Alison Frank Johnson

Alison Frank Johnson

Professor of History

On leave 2022-2023

Alison Frank Johnson's teaching and research focus on the history of central and eastern Europe and the region's interactions with the rest of the world in the modern period.  She teaches courses on late imperial Vienna; commodities in international history; on German history in the broadest sense of the phrase; on the Habsburg Empire and its successor states in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Her first book, Oil Empire: Visions of Prosperity in Austrian Galicia (2005), was awarded the Barbara Jelavich 2006 Book Prize, the Austrian Cultural Forum 2006 Book Prize, and the Polish Studies Association 2006 Orbis Book Prize.  She is currently working on two concurrent projects.  The first investigates Austria-Hungary's engagement with maritime commerce in the long nineteenth century.  The second traces nearly two centuries of ambivalence about capital punishment in the Habsburg Monarchy and the Republic of Austria: Habsburgs were among the first European rulers to abolish the death penalty in the 18th-century.  After periods of reintroduction, haphazard application, partial abolition, and systematic implementation, capital punishment was only completely eliminated in Austria in 1968.  Additional interests include the transformation of the Alpine environment and the Mediterranean slave trade. Frank Johnson offers general exam fields in German-speaking Europe, Eastern and/or Central Europe, and European Environmental History.

Selected Publications

  • “The Children of the Desert and the Laws of the Sea: Austria, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and the Mediterranean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century,” American Historical Review 117, no. 2 (April 2012), 410-444
  • “The Air Cure Town: Commodifying Mountain Air in Alpine Central Europe,” Central European History 44, no. 2 (June 2012), 185-207
  • "Continental and Maritime Empires in an Age of Global Commerce," East  European Politics and Societies 25, no. 4 (November 2011)  
  • “Environmental, Economic, and Moral Dimensions of Sustainability in the Petroleum Industry in Austrian Galicia,” Modern Intellectual History 8, no. 1 (April 2011)
  • "The Petroleum War of 1910: Standard Oil, Austria, and the Limits of the Multinational Corporation," American Historical Review 114, no. 1 (February 2009)
  • “The Pleasant and the Useful: Pilgrimage and Tourism in Habsburg Mariazell,” Austrian History Yearbook 40 (2009)
  • Oil Empire: Visions of Prosperity in Austrian Galicia Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (2005)


Contact Information

Center for European Studies
Room 404
27 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: 617-495-4329

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