Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History


Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention: Wendy Goldman
Title: Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin’s Russia (Cambridge University Press)

In a remarkably accessible and absorbing follow-up to her previous work on the Stalinist terror, Wendy Goldman focuses on the grassroots political culture of the terror, especially its effects on interpersonal relations, in five Moscow factories. In her detailed and fascinating tales of denunciation and counter-denunciation, the terror at the grassroots emerges as a “messier” and more complex phenomenon than earlier accounts might suggest. Based on previously untapped archival sources, Inventing the Enemy demonstrates that once the process of “unmasking” enemies began, ordinary people got caught up in and necessarily helped to perpetuate and spread the terror independently of the state and its security apparatus. In Goldman’s account the terror’s victims and its perpetrators are often the same individuals, making their fates all the more tragic and their stories all the more human.

Honorable Mention: Barbara Alpern Engel
Title: Breaking the Ties That Bound: The Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia (Cornell University Press)

Drawing primarily on a clearly defined body of sources — some 260 fully documented cases from the tsarist Chancellery brought by women seeking to separate from their husbands — Barbara Engel provides a fascinating perspective on changing understandings of marriage and the changing practices of the tsarist state, as well as on the broader changes sweeping Russian society in the final decades of tsarist rule. The process of petitioning the tsar relied on the most traditional understandings of autocracy and paternalism, and therefore, Engel demonstrates, ironically, the Chancellery often made decisions more favorable to women than the ostensibly more liberal courts, for which marriages were a form of legal contract. Breaking the Ties that Bound provides a different view of both the functioning of the tsarist state and of changing values and practices in Russian society, while simultaneously offering readers a series of all too human tales, replete with heroines and victims, honor and deceit.

Winner: Tracy McDonald