Tracy Campbell, the author of “The Year of Peril: America in 1942,” is the 2021 winner of New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize, awarded each year to the best work in the field of American history and biography.
The Second World War exists in the American historical imagination as a time of unity and optimism. In 1942, however, after a series of defeats in the Pacific and the struggle to establish a beachhead on the European front, America seemed to be on the brink of defeat and was beginning to splinter from within.
Exploring this precarious moment, Tracy Campbell paints a portrait of the deep social, economic, and political fault lines that pitted factions of citizens against each other in the post–Pearl Harbor era, even as the nation mobilized, government‑aided industrial infrastructure blossomed, and parents sent their sons off to war. This captivating look at how American society responded to the greatest stress experienced since the Civil War reveals the various ways, both good and bad, that the trauma of 1942 forced Americans to redefine their relationship with democracy in ways that continue to affect us today.