German Historical Institute and Franz Steiner Publishing House Honor Outstanding Research on Transatlantic Relations in Times of Isolationism
The German Historical Institute (GHI) Washington and the Franz Steiner Verlag in Stuttgart awarded the Franz Steiner Prize 2019 to Dr. Elisabeth Piller. She was awarded the Steiner Prize for her dissertation manuscript “Re-Winning American Hearts and Minds – German Public Diplomacy and the United States, 1902-1937.”
Elisabeth Piller’s study sheds new light on transatlantic relations during the Weimar Republic. While historical writing has analyzed the period through its economic challenges and developments after World War I and Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, Dr. Piller provides a new lens by focusing on Germany’s public diplomacy vis-à-vis the United States. She shows how the Weimar government sought to restore its standing with its former enemy by launching a public relations campaign to pave the ground for revising the Versailles Peace Treaty. Based on a wide array of sources in American and German archives, she shows how the German Foreign Ministry expanded its diplomatic toolbox. The Auswärtige Amt ‘geopoliticized’ civil society groups such as students and tourists, and it created an infrastructure for academic diplomacy, such as the German Academic Exchange Service, an important supporter of academic exchanges even today. In this way, German public diplomacy was able to connect with a country that had withdrawn from world politics in this period of isolationism. The Weimar government’s expansion of the state’s diplomatic arsenal was there to stay. Dr. Piller shows how the Weimar-era toolset was picked up by the Nazi regime to be used for its cultural and political agenda.
The prize committee agreed that Dr. Piller’s manuscript makes an outstanding contribution to scholarship of the Weimar period, of transatlantic diplomacy, to international relations, and to German and American history. The committee wrote that it could not help but read Piller’s observations in light of current challenges and dilemmas in the U.S.-German relationship.
The biennial Franz Steiner Prize honors works that provide a new perspective on transatlantic history. Works submitted for the prize are vetted by a review committee at the GHI Washington and then by an outside review committee of German and American historians. The prizewinner is awarded a cash award of 3.500 Euros and publication of their manuscript in the Transatlantic Historical Studies (or THS) – a book series for which the GHI has cooperated with Steiner since 1991. The prize is named after the founder of the Steiner publishing house, and it has been awarded by the GHI Washington together with the Steiner Publishing House since 2006.
The German Historical Institute is a center for the advanced study of history in Washington. It supports international scholarly exchange and has recently expanded its networks by opening a Pacific Regional Office in Berkeley. The GHI is facilitating academic exchange through conferences, fellowships, and through its publications.
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Left to right" Axel Jansen (GHI Washington), Elisabeth Piller, and Katharina Stüdemann (Steiner Verlag)