Alan Taylor (historian)

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Alan Shaw Taylor
Taylor in 2019
Born (1955-06-17) June 17, 1955 (age 68)
Years active1977-
Notable workWilliam Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic,
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
Awards1996 Bancroft Prize, 1996 Beveridge Award, 1996 Pulitzer Prize, 2014 Pulitzer Prize

Alan Shaw Taylor (born June 17, 1955) is an American historian and scholar who is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia.[1] A specialist in the early history of the United States, Taylor has written extensively about the colonial history of the United States, the American Revolution and the early American Republic. Taylor has received two Pulitzer Prizes and the Bancroft Prize, and was also a finalist for the National Book Award for non-fiction. In 2020 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.[2]


Taylor was born in Portland, Maine, the son of Ruel Taylor, Jr. and author Virginia C. Taylor. He graduated from Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, in 1977, and earned his PhD from Brandeis University in 1986.


Before coming to University of Virginia, Taylor taught previously at the University of California, Davis[3] and Boston University.

Taylor is best known for his contributions to microhistory, exemplified in his William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (1996). Using court records, land records, letters and diaries, Taylor reconstructed the background of founder William Cooper from Burlington, New Jersey, and the economic, political and social history related to the land speculation, founding and settlement of Cooperstown, New York, after the American Revolutionary War.

Taylor is among a generation of historians committed to the revival of narrative history, incorporating many historical methods (political, social, cultural, and environmental, among others) to understand humans' experiences of the past.

Taylor's The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (2006) explored the history of the borders between Canada and the United States in the aftermath of the American Revolution, as well as Iroquois attempts to keep control of some lands.[4] His book The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (2010) also addressed this borderland area and strategies pursued by various groups.[5] The War of 1812 has also been characterized as a continuation of the Revolutionary War.

In the list of multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, Taylor is one of five authors to have twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History.

Contributing to the anthology Our American Story (2019), Taylor addressed the possibility of a shared American narrative and offered a skeptical approach, arguing, "There is no single unifying narrative linking past and present in America. Instead, we have enduring divisions in a nation even larger and more diverse than that of 1787. The best we can do today is to cope with our differences by seeking compromises, just as the Founders had to do, painfully and incompletely in the early Republic."[6]



Books as author[edit]

Books as contributor[edit]


  1. ^ "U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War". UVA Today. 14 April 2014.
  2. ^ "The American Philosophical Society Welcomes New Members for 2020". American Philosophical Society.
  3. ^ Alan Taylor. "The Civil War of 1812". Pritzker Military Museum & Library.
  4. ^ Faculty page at University of California Davis
  5. ^ The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies: Alan Taylor: 9781400042654: Books
  6. ^ Claybourn, Joshua, ed. (2019). Our American Story: The Search for a Shared National Narrative. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books. pp. 189–200. ISBN 978-1640121706.
  7. ^ "The 1996 Pulitzer Prize Winner in History". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Cox Book Prize". Society of the Cincinnati. Archived from the original on 7 November 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  9. ^ "2013 National Book Award Finalists Announced". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  10. ^ "2013 National Book Awards". NBF. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  11. ^ "2014 Pulitzer Prizes".
  12. ^ Scholar of the Early Republic Wins American History Book Prize, New York Times

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