Congratulations to David K. Thomson, Winner of 2023 Wiley-Silver Prize

Robert Colby Discussion

The Center for Civil War Research at the University of Mississippi is proud to announce David K. Thomson as the winner of the 2023 Wiley-Silver Prize for Bonds of War: How Civil War Financial Agents Sold the World on the Union (University of North Carolina Press, 2022). The prize is awarded annually to the best first book published in Civil War history during the preceding year. The full citation from the prize committee is below. For more on the Wiley-Silver Prize, please visit 

Report of the Wiley-Silver Prize Committee on Bonds of War:

"With its clear prose, perceptive analysis, and extensive archival research, David Thomson’s Bonds of War explains how the Union financed the Civil War by marketing its securities across the globe and democratizing its debt through public war drives. The international dimensions of Thomson history show us how the cost of the Civil War attracted European investors who owned half of all United States national debt by 1869. Historians who have focused on the neutrality of European governments have missed how these private investors supported the Union war effort. Through impressive archival research in libraries from eight countries, Thomson recovers the stories of these foreign financiers who contributed more than $400 million in war bonds and changed the world financial system by making it interdependent on America’s success. Domestically, Thomson follows agents who sold bonds to every corner of the nation. Middle-class Americans who had opened savings accounts before the war redirected their money to higher interest bonds, thus connecting their personal profits to national patriotism. Investors living behind Confederate lines bought bonds to express allegiance or hedge their bets against a losing cause. While other scholars have stressed how Civil War greenbacks revolutionized American currency, Thomson makes a persuasive case for the importance of bonds as democratic agents and financial instruments. His book shows how war bonds raised confidence not only in the United States government but also in investment banking. Looking beyond the Civil War era to these lasting effects, Bonds of War helps to contextualize the Reconstruction railroad bonds and Gilded Age speculations that built modern Wall Street."