The David Barclay Book Prize was inaugurated in 2020 to mark the occasion of Dr. David E. Barclay’s retirement from the German Studies Association’s Executive Directorship, a position he held for fifteen years. This annual prize recognizes both Dr. Barclay’s service to the Association and his scholarship as Professor Emeritus of History at Kalamazoo College. The award will be given to the best monograph (in English or German and published in 2019 or 2020) on the social, cultural, economic, political, or labor history of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century Germany or central Europe. Translations, edited collections, anthologies, memoirs, and books that have been previously published are ineligible for consideration for the Barclay Book Prize. Applicants may be non-US citizens as well as non-US residents. Applicants may apply for both the Barclay Book Prize and another GSA book prize in any given year, although no submission may ultimately receive more than one award.
- 2021 Inaugural Winner of the David Barclay Book Prize: Heidi J.S. Tworek, News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900-1945 (Harvard University Press, 2019)
Impeccably written, Heidi Tworek’s book, The News From Germany, describes the many ups, downs and historical twists shaping one nation’s efforts to engage with other major powers, actively competing to control and shape news gathering, as well as its global dissemination between 1900 and 1945. Beginning with the rise of Reuters in Britain, the French Havas news agency and, later, the US-based Associated Press, she reveals the profound impact of technological innovation on the power of dominant states not only to control their own images abroad but also to adapt constantly to changing rules of the game, resulting in new forms of “information warfare.”
As a latecomer, Germany is torn between the pulls of private enterprise, ideological competition (e.g., between Bernhard Wolff and Alfred Hugenberg) and a need for massive subsidies, opening the door to state influence. Actors seeking to control Germany’s communication with and about the world range from Kaiser Wilhelm to Telefunken, the Post Office, the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Army and the Navy; its investments in wireless transmission stations run literally from Mexico City and Nauen, to Shanghai and Java. Drawing on an extraordinary array of technical, national, and international archival sources, Tworek’s account pulls together media studies, geography, the science of communications and political history, testifying to the global nature of news production dating back a century. She provides “behind the scenes” accounts, highlighting flashpoints conditioned by World War I, a troubled Weimar Republic and the descent into dictatorship under propaganda-savvy Nazi officials.
News from Germany is sure to generate further excavations of national and international media landscapes, and the serious challenges they pose to contemporary democracy. The book holds major implications for scholarship on the digital monopolization of news formation and dissemination by both private and state agents. Historians have long relied on newspapers as core research sources with little thought to the underlying power of political institutions and profit-seeking networks in generating the information found there. As Tworek eloquently demonstrates, “News was never neutral. And its production never uncontested” (p. 7).
- 2021 Honorable Mention, David Barclay Book Prize: Andrew Demshuk: Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany (Cornell University Press, 2020)
Andrew Demshuk’s work, Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany, begins with the author’s chance encounter with “a forlorn neon sign and bowling ball-shaped fountain” (p. ix) on the outskirts of Leipzig, all that remained of an extraordinary community effort to resuscitate local pride between 1987 and 1989. The story that follows refutes a two-fold stereotype of the GDR as a land in which local SED officials mindlessly complied with orders from party bosses in Berlin, while alienated citizens watched passively as their hometowns “became dystopian oceans of decay punctuated by modernist boxes” (p. 3).
This particular case of “urban ingenuity” centers on a two-year effort, grounded in cooperation among party officials desperate to regain citizen affections, a new generation of educated “planning elites” concerned with historical preservation, and local residents willing to provide 40,050 hours of “volunteer labor” to rescue the city they loved. Using western designs and technologies, materials pilfered from other state construction projects, and funds surreptitiously generated by creative, off-book “city budgeting” measures, the Bowling Palace offered diverse entertainment venues and quality cafes -- with friendly waiters!! -- rendering it at least indirectly responsible for the spirit of possibility and renewal that drove thousands of Leipzigers onto the streets in late 1989.
Looking beyond Berlin, Demshuk focuses our attention on the profound connection between architectural preservation, local identity, urban planning and political consciousness, the combined effects of which generated seismic forces for national change and ultimately transformed the world order in 1989. Like so many other East German projects from below, this one fell victim to “the tyranny of capitalist investors” after the fall of the Wall, whose pursuit of self-interested profits led to bankruptcy; the actions of westerner “privatizers” eviscerated this monumental urban renewal campaign, turning the Bowling Palace into just another architectural ruin. There are many more local GDR histories of this kind that can and should be told.
Information regarding the 2022 Barclay Book Prize will be posted here.
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