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Jay Taylor Wins 2010 Lionel Gelber Prize
for Book on Chiang Kai-shek
Jay Taylor, a U.S. Foreign Service specialist and Harvard University researcher on China for many decades, has won the 2010 Lionel Gelber Prize for his book The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China, published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The prize was announced today by Noah Rubin, Chair of the Lionel Gelber Prize Board and grandnephew of Lionel Gelber.
According to Jury Chair George Russell, “The Generalissimo is a remarkable achievement, a fresh and impeccably documented approach to a vital issue that puts the histories of the Chinese Revolution and of Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalists in a new and more favourable light. For decades since the Chinese Communist revolution, the triumphalist historical view of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party dominated. Chiang was viewed as a greedy villain and a puppet of Western capitalist influences. It is a tribute to Taylor’s objectivity that his own views changed as he researched the topic.
The jurors agreed that this was an important, intriguingly written contribution that would stand the test of time and would be an important corrective to another era’s intellectual fashion, as China itself is forced to consider the continuing remarkable success of the Republic of China. That success owes a great deal to the austere and contradictory personality of Chiang Kai-shek, which Taylor brilliantly illuminates.”
Jonathan D. Spence, the first winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize in 1990, writes in The New York Review of Books that he felt compassion for Chiang. According to Spence, what is revealed through Taylor’s use of Chiang’s diaries, which span 56 years, humanizes the man.
Mr. Taylor is the author of five books, including The Generalissimo’s Son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the Revolutions in China and Taiwan (2000). He is currently a Research Associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and served in the U.S. Foreign Service for 37 years. He began as a political officer in Taipei and then Hong Kong. He was an analyst of Chinese external affairs in the State Department and later officer-in-charge of Chinese political affairs. He served as political counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Bejing and back in Washington director of analysis for Asian & Pacific affairs and then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Intelligence & Research. In between he was U.S. Consul in Borneo, political counselor in South Africa, chief of the U.S. Mission to Cuba, and chief of the U.S. observer Team and Liasion Offfice in Namibia. Mr. Taylor now lives in Arlington, Virginia.
The prize is presented annually by The Lionel Gelber Foundation in partnership with the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto and FOREIGN POLICY magazine. The $15,000 prize, now in its 20th year, was established by Lionel Gelber, the Canadian scholar, author, and diplomat renowned for his work in international relations.
Mr. Taylor will accept the award in Toronto on Tuesday, March 23, 2010, at 6 p.m. at the Munk Centre, where he will deliver the annual Lionel Gelber Lecture. The lecture is open to the public.
A subsequent event will be held for Taylor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
The Lionel Gelber Prize seeks to deepen public debate on significant global issues and has been described by The Economist as “the world’s most important award for non-fiction.”
Other finalists are:
Christopher Caldwell — Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West (Doubleday)
David E. Hoffman — The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy (Doubleday)
Andrew Rice —The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda (Metropolitan Books)
Thomas E. Ricks — The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (Penguin Press)
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Further information on the Lionel Gelber Prize and a list of the members of the jury: www.utoronto.ca/mcis/gelber