EUSP Intern Brandon M. Schechter Wins the Paul Birdsall Award for a Book on the History of the Red Army

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 14:00..
Department of History
Brandon M. Schechter

The EUSP intern (Department of History, 2005–2006) Brandon M. Schechter, now a fellow at New York University in Shanghai and the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, received the Paul Birdsall Prize for his book "Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects."

The Stuff of Soldiers uses everyday objects to tell the story of the Great Patriotic War as never before. Brandon Schechter attends to a diverse array of things—from spoons to tanks—to show how a wide array of citizens became soldiers, and how the provisioning of material goods separated soldiers from civilians. Through a fascinating examination of leaflets, proclamations, newspapers, manuals, letters to and from the front, diaries, and interviews, The Stuff of Soldiers reveals how the use of everyday items made it possible to wage war. The dazzling range of documents showcases ethnic diversity, women’s particular problems at the front, and vivid descriptions of violence and looting. Each chapter features a series of related objects: weapons, uniforms, rations, and even the knick-knacks in a soldier’s rucksack. These objects narrate the experience of people at war, illuminating the changes taking place in Soviet society over the course of the most destructive conflict in recorded history. Schechter argues that spoons, shovels, belts, and watches held as much meaning to the waging of war as guns and tanks. In The Stuff of Soldiers, he describes the transformative potential of material things to create a modern culture, citizen, and soldier during World War II.

Congratulations to Brandon! The Birdsall Prize is awarded every two years for the most important work published in English on European military or strategic history since 1870.