by the Past & Present editorial team
Past & Present was pleased to hear just before Christmas that Dr. Jakub Beneš (University of Birmingham) had won the Czechoslovak Studies Association’s biannual Stanley Z. Pech Prize. The award was made for his article “The Green Cadres and the Collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918” which appeared in Past & Present No. 236 in August 2017.
The Association’s Prize Committee has now released its citation outlining the rationale for awarding the prize to Dr. Beneš and we are pleased to reproduce it below:
Few historians, not to mention the general public, are familiar with the “Green Cadres,” irregular forces of former soldiers and local farmers that banded together at the end of the Habsburg Monarchy. At first glance, this disparate group of ordinary folk might seem peripheral to the central narrative of imperial collapse and the establishment of new national states. In his masterful article, Jakub Beneš demonstrates to the contrary that these seemingly marginal individuals built on revolutionary traditions, threatened longstanding orders, channeled old prejudices, and helped to create new societies. As Beneš traces the changing role of the Green Cadres from bandits to avengers, to national heroes, to social revolutionaries, he shows how an age-old phenomenon, the peasant rebellion, became a critical part of the social and political disintegration of Austria-Hungary and the construction of a new order. In its impressive scope and breadth, the article well represents the aims of the Czechoslovak Studies Association: the article ranges far and wide to introduce us to Green Cadres who operated not only in Bohemia and Moravia, but also in Slovakia, and beyond, in the northeastern and southwestern corners of the empire. Far from a mechanical comparison, the approach is holistically integrative, in that Beneš illustrates how the groups, their aims, and actions developed simultaneously across a Habsburg periphery that existed as much in the margins of its central lands (for example, the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands) as at the edges of the empire (in Galicia). The article at once deepens our knowledge of the Bohemian lands and transforms our understanding of how that supposedly economically advanced territory marched forward (and backwards) together with far- flung agrarian regions. In terms of documentation, the author ingeniously uses an extraordinary range of sources, including obscure autobiographies, local police reports, provincial archives, and theoretical studies of revolutionary peasantry in other parts of the world. In the view of this committee, “The Green Cadres and the Break-up of Austria Hungary in 1918,” is an impressive achievement that forces us to look anew at the most salient Central European events: the revolutions of 1848, World War I, the collapse of the Monarchy, and the foundation of the successor states.
Our congratulations once more to Jakub. In honour of this achievement and to ensure the widest possible audience for this prize winning work of scholarship, our publisher Oxford University Press has made “The Green Cadres and the Break-up of Austria Hungary in 1918” free to read online for a limited period.