Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2019 Citation Recipient


Will Smiley

The 2019 Barbara Jelavich Book Prize was awarded to Will Smiley for From Slaves to Prisoners of War: The Ottoman Empire, Russia and International Law (Oxford University Press)

This splendidly detailed and skillfully argued monograph offers original perspectives on the histories of the Ottoman and Russian empires, the Black Sea region, and the international law. The Ottoman-Russian wars of the eighteenth century reshaped the map of Eurasia and the Middle East, and they also gave birth to a novel concept – the prisoner of war. Will Smiley most notably argues that a specifically Eurasian “international law” developed under Ottoman auspices, which was not influenced by the West but originating from the specific geopolitical context of the region. From a rule-book on military captivity that was based on slavery and ransom in the early eighteenth century, the Ottomans evolved, in a matter of decades, laws on prisoner release that effectively turned captives into prisoners of war. For a time even European empires played by these rules, before the codified global law of war emerged in the late nineteenth century. Based on an impressive array of sources from Russian, Ottoman, British and Austrian archives, and in a multitude of languages, this book sheds new light on the Russo-Ottoman confrontation. More broadly, it breaks new ground for an emerging field of international legal histories of Eurasia.

Honorable Mention: William D. Godsey

Title: The Sinews of Habsburg Power: Lower Austria in a Fiscal-Military State 1650-1820 (Oxford University Press)

Based on very extensive archival research, this highly learned monograph offers a new interpretation of the birth of the modern state in Habsburg-ruled central Europe, seen through the lens of the “fiscal-military state.” William Godsey argues compellingly that the Lower Austrian Estates were a key dynamo behind the Habsburg Monarchy’s power: funding the empire’s standing army; tapping domestic credit (and thereby facilitating a huge state deficit); and acting as a crucial intermediary via which the state extracted income from the population. While illuminating much about how the machinery of the Monarchy functioned and endured, Godsey notably challenges the myth of an absolutist state, revealing the Estates’ continuing and crucial role especially during the reign of Maria Theresa. Since the Lower Austrian Estates were crucial to Habsburg power, Godsey’s contribution offers a new key to understand the longevity of a regime that was built very much on compromise rather than absolutism. By undertaking a longue durée approach, Godsey offers not only a detailed and meticulously researched case-study, but also an authoritative study of the Habsburg history from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.