The proper use of prize money

Reading this Bryan Appleyard essay in the Times, it occurred to me how confining history prizes are. Where science researchers are rewarded for finding, discovering, or making specific things, history prizes come after the fact of a book ... with a selection committee patting its grantee on the back for thinking and saying all the right things about a well-known subject.

For a starter, why not identify all the known gaps and offer prizes to those who fill them, e.g. first-ever biography of Irvin McDowell (you may have heard of him; they say he fought in the Civil War at some point).

The now vigorous, ongoing revision of Centennial verities can continue prizeless, in parallel, while great gaping holes in Civil War history are plugged with cash offers.

History boffins - they are needed...