Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2006 Citation Recipient

Alison Frank

The Barbara Jelavich Book Prize, established in 1995 and sponsored by the Jelavich estate, is awarded annually for a distinguished monograph published on any aspect of Southeast European or Habsburg Studies since 1600, or nineteenth and twentieth- century Ottoman or Russian diplomatic history in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Alison Frank
Title: Oil Empire: Visions of Prosperity in Austrian Galicia (Harvard University Press)

Alison Fleig Frank’s Oil Empire tells the story of how, between the 1860s and 1918, diverse inhabitants of the imperial Austrian crownland of Galicia, together with the political and physical environments, shaped and were shaped by a petroleum boom which soon became a bust. All three members of the Prize Committee (Nick Miller, Maria Todorova, and Jeremy King) found Frank’s first book to be written with rare style and insight. It digs deep into local dynamics, but frames them from the first page within broader contexts. It combines archival research in several languages with cutting-edge social science.

Oil Empire also shows new paths for historians. In recent decades, many scholarly studies about Central and Eastern Europe have centered on nationalism. Frank’s book, in contrast, centers on matters in which national interests, Polish or Ukrainian, German or Jewish, figured less prominently than did international markets, technology, and nature. It works to extract Austrian history from a kind of national ghetto, and to integrate it with the histories of states such as Germany and France. Frank also deprovincializes the Austrian past by drawing on historical studies of the environment. At the same time, she shows that the oil bust, when it came, owed much to Galicia’s autonomy from the rest of Austria — an autonomy won by Polish nationalists. Oil Empire is readable, subtle, and provocatively but responsibly revisionist.