W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize

2018 Recipient

Erika Monahan

The Merchants of Siberia: Trade in Early Modern Eurasia

The W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize, established in 2004 and sponsored by Mary Lincoln, is awarded annually for an author’s first published monograph or scholarly synthesis that is of exceptional merit and lasting significance for the understanding of Russia’s past, published in the previous year.

Winner: Erika Monahan
Title: The Merchants of Siberia: Trade in Early Modern Eurasia (Cornell University Press)

In this groundbreaking study, Erika Monahan rethinks the role of trade and commerce in early modern Eurasia. Challenging entrenched stereotypes of the Russian state as “backward” in its approach to economic development, she places Siberia into a broader comparative context of mercantilist systems in the early modern world. Drawing on an impressive range of archival and published sources, she looks beyond Western European comparisons to highlight a state that encouraged commerce and trade, and whose expansion was driven more by economic than ideological concerns. Rather than an isolated backwater, Siberia is highlighted as an active player in trade relations of the early modern world, particularly through its connections with Chinese and Central Asian trade routes. With an eye for local detail, she brings to life the various spaces in which trade occurred, from Moscow’s Kitai gorod to Siberian custom posts and seasonal markets like Lake Yamysh, whose salt reserves played an important role in both regional and international arenas. Through detailed sketches of three particular merchant families, she demonstrates the vibrant, multi-ethnic cast of characters who comprised the “merchants of Siberia,” including the highest ranks of Moscow’s merchant elite, Bukharin traders operating in Siberia, and the countless middling traders who actually dominated Siberian trade. Stylistically engaging, The Merchants of Siberia is a fascinating contribution to economic history and to comparative studies of empire, peripheries and borderlands.

Honorable Mentions: Jeffrey S. Hardy and Andy Willimott