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Steven Verburg wins Hugo Weiland Thesis Prize 2022

Steven Verburg wins the 2022 Hugo Weiland Prize for best thesis in Central European Studies; Caroline Schep and Anneke Romijnders awarded “Honorable Mentions” for their thesis work.

The Austrian Studies Foundation and the Austria Centre Leiden are thrilled to announce that Mr. Steven Verburg won the 2022 Mr. Hugo Weiland Prize for his B.A. History Thesis entitled “Detente and the Kreisky Method.” Mr. Verburg accepted his prize on March 20, 2023 from Mr. Hugo Weiland, President Emeritus of the Austrian Studies Foundation in Leiden and Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey, Special Chair for Central European Studies at Leiden University. Ms. Caroline Schep (“‘National und kosmopolitisch zugleich’: Wiener Werkstatte Fashion, 1911-1932”) and Ms. Anneke Romijnders (“Claiming the Elusive Kafka”) were awarded “Honorable Mentions” for their theses as well.

Mr. Verburg was nominated for the prize by his thesis advisor Prof. dr. Monika Baar. In her nomination letter, Prof. dr. Baar noted that Verburg’s thesis was built on a “bold and original argument about Kreisky's motivation in the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Weaving together “published journal articles, interviews, essays” as well as “hitherto underexploited primary like U.S. Central Intelligence Agency documents and U.S. Foreign Ministry documents,” Verburg also provided an analysis that is “confident,” “elegant” and “never over-promising.” Verburg melds “local and international aspects” impressively and builds a conceptual framework “around the notions of neutrality and non-alignment” which “reveals intellectual maturity.” Mr. Verburg answered a few questions about his thesis and you can find his answers below.

We congratulate Mr. Verburg, Ms. Schep and Ms. Romijnders on their unique contributions to the field of Central European Studies!

Nominations for the next iteration of the Mr. Hugo Weiland Prize will be due on December 1, 2024. Any B.A. or M.A. thesis focused on Central European Studies written between December 1, 2022 and December 1, 2024 at a university in The Netherlands or Flanders is eligible. More information about the prize can be found here.

L-R: Sarah Cramsey, Hugo Weiland, Caroline Schep, Anneke Romijnders and Steven Verburg

In his own words: A short conversation with Steven Verburg

How did you choose this topic for your thesis? 

Mr. Verburg: "I first read about former Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (1970-1983) while doing a course on the history of Austria, taught by dr. Monika Baár. While nowadays barely known outside of Austria, during his time in Austrian politics Kreisky was appreciated by international leaders – on both sides of the Iron Curtain – for his keen insights on geopolitics, and his advice was much sought after. I subsequently wrote an essay on his role in the process of détente, showing how his concern for Austrian stability was what mainly motivated him to get involved on the international stage. Having thus gotten interested in Kreisky, I discovered he had also been deeply involved in attempts to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, but that the literature on Kreisky largely neglected this involvement. It was only natural to take addressing this neglect as the topic for my thesis." 

What did you learn about yourself during the writing of this thesis?

Mr. Verburg: "Since I used various primary sources, I had to spend countless hours going through online archives. While this could have been sheer drudgery, it actually turned out to be thrilling to read about Kreisky’s conversations on geopolitical developments with the likes of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, reading numerous interviews that were conducted with Kreisky, or reading his own writings that explained what he perceived the main geopolitical stumbling blocks to be. It made me realise how much I enjoyed the history of international relations and geopolitics." 

What was your reaction when you learned that you had received the Weiland Prize and what do you plan to do next? 

Mr. Verburg: "When I learnt I had received the Mr. Hugo Weiland Prize, I felt very honoured, and it was great to hear the committee had as much pleasure reading my thesis as I had writing it. In the future, I plan to pursue my interest in the history of international relations and geopolitics, and I will continue to be much interested in Kreisky’s Austria."

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