2020 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize recipient announced

Headshot of Elizabeth VaronGettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History announced today that Elizabeth R. Varon, author of Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War (Oxford University Press), is the recipient of the 2020 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. Varon is on the Executive Council of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History and Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia.

She will be recognized during an event hosted by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at the Union League Club in New York City on Thursday, April 23, 2020. The award includes a $50,000 prize and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ life-size bust, “Lincoln the Man.”

Armies of Deliverance book coverVaron’s 500-page Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War anchors the Civil War narrative in the defining moments that occurred on the battlefield, while simultaneously integrating the social and military history of the time period.

Armies of Deliverance is the defining history of the Civil War for the next generation, written by one of the leading Civil War authors of our time,” says James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Basker is one of the seven Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board members who decided this year’s winners. In addition to Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, principals of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, other board members include Gettysburg College President Robert W. Iuliano, Trustee Larry D. Walker, Trustee Emeritus H. Scott Higgins, and Co-Head of Global Mergers and Acquisitions at Citi Mark Shafir.

“Dr. Varon’s scholarly exploration of the Civil War era not only offers insights into this defining chapter in our nation’s history, but it also signals the fragility of our own democracy and the responsibilities inherent in ensuring its vitality today,” said President Iuliano. “Through her ambitious and important work, Dr. Varon provides readers with a unique vantage point in which to more fully understand the driving motives behind Union and Confederate forces, and how these motives—shaped by the experiences, beliefs, and aspirations of everyday people, navigating this singular moment in time—manifested themselves on the battlefield and at home. It is an inspired work worthy of our highest recognition.”

The laureate was one of the eight finalists recommended to the board by a three-person jury: Edward Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities at the University of Richmond, where he is President Emeritus; Caroline Janney, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia; and Steven Mintz, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and the founding director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning.

“Varon finds a fresh interpretation of familiar events in the concept of ‘deliverance,’ an understanding of the war that fused religious, political, economic, and moral determination,” wrote the jury in their report to the board. “Varon’s mastery of every aspect of the Civil War makes this the most complete, balanced, and up-to-date synthesis of the nation’s defining conflict.”

The seven other finalists that the jury selected from 110 submissions include: Eric Foner, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (W.W. Norton and Company); Matthew Fox-Amato, Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America (Oxford University Press); Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Yale University Press); W. Caleb McDaniel, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America (Oxford University Press); Jessie Morgan-Owens, Girl in Black and White: The Story of Mary Mildred Williams and the Abolition Movement (W.W. Norton and Company); Joseph P. Reidy, Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery (University of North Carolina Press); and David Silkenat, Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press).

About the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

The Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize is awarded annually for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War soldier, or a subject relating to their era.

The $50,000 prize was co-founded and endowed by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, principals of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Now celebrating its 26th year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was co-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.