David Barclay Book Prize
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 Barclay Book Prize is awarded to the best monograph (in English or German and published in the previous year) on the social, cultural, economic, political, or labor history of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century Germany or central Europe.
2022 Recipient of the Barclay Book Prize
Steven Press’ book Blood and Diamonds. Germany’s Imperial Ambitions in Africa tells the important and hitherto neglected story of the colonial German diamond trade from the early 20th century into the post-World War I period. Focusing on diamonds from Southwest Africa, Press adds a crucial economic dimension to our understanding of German colonialism. Trade in diamonds, he argues convincingly, constituted a significant aspect of the German colonial economy and added an economic motivation to the German colonial enterprise. In particular, the author relates German “blood diamonds” to the more well-known history of the German colonial genocide in Southwest Africa. Deftly written and based on multi-archival evidence from several countries, including Namibia and South Africa, the book directs our attention to a central aspect of Germany’s imperial past.
The committee was deeply impressed by the author’s ability to analyze “blood diamonds” from a variety of perspectives, including German domestic politics, international finance, global trade, emerging consumer culture, labor regimes and colonial rivalries. Blood and Diamonds sheds light on the interaction of private economic interests and the imperial German state in exploiting the colony’s mineral riches. The author also presents distressing evidence of the racist and violent exploitation of migrant labor from Ovamboland that stood in the continuity of the German genocide of the Herero and Nama. We also learn of an underworld of diamond smuggling and myriad forms of illicit trade in diamonds. Finally, the book provides vivid portrayals of key individuals, most notably, Bernhard Dernburg, the head of the German colonial office from 1906 to 1910 and main organizer of the German diamond trade.
Previous recipients of the Barclay Book Prize
2021 Prize Committee: Joyce Marie Mushaben (Georgetown University— Committee Chair), Barbara McCloskey (University of Pittsburgh), and Thomas Weber (University of Aberdeen).
Impeccably written, Heidi Tworek’s book, News from Germany, describes the many ups, downs, and historical twists shaping one nation’s efforts to engage with other major powers by 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 the 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 literally run 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 contempo- rary 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 given 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” (7).
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” (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” (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 connec- tion 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 Western “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.
Barclay Book Prize: Call for Nominations
2023 Prize Competition Announced
We are pleased to announce the opening of the 2023 application cycle for the David Barclay Book Prize. 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 (published in English or German in 2022*) 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.
*2022 must be the year printed on the copyright page; titles published in late 2022 but with a copyright year listed as 2023 are eligible for the 2024 award cycle.
The submission deadline is April 15, 2023. The prize is awarded under German Studies Association rules by a GSA committee, and is presented during the banquet of the GSA Annual Conference, which in 2023 will take place in Montréal, Québec, Canada from Oct. 5 – Oct. 8, 2023.
Please send a hard copy of the book to be considered to each of the three committee members at the addresses provided below; direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kenneth Ledford (Committee Chair)
- Department of History
- Case Western Reserve University
- 104 Mather House
- 11201 Euclid Avenue
- Cleveland, OH 44106-7107
- Belinda Davis
- Department of History
- Rutgers University
- Van Dyck Hall, 16 Seminary Pl.
- New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1108
- Corinna Treitel
- Department of History
- MSC 1062-107-114
- Washington University in St. Louis
- St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
The Barclay Book Prize was generously seeded by former GSA presidents and colleagues of David Barclay's. Donate to help us reach our goal of endowing the prize in perpetuity. To make your donation to the Barclay Book Prize, click here and select "Barclay Book Prize".