Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2007 Citation Recipient

Pieter M. Judson

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: Pieter M. Judson
Title: Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria (Harvard University Press)

Pieter Judson’s study examines the transformation between the 1880s and 1914 of broad swaths of rural Austria into “language frontiers,” inhabited by members of opposed nations. This transformation, Guardians of the Nation argues, was not organic or inevitable. Particular people and organizations brought it about, through hard ideological work. Nor was it trivial. Local cultures, rooted in bilingualism and non-national loyalties, were blocked from view, and undermined. Even as national indifference persisted, rural societies were reshaped in the image of national conflict. Judson’s book places a periphery at the center, showing that nationalists implied the existence of unproblematically national lands by creating national conflict at newly imagined borderlands.

Written with clarity and style, Guardians of the Nation focuses on the construction of language frontiers which were German-Czech, German-Slovene, and German-Italian. Individual chapters explain various strategies developed by national activists for recruiting rural inhabitants: mythologizing embattled minority schoolhouses, asserting links between national movements and the modernization of the countryside, colonizing language frontiers with settlers, promoting national tourism, and elaborating a national discourse of rural violence. Judson reinforces the recent turn away from national histories and toward histories of nationalism. He challenges the traditional treatment of the Austrian case as anachronistic or pathological, arguing that historians should instead use it to achieve more nuanced understandings of the relationship between nationalism and modernity. Guardians of the Nation promises to become a classic in its field.