The Czech Reader

History, Culture, Politics

The Czech Reader

The World Readers

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Book Pages: 568 Illustrations: 64 b&w photos, 8 page color insert, 6 maps Published: December 2010

European Studies > Eastern Europe and Russia, General Interest > Travel, History > European History

The Czech Reader brings together more than 150 primary texts and illustrations to convey the dramatic history of the Czechs, from the emergence of the Czech state in the tenth century, through the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and the Czech Republic in 1993, into the twenty-first century. The Czechs have preserved their language, traditions, and customs, despite their incorporation into the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Third Reich, and the Eastern Bloc. Organized chronologically, the selections in The Czech Reader include the letter to the Czech people written by the religious reformer and national hero Jan Hus in 1415, and Charter 77, the fundamental document of an influential anticommunist initiative launched in 1977 in reaction to the arrest of the Plastic People of the Universe, an underground rock band. There is a speech given in 1941 by Reinhard Heydrich, a senior Nazi official and Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as one written by Václav Havel in 1984 for an occasion abroad, but read by the Czech-born British dramatist Tom Stoppard, since Havel, the dissident playwright and future national leader, was not allowed to leave Czechoslovakia. Among the songs, poems, folklore, fiction, plays, paintings, and photographs of monuments and architectural landmarks are “Let Us Rejoice,” the most famous chorus from Bedřich Smetana’s comic opera The Bartered Bride; a letter the composer Antonín Dvořák sent from New York, where he directed the National Conservatory of Music in the 1890s; a story by Franz Kafka; and an excerpt from Milan Kundera’s The Joke. Intended for travelers, students, and scholars alike, The Czech Reader is a rich introduction to the turbulent history and resilient culture of the Czech people.


“I consider The Czech Reader an important contribution for individuals who are seeking an introduction to the history and literary history of the Czech lands. For people on their travels to the Czech Republic, who are interested in knowing more about this small and interesting nation, this book will serve well. Also, undergraduate students interested in the history of Central Europe will find many important Czech texts translated into English here and this could further stimulate their interest in the Czech history. People who are familiar with the history of the Czech lands and academic researchers could also use this book. University lecturers can use the texts in seminars and lectures to provide background to the dry historical presentation of past events.” — Jan Láníĉek, History

“The Czech Reader, a unique and vast compilation of Bohemian and Czech
primary sources for a general English speaking audience, will be welcomed by anybody interested in a Czech general history of Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, or the Czech Republic. In addition, the material may enrich any college survey course with a focus on the region of Central Europe. The book may also serve travelers who are looking for a deeper historical, political, and cultural understanding of the Czechs and their tumultuous history.” — Zbysek Brezina, History: Reviews of New Books

The Czech Reader is a real gem, an immensely informative, balanced, and up-to-date compendium on Czech history and culture.” — John Neubauer, University of Amsterdam

“There is nothing comparable to The Czech Reader. It makes a unique and highly valuable contribution to understanding the Czech interpretation of their own history, of who they are and what historical events constituted them as a nation and a people.” — Silvia Tomášková, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jan Bažant is a senior researcher at the Institute of Philosophy in Prague. He was previously director of the Institute for Classical Studies.

Nina Bažantová is an art historian and former curator of historical textiles at the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague.

Frances Starn is a writer living in Berkeley, California.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xv

Guide to Pronunciation xvii

Introduction 1

I. Between Myth and History (The Premyslid Dynasty) 7

II. Navel of the Earth (Charles IV, 1316–1378) 31

III. Against Everyone (Hussite Revolution) 47

IV. Struggles for City, Court, Country (Vladislav II–Rudolph II) 67

V. Defeated Protestants, Victorious Catholics (Ferdinand II–Charles VI) 83

VI. From the Enlightenment to Romantic Nationalism (Maria Teresa–Revolution of 1848) 111

VII. Defeated Politicians, Victorious Intellectuals (1848–1867) 145

VIII. From National Self-Determination to Cosmopolitanism (1867–1918) 187

IX. The First Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938) 239

X. Between Hitler and Stalin (1938–1948) 295

XI. "Ideal" Socialism (1948–1968) 335

XII. "Real" Socialism (1968–1989) 385

XIII. The Decades after the Velvet Revolution (1989–) 463

Epilogue 503

Suggestions for Further Reading 507

Acknowledgment of Copyright and Sources 521

Index 529
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4794-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4779-8
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