Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich History

Bestselling author Alex Kershaw has written nine books, three of them New York Times bestsellers. Born and raised in England, he has lived in the U.S. for 23 years. In 2015 he was commissioned by Norwich to write Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich History, to coincide with the university’s bicentennial commemoration in 2019. Last October, in an interview in the Sullivan Museum and History Center, he talked about what that experience was like and what he learned about Norwich and Norwich people in the process. An excerpt of that interview follows:

“I did the project because I was fascinated by the history of the institution, and I thought that the story of Norwich really was a very good way of telling the story of America. I am not a U.S. citizen, but I have spent most of my life writing about ordinary Americans who sacrificed an enormous amount for a place that I love and adore, which is Europe.

“I am honored that I was trusted to do this—to express myself with passion and be allowed to delve into a history that is very precious to this institution. It was very moving. I came away in awe, and also with a great sense of gratitude.

“From the very start I wanted to put Norwich individuals at the center of the American story, by showing that, at key points in American history, there was a Norwich guy or woman there. I wanted to tell the story of Norwich but at the same time tell the story of America—of its progress, its evolution, its politics, and its military history—through Norwich individuals.

“The core of the story of Norwich is this: you need someone to lead the way, to set an example. Someone has to put their life on the line… and show other people what you need to do to get the job done. You have to groom people to do that. And Norwich does that well. When you go into that hell, the unimaginable hell of war and conflict, Norwich graduates step up. The empirical evidence is there, I found it throughout two hundred years.

“I was surprised at how emotional it was at times. I was brought up on a continent that was liberated predominantly by Americans towards the end of the second world war. So that sacrifice is one that I truly appreciate. I felt it. I saw it. As I flipped through these pages, I saw face after face after face, of star quarterbacks, of people who had very promising futures, that were killed at 19, 20, 21, while leading other men. If you look at the net contribution of what Norwich people did in World War II—certainly in Europe—you couldn’t find an institution that did as much.

“I tried to see things from the point of view of Norwich. The book is about showing people examples of what Partridge wanted to create, which was a citizen soldier. By giving examples of leaders like Grenville Dodge, General Harmon, Gordon Sullivan, and many others, I want readers to be inspired to feel proud of Norwich and of the people who have come out of the college and gone on to do great things.

“We often forget there’s a lot of people—the most important people—the ones who glue us together as a society, are the ones that serve us. Without them, we would have nothing. Any institution, any place that encourages that sense of service, especially today, is to be celebrated.”

Pre-Order the Commemorative Edition

Citizens & Soldiers will premiere at Homecoming 2018. A limited commemorative edition is available for pre-order. Each of the 400 copies will be preserved in a linen-covered slipcase, numbered and signed by the author, President Richard Schneider and GEN Gordon Sullivan, Honorary Chair of the Bicentennial. Personalized inscriptions are also available.

For more information, contact Diane Scolaro at (802) 485-2358 or

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