UAB professor named a finalist for prestigious book prize

Finalists’ books are considered to be among the past year’s best on the nation’s founding.

Brian Steele, Ph.D., associate professor of history in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a finalist for the 2013 George Washington Book Prize. Steele is the author is “Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood,” his first book.

brian_steele_s“This is a great surprise and honor,” said Steele, an award-winning professor who has published several essays on Jefferson. “The George Washington Book Prize is a truly prestigious award for early American history. The books nominated in previous years have almost, without exception, become recent classics in the field, so it’s very special and kind of stunning, really, to be named a finalist.”

The prize is co-sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Finalists’ books are considered to be among the past year’s best on the nation’s founding, and they have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history, according to the group.

At $50,000, it is one of the largest literary prizes of any kind. A jury of three distinguished historians selected the four finalists from nearly 50 entries. Judges praised Steele’s book, saying it brings to life a man “we now call an ‘American exceptionalist’ who believed that the American people were uniquely capable of embracing principles of self-government that were ‘self-evident’ to them alone.”

“The UAB History Department — and the College of Arts and Sciences more generally — has a great tradition of commitment to research and writing,” Steele said of his reason for writing the book. “The place is full of intellectually curious people who want to write about what they are learning. It’s one of the reasons I decided to move to UAB. I knew I would be encouraged to become part of that tradition.”

The winner will be announced May 22 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens in Virginia.