W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize

2014 Citation Recipient

Russell Martin

The W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize, 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. The prize was established in 2004 in memory of W. Bruce Lincoln, a Russian historian and a widely-read author.

Winner: Russell Martin
Title: A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia (Northern Illinois University Press)

In this innovative study, Russell Martin uses the early modern bride-show – an intricate ritual through which royal brides were chosen – to shed new and interesting light on high politics in Muscovy. Drawing on an impressively broad range of primary sources related to royal marriage, Martin convincingly argues that this seemingly exotic ritual was embedded in a complicated set of political negotiations among the Russian ruling elite. The bride-show enabled the tsar to choose a native-born bride from outside the ruling boyar clans, while still enabling boyar elites to exercise influence over that choice. Through this one event, the marriage of the tsar, we can observe the delicate balance of political power at the centre and the practical limits to monarchical authority. In addition to politics, this book makes an important contribution to social and cultural history. Martin offers a fascinating account of the early modern bride show, persuasively demonstrating that it was not a peculiarly Russian cultural artifact, but a ritual similar to those observed across Eurasia in various periods. Martin’s study is meticulously researched, rich in detail, and engagingly written.