Berkeley historian T.J. Stiles wins Pulitzer for ‘Custer’s Trials’

Historians in the News
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T.J. Stiles of Berkeley has won the Pulitzer Prize in history for “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America.”

It’s Stiles’ second Pulitzer; he won the award in 2010 for his biography “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.” That book, also published by Alfred A. Knopf, won the National Book Award in 2009.

In their citation, Pulitzer jurors described “Custer’s Trials” as “a rich and surprising new telling of the journey of the iconic American soldier whose death turns out not to have been the main point of his life.”

The jurors added, “In this magisterial biography, T.J. Stiles paints a portrait of Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer’s legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer’s historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person — capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years).”

When reached by phone, Stiles said that the $10,000 prize was “completely and utterly unexpected ... a gift from heaven.” ...




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