2018 Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize
The 2018 Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize was awarded to Elidor Mëhilli for From Stalin to Mao: Albania and the Socialist World (Cornell University Press)
This highly engaging study draws on archival evidence from half a dozen countries to reveal the twists, turns, complexities and brutalities of Albania’s experience through World War II and after. Recounting its annexation by Italy, its occupation by Italy and Germany, and its successive alignments with Yugoslavia, the USSR and finally the People’s Republic of China, From Stalin to Mao explains Albania’s shifting alliances in the international system not as a result of nationalist striving, but rather as primarily a strategy of defending the country’s independence against overpowering patrons. The book is at once a deep exploration into the intriguing and harrowing case of Albania while at the same time providing broader arguments about the nature of Soviet socialism and its idiosyncratic adaptation in different national contexts. Even more broadly, From Stalin to Mao is about how small states continually navigate, succumb to and importantly also at times subvert the great powers in their midst, revealing the particular dilemmas and opportunities that small states face, given that they are nearly always subject to greater powers. Vividly written, From Stalin to Mao combines the macro-historical with documentation of highly personal and individual accounts that shed new light on the veritable upheaval unleashed by the Cold War, with particularly harsh consequences for, as the book points out, “a largely illiterate society.” This is a definitive study on a critical case.
Honorable Mention: Borislav Chernev
Title: Twilight of Empire: The Brest-Litovsk Conference and the Remaking of East-Central Europe, 1917-1918 (University of Toronto Press)
Although the treaties signed as a result of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Conference were materially short-lived, the conference itself marked the origins of ideological and political developments that endure to this day. Persuasively argued and carefully documented, with newly available archival material from Austria and Bulgaria, Twilight of Empire makes the case that as proletarian revolution encountered imperial collapse at BrestLitovsk, Europe’s “short twentieth century” began, with fascism, communism and democracy violently contending for dominance. In addition, the study provocatively argues that neither the Central Powers nor the Bolshevik Russians were as united in the negotiations as previously assumed; that media scrutiny and global reporting had no precedent before Brest-Litovsk; that national self-determination was already well-ensconced in EastCentral European discourse long before the Paris Peace Conference; and that continuing contestation of Ukrainian independence and statehood resonates with this much earlier period. Twilight of Empire illuminates contemporary politics through careful consideration of the past.