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Social Science Paper honoured with Thyssen Prize

09 October 2015

IAMO researcher Michael Kopsidis has been awarded with the 2014 third prize of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation for the best social science paper in German for his article "Peasant Agriculture and Economic Growth: The Case of Southeast Europe c. 1870-1940 reinterpreted" ("Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft und Agrarwachstum: Südosteuropas 1870-1940 im Licht moderner Entwicklungstheorie"). The Thyssen Prize jury, consisting of ten university professors and coordinators, honoured the entry appearing in the "Yearbook of Economic History" with a monetary prize. As part of the selection process, the nominated works had been suggested by publishers and editors from 16 German-language magazines in the social sciences.

In his paper, author Kopsidis examines the developmental problems of the agricultural sector in Southeastern Europe during the period 1870-1940. A low productive peasant economy and traditional peasant society are often made responsible for Southeast Europe's economic backwardness prior to 1945. However, the radical change of paradigm after 1960 in the view of peasants as agents of economic growth and of their ability to adjust to markets has surprisingly never been realized in economic history research on the Balkan-states (Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece). Interpreting agricultural development as a mainly demand-driven process this paper argues that the potential for agricultural growth was much more restricted in Southeast than in Northwest Europe but Balkan peasants seem to have exploited their growth potential as far as possible. There is a lot of evidence that the reasons for sluggish growth before 1940 were definitely not rooted in any 'peasant traditionalism' as often claimed by Balkan elites and many scholars.

The prize of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation for the best German-language social science papers was awarded by a jury in the Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology (ISS) at the University of Cologne for the 34th time. The magazine award was initiated by the German sociologist Erwin K. Scheuch in 1981 and is the only award in the social sciences outside the English-speaking realm.