sehepunkte 16 (2016), Nr. 9

James R. Palmitessa (ed.): Between Lipany and White Mountain

This volume of essays by Czech historians, translated into English, serves a double purpose. On the one hand, it simply aims at introducing the work of these scholars to readers who do not speak Czech, and on the other hand it aspires to make certain important aspects of Bohemian late medieval and early modern history better known for what they are: an integral part of European history. The volume's title, referring to two battles, the Battle of Lipany (1434) ending the Hussite Wars and the Battle of the White Mountain ending the Bohemian Revolt (1620), could give the impression that this work is mainly concerned with political and military history. Nothing is further from the truth: the essays cover quite a variety of themes, more or less in chronological order. They are preceded by an editor's introduction, offering a careful presentation of modern Czech historiography within the framework of the history of the Czech Lands in the chosen period. As far as their age is concerned, the authors range from members of the generation born well before the Second World War to our young contemporaries who started to publish their main works after the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

The volume opens with two essays on Hussitism looking askance at each other. Robert Kalivoda's aim was to present Hussitism as a permanent national ideology shaping Bohemian political and social life until the Battle of the White Mountain and influencing Czech history thereafter. As the volume's editor rightly notices, Kalivoda's view is no longer en vogue. As far as Hussite studies are concerned, precedence is nowadays given to the lifework of František Šmahel, and an extract of a book chapter by him is published here. Šmahel did not want to limit the Hussite movement to Czechs only, calling for more detailed research on national, social and political developments viewed in their European context. National disputes and linguistically fuelled misunderstandings are at the centre of Petr Hlavaček's thoughtful contribution about the Bohemian (mainly Czech and German speaking) Observant Franciscans and their administration from the second half of the 15th century till the 1620s.

Czech history of the 16th and 17th centuries is served by no less than six essays. Václav Bůžek is known for his ground-breaking publications on the Bohemian nobility and his role in establishing a lively centre for early modern studies at the University of Southern Bohemia. His contribution is on the court of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol, Governor of Bohemia (1547-1567), and his relation to the Bohemian nobility. An influential essay by František Kavka and Anna Skýbová on the appointment of a new Archbishop of Prague (1561) stresses the importance of Habsburg centralizing policy and the influence of the Council of Trent in Bohemia. Roman Catholic religious renewal and Bohemian politics also play a role in Josef Janaček's portrait of Polyxena of Pernštejn (1566-1642), widow of the South Bohemian magnate William of Rožmberk. The multi-religious society in the Czech Lands before the Battle of the White Mountain is the subject of an important article by Josef Válka, the doyen of Moravian historians. He deals with the question whether a form of tolerance was the rule as far as a society split by religious differences were concerned, or whether the various religious groups were just co-existing without much mutual contact and without giving the subject of tolerance a great deal of thought. The Moravian noble Charles of Žerotín (1564-1636), who certainly, within certain limits, championed religious tolerance, is the subject of Tomáš Knoz's contribution (taken from his biography of Žerotín) about his intellectual background and his role in Moravian political and legal developments. The intricacies of social and legal history form the background to Petr Kreuz's contribution about a case of sexual child abuse (1541) in Prague.

The three remaining essays deal with developments both before and after the Battle of the White Mountain. Jiří Mikulec writes about a formerly much neglected subject: religious brotherhoods in Bohemia from the sixteenth century onwards until their abolition by Emperor Joseph II in 1783. One of the consequences of the reestablishment of Habsburg rule after 1620 has been emigration, forced or not, from the Czech Lands. Josef Grulich and Hermann Zeitlhofer draw a carefully presented and well-researched comparison between migration before and after the Thirty Years War, making a welcome contribution to the ongoing debate about migration patterns. The volume's last essay, 'The Exile', is written by the outstanding historian of exile after 1620, Lenka Bobková. She presents many new viewpoints on the backgrounds and routes of emigration and exile to various parts of Europe, making it clear for instance that in many cases ties with the fatherland were not broken completely.

Translation from the Czech is, on the whole, accurate, as is the edition itself. Nevertheless I have a few quibbles. On page 305, it is not unimportant to learn that Joachim Andreas of Schlick, one of the leaders of the Bohemian Revolt, was an 'Ehrengefangener' in Saxony before his former pupil, the Elector of Saxony, surrendered him to the Habsburg victors, but the translator left this out. Indeed, the Czech words are more difficult to translate into English ('honorary prisoner'?) than into German. A few printing errors and bibliographical infelicities survived proof-reading, troubling me less than a certain inconsistency regarding terms for aspects of the body politic. 'Sněm' is sometimes translated as 'Land Assembly', sometimes as 'Provincial Assembly' (zemský sněm in Moravia), in reference to the deliberative body of the Estates. As there were, however, all kinds of sněmy in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown it is not always clear what exactly is meant when an 'assembly' is mentioned. 'Provincial Code' (242) appears to mean 'constitution' or 'ordinance', but again this is not clear; elsewhere the term 'ordinance' is used. The translation 'imperial assembly' where 'Reichstag' is probably meant seems confusing, as the normal term in English would surely be 'imperial diet'.

Rezension über:

James R. Palmitessa (ed.): Between Lipany and White Mountain. Essays in Late Medieval and Early Modern Bohemian History in Modern Czech Scholarship. Translated by Barbara Day and Christopher Hopkinson (= Studies in Central European Histories; Vol. 58), Leiden / Boston: Brill 2014, XIX + 365 S., ISBN 978-90-04-27757-1, EUR 147,00

Rezension von:
Nicolette Mout
Universiteit Leiden
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Nicolette Mout: Rezension von: James R. Palmitessa (ed.): Between Lipany and White Mountain. Essays in Late Medieval and Early Modern Bohemian History in Modern Czech Scholarship. Translated by Barbara Day and Christopher Hopkinson, Leiden / Boston: Brill 2014, in: sehepunkte 16 (2016), Nr. 9 [15.09.2016], URL:

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