Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2017 Citation Recipient

Jakub S. Beneš

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: Jakub S. Beneš
Title: Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890-1918 (Oxford University Press)

This outstanding monograph based on extensive primary work vividly portrays a crucial, but too often neglected aspect of central European history, namely the relationship between the workers’ movement in imperial Austria and nationalism. Beneš’ stimulating social and cultural historical approach to the analysis of political action focuses on workers’ participation in social movement activities, such as protests for suffrage and election campaigning. He persuasively argues that workers’ embrace of nationalism was neither inevitable nor the result of a gradual process, but was deepened during experiences in intense events. His concern with the roots of a new language of social democracy, his close attention to popular working class culture (and its religious sentiment), the sheer variety of material he employs, and his interest in multiple spaces of interaction bring new insights from below to social democratic culture. A great strength of this study is its original contribution to current debates about supposed “national indifference”; Beneš offers vital empirical evidence in this regard. The parallel attention to the Czech and German parts of Austrian social democracy further forms a significant aspect of this work, as Beneš moves away from “nationalized” histories of social democracy. Beneš’ convincing argument that the importance of leftist populist nationalism has been underrepresented and his stimulating methodological approach to everyday ethnicity have important implications for multiple scholarly fields.