The Edward M. Coffman Dissertation Prize
The Society for Military History Coffman Dissertation Prize is awarded annually to the best dissertation in military history. The competition is open to scholars whose work blends military history with social, political, economic, and diplomatic history and to authors of studies centering on campaigns, leaders, technology, and doctrine. The winning author receives a cash award and a plaque. The winner also will be recognized at the Awards Dinner at the Society for Military History annual meeting. This prize is named in honor of Edward M. Coffman.
The submission process for the Coffman Prize can be found here.
2021 Coffman Prize
Winner: Thomas Mead Jamison (Harvard University)
"Pacific Wars: Peripheral Conflict and the Making of the US "New Navy," 1865-1897"
Honorable Mention: Marc Tomas Howard
"Black Soldiers in the Rhodesian Army, 1956-1981: The Loyalties of Professionals"
2020 Coffman Prize
Winner: Mary Elizabeth Walters (University of North Carolina)
"Unexpected Humanitarians: Albania, the U.S. Military, and Aid Organizations during the 1999 Kosovo Refugee Crisis"
Honorable Mention: Susan Grunewald (Carnegie Mellon University)
"German Prisoners of War in the Soviet Union: Life, Law, Memory, 1941-1956."
2019 Coffman Prize
Winner: Tanya L. Roth (Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School, St. Peters, MO)
"Flirting with Equality: American Women in the Cold War Military."
Honorable Mention: Garrett Gatzemeyer (U.S. Military Academy)
"Bodies for Battle: Systematic Training in the U.S. Army's Physical Culture, 1885-1958."
Honorable Mention: Andrew William Fialka (Middle Tennessee State University)
"Of Methods and Madness: A Spatial History Approach to the Civil War's Guerrilla Violence."
2018 Coffman Prize
Winner: Zachery A. Fry (U.S. Army Command and General Staff College)
"Lincoln’s Divided Legion: Loyalty and the Political Culture of the Army of the Potomac"
Honorable Mention: Aaron Hiltner (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
"Friendly Invasions: Civilians and Servicemen on the World War II American Home Front"
Honorable Mention: Emily L. Swafford (American Historical Association)
"Democracy’s Proving Ground: U.S. Military Families in West Germany, 1946-1961"
2017 Coffman Prize
Winner: Zach S. Fredman. Ph.D. from Boston University
"From Allies to Occupiers: Living with the U.S. Military in Wartime China"
Honorable Mention: David A. Harrisville. Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Unrighteous Cause: The Moral World of the German Soldier and the Wartime Origins of the Wehrmacht Myth, 1941-1944"
Honorable Mention: Courtney A. Short. Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
"’The Most Vital Question’: Race and Identity in Occupation Policy Construction and Practice, Okinawa, 1945-1946"
2016 Coffman Prize
Winner: Jordan Hayworth. Ph.D. from The University of North Texas
"Conquering the Natural Frontier: French Revolutionary Expansion to the Rhine River, 1792-1797"
Honorable Mention: Brian Drohan. Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Faculty at the United States Military Academy.
"Human Rights at War: Activism, Counterinsurgency, and the End of the British Empire"
2015 Coffman Prize
Winner: Nathan Packard, Fleet Seminar Professor, Naval War College, Washington Naval Yard. Ph.D. from Georgetown University
“The Marine Corps’ Long March: Modernizing The Nation’s Expeditionary Forces in the Aftermath of Vietnam, 1970-1991”
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Abel, Ph.D. from and Teaching Fellow at University of North Texas
“Guibert: Father of the Grande Armee”
2014 Coffman Prize
Winner: Ellen Tillman, Texas State University, San Marcos
“Dollar Diplomacy by Force: U.S. Military Experimentation and Occupation in the Dominican Republic, 1900-1924”
Honorable Mention: Andrew Rath, Advanced Technical Intelligence Center, Virginia
“Britain’s and France’s Crimean War Naval Campaigns Against Russia in Imperial Context, 1854-1856”
2013 Coffman Prize
Winner: Brian K. Feltman, Georgia Southern University
“Confronting the Stigma of Surrender: German Prisoners, British Captors, and Manhood in the Great War & Beyond”
Over the course of the Great War, approximately nine million soldiers endured captivity at enemy hands, yet their experience has only recently attracted serious scholarly attention. Focusing on the experiences of the more than 132,000 German military prisoners held in the United Kingdom during the First World War, Brian K. Feltman convincingly argues that understanding the emasculating stigma of surrender is essential to understanding captivity, as well as former prisoners’ attempts to reintegrate following repatriation. By drawing attention to the stigma of surrender, his manuscript at once deepens our understanding of the German captivity experience in the UK and presents innovative perspectives on the ways that popular notions of manhood affected how soldiers experienced the Great War and life in enemy hands. “Confronting the Stigma of Surrender,” the first study of its kind, offers new insight into not only what it meant to become a prisoner of war, but also what it meant to be a man at war.
2012 Coffman Prize
Winner: Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, University of Kentucky
“Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam”
“Hanoi’s War” offers a fresh approach to Vietnam War scholarship. In this deeply researched and superbly written narrative, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen unveils the perspective and motivations of those leaders in Hanoi who made the decisions to escalate the war in the south and to pursue the peace talks in Paris. She emphasizes the role of Le Duan as de-facto leader of the North Vietnamese state from the early 1960s, traces his role in commanding the war effort, and discusses how escalation of the war and suppression of political rivals became closely intertwined. Nguyen’s political and strategic history of North Vietnam’s war raises questions about the limitations of the familiar view from Washington and Saigon. It presents an opportunity for military, diplomatic, and international historians to review entrenched assumptions.
David Fitzgerald, University College Cork
“Learning to Forget?: The US Army and Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq”
Jacqueline E. Whitt, United States Military Academy
“No Crisis of Faith: American Military Chaplains and the Vietnam War”
2011 Coffman Prize
Winner: Kathryn S. Meier, University of Scranton
“The Seasoned Soldier: Coping with the Environment in Civil War Virginia”
Drawing on a wide array of official and personal accounts, “A Seasoned Soldier” examines the ways in which Union and Confederate soldiers understood and practiced self-care during the Peninsular and Shenandoah campaigns of 1862. Notwithstanding seminal efforts by the U.S. Sanitary Commission to improve soldiers’ living conditions, military medicine on both sides remained rudimentary and principally concerned with rooting out malingerers. Consequently, principal responsibility for maintaining physical and mental health—as well as combat effectiveness—devolved to the soldiers themselves. Over time, they acquired the skills required to look after their bodies and stave off melancholy, rendering themselves “seasoned soldiers.” Their respective armies depended on such men, even if they did not always understand or approve of their methods. What officers interpreted as desertion or straggling, the men often considered essential sojourns—necessary to mend bodies, augment diets, or restore nerves. Innovatively combining military, medical, and environmental history, “A Seasoned Soldier” sheds new light on two of the most storied campaigns of the Civil War and points the way for future scholarship in the field.
Waitman Beorn, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
“Descent into Darkness: Local Participation of the Wehrmacht in the Holocaust in Belarus, 1941-2”
Katherine Epstein, The Ohio State University
“Inventing the Military-Industrial Complex: Torpedo Development, Property Rights, and Naval Warfare in the United States and Great Britain before World War I”