27th Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI

Nov 09, 2018

Award of the Fritz Stern Prize at the GHI | Prize Winner: Adam Bisno

Prize Winner: Adam Bisno, Hotel Berlin: The Politics of Commercial Hospitality in the German Metropolis, 1875-1945 (Ph.D. dissertation, John Hopkins University, 2018)

Prize Citation

Selection committee: Annemarie Sammartino (Chair, Oberlin College), Brendan Karch (Louisiana State University), and Beth Plummer (University of Arizona)

Adam Bisno’s dissertation “Hotel Berlin: The Politics of Commercial Hospitality in the German Metropolis, 1875–1945” is a deeply researched and elegantly written exploration of the institution of the grand hotel in Berlin during seventy tumultuous years of German history. This is a compelling study, noteworthy both for its broad temporal scope and its tight focus on a largely forgotten story. Bisno examines all aspects of the grand hotels, from their architecture to their army of employees. In writing this dissertation, Bisno crosses the lines between urban history, social history, and political history in a unique and exemplary way. In particular, studying the grand hotel provides Bisno insight into the political evolution of the German elite, who made up both the group of hoteliers that he profiles and the majority of their clientele. He argues convincingly for the grand hotels as a main site where the aspirations, tensions, and failures of classical liberalism crystallized.

At once national and cosmopolitan institutions, grand hotels offer Bisno a unique perspective on the story of German nationalism. Bisno compellingly demonstrates how both cosmopolitan and national attitudes interacted in the advertisements and architecture of the hotels. This dissertation also offers a masterful exploration of how German class relations played out in a site where employees, managers, and guests lived side-by-side. Finally, Bisno charts how the liberalism of a group of self-made men in the Imperial period gave way to a more aggressive nationalism in the Weimar era. Bisno integrates all of these diverse themes to offer fresh perspectives to reinvigorate several longstanding debates in German history. Finally, beyond his historiographical contributions, the selection committee was impressed with Bisno’s creative and careful use of a wide body of sources, which he uses to masterful effect, drawing the reader into his rich tale. The committee looks forward to reading the excellent book that this dissertation will no doubt become. It is with great pleasure that we award “Hotel Berlin,” the 2018 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize.