Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2010 Citation Recipient

Holly Case

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: Holly Case
Title: Between States: The Transylvanian Question and the European Idea during World War II (Stanford University Press)

Holly Case’s book is an insightful reconsideration of one of Europe’s most stubborn and most historiographically productive “questions.” The Transylvanian question began in the 19th century and is still alive. Through wide-ranging, imaginative research and a conceptually original approach, Between States reframes our understanding of national questions, the European idea, and the course of World War II; it challenges assumptions about the abilities of small states to have major impacts on the Great Powers.

The book stands out as a new type of history: It is systematically trans-national and trans-genre. Writing from neither Romanian nor Hungarian perspective, Case succeeds in depicting the strict and self-consciously constructed reciprocity between the two sides in this protracted stand-off. But the book is as much about Transylvania as it is about Europe. Case explains how Hungarian and Romanian intellectuals, patriots, and politicians used the ground of the Transylvanian question to cast the relationship between their nation and “Europe” –a concept associated with the musculature of any particular moment’s Great Powers. She also demonstrates the similarity between appeals made to Europe’s Western powers, to the Axis, to Stalin, and to the European Union. Case’s focus on the connection between territorial claims and the treatment of minorities –including the singularly embattled Jews in World War II –is novel. Her argument, that the small powers of East Central Europe were carrying out a “war within a war” during Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union, redraws the outlines of the war. Romania & Hungary, Case shows, were using Hitler’s campaign to achieve their own territorial objectives, and, unsure of its outcome, prepared the same dossier of claims, proofs and grievances for both potential victors.

Between States moves among diplomatic, military, legal, social, and cultural levels. Case’s research deals with every locus of the Transylvanian question from international treaties and opportunistic alliances to radio broadcasts and drinking taverns; from atlases and censuses to court records, board games and postage stamps; she shows how territorial claims were made by local and national authorities, by ordinary people, by opposition parties and by ruling dictators in all these many venues. Using a variety of sources in many languages, Holly Case deconstructs the social and political worlds and propaganda strategies of Romanians and Hungarians over more than a century. Her book provides a new and ambitious model of historical scholarship.