Czech, German, and Noble: Status and National Identity in Habsburg Bohemia

By Rita Krueger | Go to book overview

Epilogue

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT the revolution of 1848 and its outcome exposed, and subsequently caused, deep fissures in Bohemian society. The reality of revolutionary violence, the temporary, limited victories of the revolution, and its ultimate defeat by the imperial forces showed the degree to which Habsburg society in general, and Bohemian society in particular, were (or were not) successfully negotiating the new political demands of a modernizing nationalizing society. What the revolution also revealed was the degree to which the cultural and scientific work and societal changes of previous decades had become profoundly political, national, and conflictual. Elites in the eighteenth century had celebrated the possibilities for achieving some measure of a better life for Bohemian citizens and worked to articulate ways of delineating and promoting national identity as a way to define the space of their activities. They acknowledged that there were status, economic, political, linguistic, and religious differences in the kingdom, and part of their work entailed chronicling and exploring those differences as critical aspects of Bohemia’s rich historical, intellectual, and cultural heritage. Patriotic elites celebrated that diversity, or at least the differences between Slavic and Germanic heritage, as a way to define the kingdom and set it apart from the Germanic imperial and Habsburg space. They also assumed that education, knowledge, and science, although not entirely “leveling the playing field,” would bring sufficient prosperity that Bohemians could overcome internal divisions and would thereby guarantee a more peaceful and prosperous future. The authority of the Habsburgs, built on the imperial legacy, family heritage, and increasingly on the power of the centralized state, challenged the cherished, emerging sense of the local promoted by the Bohemian intelligentsia. The disjuncture between

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