The Laura Shannon Prize

2015 Laura Shannon Prize, Christopher Clark

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
by Christopher Clark

The Sleepwalkers

Published by Harper

The Nanovic Institute for European Studies has awarded the 2015 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies to Christopher Clark for his book, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, published by Harper.  A. James McAdams, director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, praised the book for “the masterful treatment of one of the greatest turning points in modern history” and “its accessibility to all readers.”  The Sleepwalkers has been published in nineteen countries, with more than 110,000 copies printed in English and 220,000 copies in German. 

The $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize is presented annually to the author of the best book in European studies that transcends a focus on any one country, state, or people to stimulate new ways of thinking about contemporary Europe as a whole, and recognizes alternately books in the humanities and in history & social sciences.  This cycle considered books in history and social sciences published in 2012 and 2013.  Clark will accept the award and present a lecture in the fall semester of 2015 at the University of Notre Dame.

Jury Statement

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is an amazing work of history writing. Uncommonly insightful, it combines fresh and thorough research in the primary sources, complete knowledge of the secondary literature, and a sure-footed ability both to analyze complex events and set them out in a compelling narrative. The book adds greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the war’s origins, keeping the focus initially on the Serbian question, which gives the story a sense of locality and contingency. With an impressive range of linguistic skills, Clark brings out the complexity of how momentous foreign policy decisions were reached in Austria, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, Serbia, Hungary, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire. In the end, The Sleepwalkers reveals how the particularities of politics and other structural factors are not isolated and merely contingent but, like what Machiavelli called Fortuna, combine and interact to produce large events in history like the First World War. It is not merely the best account we have of the event it explores, but a model for historical explanation altogether.

View the 2015 Jury

About the Author

Christopher Clark is Regius Professor of History at St. Catharine’s College at the University of Cambridge (U.K.).


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