Citadel historian making history of his own with Braddock’s Defeat
David Preston begins sequel after Braddock’s earns six awards including top history award
New evidence uncovered by one of The Citadel’s history professors about what is described as one of North America’s most consequential battles, is helping David Preston earn his own place in history.
Preston, the college’s Westvaco Professor of National Security Studies, teaches cadets, many of whom are military officer candidates, about U.S. military history and early American history. His second book, Braddock's Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution, published by Oxford University Press in July of 2015, has earned six awards in the first year as well as dozens of positive reviews.
“The Citadel should be justly proud to have such a gifted scholar among its faculty,” said reviewer Ben Moise in The Post and Courier.
Braddock’s Defeat has earned the following honors:
- Finalist, 2016 George Washington Book Prize
- Winner, 2016 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History
- Winner, 2016 Distinguished Book Award in U.S. History, Society for Military History
- Winner, 2016 Distinguished Book Award, Society of Colonial Wars
- Winner, 2016 PROSE Award for U.S. History Category, Association of American Publishers
- Winner, 2015 Judge Robert Woltz History Award, French & Indian War Foundation
The prestigious of Guggenheim-Lerhman Prize is an international competition, first established in 2013. The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation website describes the objective of the prize as follows:
The intent of the $50,000 prize, which is jointly administered by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the New-York Historical Society, is to draw public attention to military history not only as an important staple of education in the areas of international relations, diplomacy, and conflict studies, but also as a subject in which any educated citizen should be interested. The study of steps to war, the conduct of military campaigns, and diplomatic responses to war can play an essential role in the quest for a more peaceable future.
Preston was named the winner during a ceremony March 21, 2016, at the New York Historical Society in New York City.
"I am honored beyond words to have received this prize, given its stature and the formidable scholarship of my fellow finalists,” said Preston. “My book was the outcome of a lifetime of study of the French and Indian War that goes back to my upbringing in western Pennsylvania."
Numerous reviewers have noted Preston’s extensive and illuminating field research as being one of the differentiating components of his detailed accounts of the battle and those involved.
"Physically tracing General Braddock's military road across the Appalachian Mountains and canoeing the French waterways showed me the extreme logistical challenges that both the British and French faced in moving troops through such rugged country,” Preston said.
Preston spent weeks doing fieldwork and a total of seven years researching and writing Braddock’s Defeat which includes publishing the first French account of the battle, as well as a formerly untold Iroquois warrior's account of George Washington and the Jumonville Affair.
“Unsurprisingly, given its dramatic narrative, this ill-fated campaign has attracted the attention of many fine historians, yet none of them has explored it so thoughtfully and compellingly as David Preston. His "Braddock's Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution" is distinguished not simply by his refusal to accept traditional interpretations but by his readiness to consider the perspectives of all the protagonists: British, colonial American, French-Canadian and, not least, Indian,” said Stephen Brumwell in The Wall Street Journal.
Preston, who has been with The Citadel Department of History since 2003, is currently working on a sequel to Braddock’s Defeat which will focus on George Washington’s career in the later years of the French and Indian War. The Citadel Foundation, which provided funding to support the creation of Braddock’s Defeat, is also contributing to the sequel.
The first book Preston published, The Texture Of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783, won the 2010 Albert B. Corey Prize for Best Book on Canadian/American relations, in addition to receiving the 2010 Excellence in Research Book Award from the New York State Archives.
Preston earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in American History at The College of William & Mary, where he studied with the influential ethno-historian Professor James Axtell. He attended Mary Washington College, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1994 with a B.A. in History.