In a new perspective on the formation of national identity in Central Europe, Nancy Wingfield analyzes what many historians have treated separately—the construction of the Czech and German nations—as a larger single phenomenon.
Czech and German nationalism worked off each other in dynamic ways. As external conditions changed, Czech and German nationalists found new uses for their pasts and new ways to stage them in public spaces for their ongoing national projects. These grassroots confrontations transformed public culture by reinforcing the centrality of nationality to everyday life and by tying nationalism to the exercise of power. The battles in the public sphere produced a cultural geography of national conflict associated with the unveiling of Joseph II statues that began in 1881, the Badeni Language Ordinances of 1897, the 1905 debate over a Czech-language university in Moravia, and the celebration of the emperor’s sixtieth jubilee in 1908. The pattern of impassioned national conflict would be repeated for the duration of the monarchy and persist with even more violence into the First Czechoslovak Republic.
Numerous illustrations show how people absorbed, on many levels, visual clues that shaped how they identified themselves and their groups. This nuanced analysis is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Central European history, nationalism, and the uses of collective memory.