The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame has awarded the 2023 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies to Stella Ghervas, professor of Russian history at Newcastle University, England, for her book “Conquering Peace: From the Enlightenment to the European Union,” published by Harvard University Press.
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 the social sciences published in 2020 or 2021.
In its statement, the final jury praised Ghervas’s work as brilliantly conceived, superbly executed and timely:
“‘Conquering Peace: From the Enlightenment to the European Union’ is a highly original, analytically penetrating, magisterial narrative that integrates political, diplomatic, military, legal, and intellectual history covering the entire European continent over more than three centuries. Stella Ghervas’s subject matter — post-war peacemaking and international efforts to sustain peace — could hardly be timelier or more important. With a mastery of discrete bodies of scholarship that range from the seventeenth-century Peace of Westphalia to today’s European Union and its discontents, she compares the diverse ways in which European diplomats and politicians navigated the peace processes that concluded the War of the Spanish Succession, the Napoleonic Wars, World Wars I and II and the Cold War. Ghervas reconstructs a dialectical tradition and tension between proponents of a realist-minded balance of powers and protagonists who sought to fashion an ethos conducive to ‘perpetual (enduring) peace.’ From before the Treaty of Utrecht to the end of the Soviet Union and beyond, the polished whole of the book much exceeds the sum of its meticulously researched and beautifully written parts.
Beyond its virtuosic achievement as a work of history, ‘Conquering Peace’ is conspicuous for its present-day relevance and practical applicability. The better we understand the past, the better equipped we are to address the present as we look toward the future. Without ever letting distorting presentisms compromise her scholarly integrity or sophistication, Ghervas is alert to current tensions, challenges and antagonisms among European states and beyond them. One can only hope that all professional diplomats, as well as politicians engaged in international affairs, will read and learn from this wise book.
Impressively learned and consistently incisive, as brilliantly conceived as it is superbly executed, ‘Conquering Peace’ is a stunning accomplishment that is destined to become a classic in modern European diplomatic history, political history, international relations and peace studies. It is eminently worthy of the Nanovic Institute’s Laura Shannon Prize for 2023.”
The final jury also awarded two Laura Shannon Prize Silver Medals, which carry a monetary prize. Emily Greble, professor of history and of German, Russian and East European studies at Vanderbilt University, was selected for her work, “Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe,” published by Oxford University Press. Commending Greble’s outstanding study, the final jury wrote:
“Emily Greble’s impressive and deeply researched book delineates the varied ways in which Muslims were ‘othered’ in the series of post-Ottoman regimes in the lands that became Yugoslavia. Greble dexterously handles a staggering range of complexity and diversity — ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious (including within Islam) — and her multilinguistic archival research is remarkable; the storytelling and choice of synecdochal anecdotes effective; and the overarching narrative works well in a political history of social coexistence and conflict. With originality, Greble succeeds in writing more from ‘below’ than from ‘above,’ prioritizing Muslim views, actions, institutions and experiences. Epitomizing the value of thorough and careful academic research, this outstanding study promises to be a reference in the field of southeastern European studies. But its implications resonate far more widely in a world where minority rights continue to pose challenges to states that privilege religiously and ethnically homogenous populations.”
The jury awarded a second silver medal to Mira L. Siegelberg, university associate professor in the history of international political thought at Cambridge University, who was honored for her book, “Statelessness: A Modern History,” published by Harvard University Press. In its statement, the final jury praised Siegelberg’s artful achievement:
“This book’s forté is at once conceptual and substantive: it persuasively identifies the category of statelessness as an international and legal problem inseparable from political and theoretical considerations in twentieth-century Europe, and shows its rootedness in the breakup of the Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Empires after World War I, decades earlier than has been argued by some scholars. Through an impressive integration of intellectual and legal history, ‘Statelessness’ offers a global account of the evolution of the concept of statelessness, treating literary sources with as much gravitas as international legal documents such as the Nansen passport. Created by the League of Nations, the Nansen passport gave stateless people, such as Hannah Arendt, an international legal identity at a time when they desperately needed it. Siegelberg’s book vividly recovers that remarkable fact of modern international thought through its timely political, legal and literary history of statelessness.”
The 2023 prize jury was composed of an accomplished group of scholars from history and the social sciences: Laura Lee Downs, professor of history at the European University Institute; Brad S. Gregory, Henkels Family College Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame; Katy Hayward, professor of political sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast; Eileen M. Hunt, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame; and Helmut Walser Smith, Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.
Now in its 14th year, the Laura Shannon Prize is made possible through a generous endowment from Laura Shannon (1939-2021) and her husband, Michael, class of ’58. Laura Shannon became a member of the Nanovic Institute’s advisory board in 2003 and served for many years. As well as her work in social services and family court mediation, she was a regular visitor to Europe, particularly to France where she honed her language skills and explored libraries and cultural centers. Claire Shannon Kelly is carrying on her parents’ legacy as a member of the institute’s advisory board.
The Laura Shannon Prize is now accepting nominations for its 2024 prize in the humanities. European studies books published in 2021 or 2022 are eligible, with nominations due Feb. 15.
The Nanovic Institute seeks to enrich the intellectual culture of Notre Dame by creating an integrated, interdisciplinary home for students, faculty and visiting scholars to explore the evolving ideas, cultures, traditions, beliefs, moral challenges and institutions that shape Europe. The institute is an integral part of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs.
For additional information about the Nanovic Institute and the Laura Shannon Prize, visit nanovic.nd.edu/prize.