The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame has awarded the 2021 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies to Peter Gatrell, professor of economic history at the University of Manchester, for his book “The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent,” published by Basic Books. Gatrell will deliver a lecture at the award ceremony on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. in Jenkins Nanovic Halls. The lecture is free and open to the public.
The $10,000 Laura Shannon Prize, one of the preeminent prizes for European studies, is awarded each year to the best book that transcends a focus on any one country, state, or people to stimulate new ways of thinking about contemporary Europe as a whole. This year’s cycle of the award considered books in history and social sciences published in 2018 or 2019.
Placing migration at the center of postwar European history, and the aspirations of migrants themselves at the heart of this story, “The Unsettling of Europe” received high praise from the final jury for advancing a more human understanding of Europe, the people who call it home, and those who seek new lives within its borders:
“A sweeping, empathic, and deeply human story of post-1945 European migration, Peter Gatrell’s ‘The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent’ is a work of astounding scope and exquisite detail, covering the whole continent, including Russia and the former Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe, stretching as far as the Caucasus and Kazakhstan. With his compelling focus on individuals and cultures, Gatrell treats migration as a phenomenon inherent to the human experience and thus shared by Europeans East and West, North and South. He constructs his narrative based on prodigious research, interweaving individual testimonials, literature and film with government documents to delineate dramatic personal experiences of migrants – from decisions to leave their homes and endure endless hardships in transit to their reception by the communities they wish to join and integrate into as well as by local and national governments.
“True to his panoramic approach, Gatrell explores both transnational and internal migration and demonstrates that both have been as important in shaping society and economy in Eastern Europe as in Central and Western Europe. Far from being a drain on the economy or a cultural detriment to the host societies, as many of the old fallacies suggest and which Gatrell debunks, migrants have made enormous contributions to Europe’s dramatic enrichment and cultural vitality since 1945. In telling Europe’s postwar story through the lens of migration, Gatrell also reminds us of how intrinsic migration and migrants had been to the European experience in the decades, indeed centuries, prior to 1945.
“Superbly conceived and executed, comprehensive, and accessible, ‘The Unsettling of Europe’ is a major contribution, a real tour de force that will be read with profit by scholars, policymakers, and anyone who wants to know more about Europe and its people.”