Oddelek za zgodovino

Department of History

Nourishing Victory: Food Supply and Post-Imperial Transition in Slovenia and the Czech Lands, 1918-1923

Nourishing Victory: Food Supply and Post-Imperial Transition in Slovenia and the Czech Lands, 1918-1923

Project presentation

UL member executing the project 

Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana

Project code


Project title

Nourishing Victory: Food Supply and Post-Imperial Transition in Slovenia and the Czech Lands, 1918-1923

Duration of the project

March 1, 2021 - February 29, 2024

Yearly scope

1.44 FTE

Head of project

dr. Rok Stergar

Fields of science

Humanistics/ Historiography

Cooperating research organizations  


This project examines the post-imperial transition in the Czech Lands and Slovenia between 1918 and 1923 from the perspective of food supply. Provisioning is one of the key features of everyday life at the grass-roots level as well an important device for sustaining state authority. While the failure of rationing during the First World War accelerated the downfall of Austria-Hungary, successor states had to come to terms with the inherited social disorder and prove their claim to power through a successful management of the ongoing food shortage and deprivation of consumers. Focus on the interplay between state policies and their repercussions on the local level enables a scrutiny into building of individual as well as group agencies, shifting of loyalties, and state-building.

Choosing structurally similar empirical cases from Czech and Slovene regions allows for a cross-regional comparison of local variants of building of the post-war order based on the ethos of war victory.

Throughout the nineteenth and in the early twentieth century, Czech-Slovene cooperation was very intense; Czechs were often seen as role models by members of the Slovene political elite. This was certainly true for most Slovene politicians who grabbed power in the autumn of 1918 and created Slovenia as an administrative unit, comprising several former Habsburg territories. Because of that, this research project will attempt to locate the transfer/replication of provisioning policies from one successor state to another.

Both states were also, by definition, composite states, merging several territories with peculiar previous developments and independent administrative structures. This means both administrations had to re-establish chains of command and readjust existing administrative bodies. The analysis of the organization of food supply will thus provide a window into the post-imperial administrative legacies. Preliminary research indicates that the officials in both regions often employed existing Austrian war-time policies and procedures regarding production, circulation, and consumption (e.g., “Zentralstellen” for various goods, judicial persecution of profiteering and food concealment, rationing, etc.). However, there were also significant ruptures, as new policies and practices were sometimes needed.

A comparison of food supply in two successor states, based on dense research of selected localities, will provide an insight precisely in this interplay between the old and the new in the immediate post-war years. This created something that was neither wholly new (as nationalists and more traditional historiography claimed) nor a mere continuation of the old (as some recent works implicitly suggest). The comparison of localities in two successor states will show divergent post-war paths that evolved despite a common pre-1918 history. It will shed light on differences and similarities in the top-down policies implemented by the state actors in the two states, but also on the role of agency from below (the pressure of the undernourished masses).

The aim of the project is to bring a new perspective on the emergence of the early post-war order in two victorious states, focusing on food supply in a cross-regional comparison between Czech and Slovene localities. The project aims to provide important new insights that will have a wider macro-regional relevance and will potentially serve as a basis for further research of other post-Habsburg regions.

Principal investigator

Rok Stergar is associate professor at the University of Ljubljana, where he teaches Balkan history in the 19th and 20th centuries and the history of World War 1. The focus of his research is nationalism in the late Habsburg monarchy, the First World War, and the post-imperial transition in the territories of the former Habsburg monarchy; he published several articles in journals and chapters in edited volumes on these topics.

Team members

Maja Godina Golija is a Research Councilor at the Research Centre of the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts and a Full Professor at the University of Maribor. She is the author of six books and numerous articles and chapters on food supply, urban culture, and the history of everyday life in 1920s and 1930s. From 2003 to 2010 she was a member of the Presidency of the International Commission for Research into European Food History (ICREFH), since 2016 she has been the Vice President of the Food Research Working Group in the Société internationale d’ethnologie et de folklore (SIEF). She is also a member of the Commission of the Geschichte und Kultur der Deutschen in Südosteuropa.

Jernej Kosi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ljubljana and a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC research project NEPOSTRANS at the Institute of Political History in Budapest. He has done research on various dimensions of Slovenian and Habsburg history and published books and articles on nationalism, World War I, and post-imperial transition.

Former team members

Ana Kladnik is a researcher at the Institute for Contemporary History in Ljubljana. She was a Visiting Professor at the University of Pittsburgh (2011), at the University of Liverpool (2016/17) and taught at the Charles University in Prague for many years. Currently she is an editorial board member of Securitas Imperii. She works on modern European history, political and social transformation process of the 19th– 21st centuries, socialism, democratization, nationalism, urban history, and the history of civil society. She left the team at the beginning of 2023 when she was awarded Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Daša Ličen is an assistant with a PhD at ZRC SAZU and an assistant professor at the University of Maribor. Her research lies at the intersection of history and anthropology. Her current research focus is on the attitudes Trieste’s late 19th century bourgeoisie held towards animals, in particular how their attitudes (co-)created a dissociation with the working class and the peasantry. She left the team when she was awarded an ARRS postdoctoral grant in 2022.

The research is carried out in cooperation with Czech colleagues from the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the CAS. The Prague group is made up of Václav Šmidrkal (PI), Dagmar Hájková and Pavel Horák.

In the first phase (months 1-2), which will begin with an introductory meeting, the team members will identify their case studies, review the relevant secondary literature, and enter it into the bibliographic database.

In the second phase (months 3-24), the collection of primary sources in archives and libraries will take place. Team members will be the preparing the articles that will be published in English in a special issue of an established international journal. In the middle of the second phase, we will organize the first internal workshop with our Czech colleagues and at the end an international conference.

In the third phase (months 25-36) the collection and analysis of the material, and the writing of texts, which will be published in the edited volume will take place. We will organize a second internal workshop with Czech colleagues.