Dr Jakub Benes
Lecturer in Central European History
- Joined UCL
- 1st Sep 2019
I am a historian of central and eastern Europe, particularly of the territories that made up the Habsburg Monarchy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. So far I have been especially interested in movements of workers and peasants—social groups that were critical in shaping the modern history of the region, but which have been neglected by historians in recent decades because of their disproportionately large (and distorted) role in communist-era history writing.
My first book, Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890-1918 (Oxford University Press, 2017) examined the culture of the workers’ movement in Prague, Vienna, Brno and elsewhere and how it evolved in a more nationalist direction alongside the democratization of elections and war. It was awarded the 2017 Barbara Jelavich Prize by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies and the 2016 George Blazyca Prize (awarded 2018) by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies. The book forms part of my broader interest in the history of socialism, which has led to a number of other projects, including a co-edited interdisciplinary volume called Socialist Imaginations and a chapter for the new Cambridge History of the Habsburg Monarchy.
My current research project aims to rethink the era of world wars in east central Europe from the perspective of the countryside, emphasizing the critical, though neglected role of peasants in fomenting conflicts and fighting them out. I argue that peasant violence and revolution defined the period in important ways. My publications to date on this subject have focused on a loose movement of rural Austro-Hungarian army deserters and radical peasants called ‘Green Cadres’ that existed across the region, but possessed no conventional political representation. I have published articles on the subject in Past & Present (winner of the 2018 Stanley Z. Pech Prize of the Czechoslovak Studies Association), Contemporary European History, and Slavic Review (forthcoming).
Originally from Oakland, California, I earned a BA in International Studies from Middlebury College, Vermont and then a PhD in European History from the University of California, Davis. From 2012 to 2015 I held a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Birmingham. I taught at Oxford University and the University of Birmingham before coming to UCL SSEES in autumn 2019.