehood. Just six years later, he received his first Pulitzer Prize in American History for William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic. It was also awarded the Bancroft and Beveridge prizes.
In 2014, he received a second Pulitzer Prize for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, a book about runaway slaves who helped the British military. According to the Pulitzer committee’s citation, Taylor’s book is “a meticulous and insightful account of why runaway slaves in the colonial era were drawn to the British side as potential liberators.” It also won the Merle Curti Prize for Social History (OAH) and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Taylor has taught in the history departments at Boston University and the University of California at Davis, where he was the faculty advisor for the California State Social Science and History Project that provides curriculum support and professional development for K-12 teachers in history and social studies. Currently, he teaches in the Corcoran History Department of the University of Virginia where he holds the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair.
In addition to his two Pulitzer Prize winning publications, Taylor’s other writings have won the 2001 Gold Medal for Non-Fiction from the Commonwealth Club of California, the 2007 Society for Historians of the Early Republic book prize and the 2004-7 Society of the Cincinnati triennial book prize. The Civil War of 1812 won the Empire State History Prize and was a finalist for the George Washington Prize. He has published seven books, with the eighth to be published in fall 2016.
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