The Meaning of Czech History

By Tomáš G. Masaryk; René Wellek et al. | Go to book overview
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The Mind of
František Palacký

In the foreword to the last volume of his Dějiny národa českého (A History of the Czech Nation), Palacký—reviewing this major work of his life—concisely outlined the core of our historical experience: alone and "perhaps prematurely," the Czechs—a small nation—took upon themselves a great task, to wrest the human spirit free of medieval authority. They were twice forced to wage great battles for this cause. The first great war was the Hussite struggle, by which Czechs won acceptance for their religious beliefs. The Czechs took up arms a second time during the Thirty‐ Years War, but this time they were defeated and their reformation was violently suppressed. "From this time on," wrote Palacký, "a false idea has been gaining credence, namely, that Czech history of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was largely an unfortunate aberration worthy only of shame. All-embracing, merciless reaction snatched away all the spiritual monuments of that epoch. Writings from the period were labeled dangerous poison, searched out and destroyed over the course of the entire subsequent century. Whatever escaped by chance the onslaught of savage fanaticism ultimately succumbed to the indifference of later generations."

From Tomáš G. Masaryk, Palackého idea národa českého (Prague, 1926). First published in Naše Doba, Vol. V (1898), pp. 769-95.


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The Meaning of Czech History


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