This illuminating study examines the dramatic transformation of Bohemian noble identity from the rise of mass politics in the late nineteenth century to the descent of the Iron Curtain after World War II.
At the turn of the twentieth century, some 300 noble families owned over a third of the Habsburg Bohemian Crownlands. With the Empire's demise in 1918, the once powerful Bohemian nobility quickly became a target of the nationalist revolution sweeping the new Czechoslovak state. Eagle Glassheim traces the evolving efforts of the nobles to define their place in this revolutionary new order.
Nobles saw little choice but to ally with Czech and German national parties, initially in the hopes of assuaging radical land reform. Yet they retained aristocratic political and social traditions that continued to shape their national identities after 1918. Some moved toward a hybrid national identification, embracing a form of German internationalism and a vision of pan-European unity that led many to support Hitler's expansionist efforts in the late 1930s. Others trumpeted their new-found Czech nationalism in resisting the Nazi occupation.
Noble Nationalists offers valuable insights on the nationalization of a conservative political elite, as well as on the national and social revolutions that recast Central Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.
A superb book. Fluidly written and clearly argued, this volume makes an invaluable contribution to a growing literature on nationalism, politics in interwar Czechoslovakia and the transformations that rocked the Bohemian lands in last century’s two great wars. It casts new light on age-old issues concerning national identity that, no doubt, will continue to attract the attention of historians of Europe for many years to come. It is a book, in other words, that deserves a wide audience and the highest praise.
Noble Nationalists adds a great deal to our understanding of the balance between competing popular and dynastic political forces in the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy. It has much to contribute to ongoing debates about the nature and mechanics of nationalism and nation building in Habsburg Central Europe. Glassheim suggests the many ways in which elite actors attempted to recapture the imagined security of the pre-1918 world while taking into account the demands of a populist (if not democratic), nationalized age of mass politics.
With its focus on a neglected social group, the Bohemian nobility, Noble Nationalists makes an important contribution to the fields of Habsburg, German, and Eastern European history as well as to interdisciplinary nationalism studies. Eagle Glassheim intertwines political and social history in an engaging manner as he demonstrates the persistence of multiple—sometimes conflicting, sometimes overlapping—identities.
- 316 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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