Craig L. Symonds is one of the few Civil War historians publishing today capable of analyzing naval policy as history. He "gets" Joe Harsh. He is intrigued enough by the Joe Johnston conundrum to produce a study.
But he is also tempted by the demons of popularity. Two examples: this can be justified but this is beyond the pale.
With a teetering author like Symonds, you want to reward good behavior and punish the bad.
The Roosevelt Naval History Prize has (over the last decade) been awarded to writers of what James McPherson likes to call the people's history - aka pop history. McPherson himself won the prize - with his wife - for editing some inconsequential letters in 1997 (while he was president of the AHA) . This feat has positioned him - in lieu of Symonds - to write the definitive history of Civil War navies.
But I digress. The Roosevelt committee has reached out to Craig Symonds to reward him for another foray into "the people's history." Pity.
Where are the prize committees looking out for us, the advanced readers? Might some university press not scrape up a little money for a small trophy? Or a little plaque that could be awarded amidst fanfare and self-congratulation? It could be re-used with a new name inscribed on it each year. Total cost = $39.99 plus engraving.
Sometimes I wonder.
(The prize was awarded Symonds in May; this piece appeared over the weekend.)