Rick Atkinson, the author of “The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777,” has been named the winner of the New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize, awarded each year to the best work in the field of American history and biography.
The 800-page doorstop, published last year by Henry Holt, starts with the early skirmishes and continues past the Declaration of Independence, with an intent of dispelling settled, sentimental clichés that have accumulated around public understanding of the Revolution. The historian Joseph Ellis, writing in The New York Times Book Review, praised its combination of deep research, including “almost endless endnotes,” and “novelistic imagination that verges on cinematic.”
Mr. Atkinson, a journalist by training, emphasizes the costs and brutality of the Revolution, a conflict, he writes, in which a higher portion of the population died than in an other American conflict, save the Civil War (in part because of infectious disease). It’s a darker view that’s in tune with recent scholarship on the Revolution, as well as with Mr. Atkinson’s previous work, including his trilogy about World War II.
“I’ve spent a professional lifetime writing about American wars to figure out how and why they were fought, and in hopes of conveying to readers that everyone of them was fundamentally tragic,” Mr. Atkinson, the son of a United States Army officer, said in a statement.