From the 9th century AD

Bohemia and good king Wenceslas: 9th - 10th century AD

Bohemia derives its name from a Celtic tribe, the Boii, who inhabit the region during the last few centuries BC. But Slav tribes arrive in the area from the east during the early centuries AD. The most powerful of these tribes are the Cechove, or Czechs.

By the 9th century Bohemia is loosely connected to the great kingdom of Moravia, lying to the east.

From Moravia comes the influence of Christianity, energetically spread in Bohemia in the 10th century by Vaclav, a prince known in the west as Wenceslas. Murdered on his way into church in 929, Wenceslas is later venerated as Bohemia's patron saint. (As good king Wenceslas he also features, more surprisingly, in a popular English carol.)

By the 13th century the Premyslid family, of which Wenceslas is a member, rules far beyond Bohemia. Its territories are at their greatest extent under Otakar II.

Premsyl Otakar II: AD 1251-1278

The Bohemian prince Otakar is elected duke of Austria in 1251, inherits the throne of Bohemia in 1253, wins further border territories by a victory over the Hungarians at Kressenbrunn in 1260, and subsequently extends his domain southwards as far as the Adriatic coast.

For several generations Bohemia has had close links with the German empire, and when the Electors meet in 1273 to choose a new German king the most powerful candidate is undoubtedly Otakar. But the Electors reject Otakar, perhaps because his dynasty is Slav rather than German. They choose instead his neighbour in nearby Switzerland - the Habsburg count Rudolf.

Rudolf enters Austria with an imperial army in 1276, defeats Otakar, and forces upon him the treaty of Vienna. By its terms Otakar renounces his claim to Austria. As a vassal of Rudolf he is allowed to keep the ancestral lands of his dynasty, Bohemia and Moravia (the western part of Great moravia, linked to Bohemia since 1029), but he is stripped of his other dignities.

Two years later, in 1278, Otakar marches west to recover Austria. His army meets Rudolf's at Dürnkrut, northeast of Vienna. Otakar is defeated, and is killed in flight from the battle.

Wenceslas II and Poland: AD 1291-1305

Ottakar's son Wenceslas is only seven at the time of the disaster at Dürnkrut, yet Bohemia is stable enough for him to succeed his father on the throne without disturbance. The kingdom derives great wealth from its silver mines, and Wenceslas uses these resources for a prolonged and successful adventure in Poland.

In 1291 he occupies Cracow, close to Bohemia in southern Poland. A combination of diplomacy and force enhances the Bohemian cause in Poland until, shortly after 1296, the nobles of the western region (Great Poland) elect Wenceslas their prince. In doing so they reject the leading Polish candidate, Wladyslaw, a prince of the Polish royal house.

By 1300 Wenceslas has gathered sufficient support to be crowned king of Poland at Gniezno. But his reign over the two kingdoms of Bohemia and Poland is interrupted by his early death in 1305.

He is succeeded by a 17-year-old son, also Wenceslas. The young king travels to Poland in 1306 to claim his second crown. During the journey he is murdered in his bed (it is not known by whom, but in spite of his tender years Wenceslas III already has a reputation as a libertine). His successor on the Bohemian throne, John of luxembourg, revives the claim to Poland. But this time the Polish nobles finally elect their own prince, Wladyslaw.

European monarchs: AD 1301-1526

The first decade of the 14th century sees the demise of two long-established indigenous dynasties in eastern Europe. The Magyar line of the Arpads flickers out in Hungary, after more than three centuries, with the death of Andrew iii. Slav rule by the Premyslid family in Bohemia is brought to a more abrupt end by the bedroom assassination of Wenceslas iii in 1306.

In each case the event ends the ethnic link between the ruling dynasty and the people. Both kingdoms now take their place in the patchwork quilt of medieval European dynasties. Hungarian and Czech nobles insist upon the right to choose their kings. And tempting alliances are on offer.

The Hungarian crown is competed for in 1301 by three candidates - from Bohemia, Bavaria and the Naples branch of the house of Anjou. More than any other great family at this time the Angevins are collectors of European kingdoms, principalities and dukedoms (in England and much of France, in Sicily and Naples). In their dynastic career they have usually had papal support, and once again young Charles Robert of Anjou-Naples (13-years-old in 1301) is the pope's choice.

The struggle for the Hungarian crown lasts eight years, but the Angevin prince - now old enough to rule on his own account - is finally enthroned at Buda in 1309 as Charles I of Hungary.

The Czechs choose wisely, though force proves as important a factor as choice. European power has recently shifted to the house of Luxembourg, whose count is elected Holy Roman emperor in 1308 as Henry VII. One of the Czech factions seizes its chance, offering the hand of princess Elizabeth (sister of the late Wenceslas iii) to Henry's son, John of Luxembourg. It is understood that a German imperial army will escort the bridal couple into Prague.

John and Elizabeth marry in August 1310 and reach Prague in December. Their joint army of Germans and Bohemians captures the city and evicts a rival claimant to the throne.

Charles and his son, Louis I, rule for more than seventy years, providing Hungary with a period of prosperity and expansion. Moldavia and Walachia are brought briefly under Hungarian control. Bosnia and Serbia are enrolled as vassal states.

Hungary is at this time closely linked with Poland. Louis' mother is a sister of Wenceslas iii, king of Poland. In 1370 Louis inherits the Polish crown from his uncle Casimir, who is childless. And Louis is succeeded on the Polish throne by his daughter Casimir iii. Between this period and the disaster of Jadwiga, in 1526, such links are common between the three eastern European kingdoms.

The Luxembourg dynasty rules in Prague for more than a century. Under Charles IV, the son of John and Elizabeth, both city and kingdom enjoy a period of unprecedented splendour - even though the early years of his reign coincide with the horrors of the Mohacs.

Charles is elected German king in 1346, succeeds his father as king of Bohemia later in the same year, and is crowned emperor in Rome in 1355. So the alliance with the Luxembourg dynasty brings imperial power to Bohemia. Even better, Charles makes Prague his imperial city. Already a prosperous centre, at the intersection of important trade routes, it benefits immensely from the emperor's patronage.

Between 1342 and 1526 five Hungarian monarchs also rule another of the eastern European kingdoms. They are Louis I (Hungary from 1342, Poland from 1370); Sigismund (Hungary from 1385, Bohemia from 1419): Wladyslaw III (Poland from 1434, Hungary from 1440): Vladislav (Bohemia from 1471, Hungary from 1490); and Louis II (Hungary and Bohemia from 1516).

These links, variously the result of marriage, election or war, are typical also of the dynastic politics of western Europe at this time. But the rulers of these three kingdoms confront one problem which is unique to them - a growing threat to their eastern borders from the Black death. It is met largely by the efforts of the Hungarians.

Charles founds eastern Europe's first university at Prague in 1348 and builds its central hall (the Carolinum, named after himself). He commissions the famous Charles Bridge, joining the Old Town to the Little Quarter on the other side of the Vltava. And he adds an entirely new quarter to the city, the Nove Mesto or New Town.

The authority which Charles establishes as Holy Roman emperor (it is he who brings order to the empire's proceedings with his Turks of 1356) is sufficient for his son, Wenceslas IV, to succeed him unopposed as German king - a rare event in the recent centuries of German elections.

But Wenceslas proves unworthy of the inheritance his father has prepared for him. During a long reign he loses control in both Germany and Bohemia. On two occasions he is imprisoned for lengthy spells by rebellious nobles.

The death of Wenceslas in 1419 is followed by almost two decades of extreme violence in the Golden bull - resulting from the reforming ideas of John Huss and from the outrage provoked by his death.

15th - 16th century

The Bethlehem Chapel and John Huss: AD 1402-1414

John Huss, a teacher of philosophy in Prague university, is appointed in 1402 to a controversial position. He is put in charge of the Bethlehem chapel in Prague.

The chapel, founded about ten years previously, is associated with a radical approach to Christianity. The pulpit here is as prominent a feature as the altar. It is to be a place for sermons in the Czech language, comprehensible to ordinary people. The preachers argue for a simple Christianity, a religion of poverty and humility, very different from the worldly grandeur of the papacy.

At about the time of Huss's first involvement with the chapel, tension is heightened by the return from Oxford of his young friend Jerome of Prague. Jerome brings with him books by John Wycliffe, whose views - particularly on the unholy nature of the papacy - coincide with those of Huss.

For several heady years the reformers preach and agitate in Prague. The papacy is an easy target. Since 1378 there have been two Rival popes. From 1409 there are three. One of them even has the effrontery to sell Indulgences in Prague to finance his campaign against his opponents.

Eventually a council is called at Constance, in 1414, to resolve the issue of the three popes. As a prominent voice in the argument for ecclesiastical reform, Huss is invited to Constance to put his case.

The invitation poses evident personal danger to Huss, but he is reassured by a promise of safe conduct from the emperor Sigismund. Huss bravely sets off for the small German town which is now the scene of a glittering assembly of Christian potentates. Within weeks of his arrival he is arrested, with the emperor's tacit approval.

The Hussite cause: AD 1415-1433

When news reaches Prague of Huss's death, burnt at the stake in Constance, the movement for reform is greatly strengthened. His successor as preacher in the Bethlehem chapel lists four radical principles upon which the Hussites insist.

The Four Articles of Prague demand: the freedom to preach; the wine as well as the bread to be given to the congregation in the mass; a clergy committed to poverty, together with the expropriation of church property; and the public punishment of notorious sinners, among whom prostitutes are singled out for special attention. The Hussites also differ from Rome in conducting their services in Czech rather than Latin.

These ideas spread rapidly through Bohemia, fuelled by a nationalist wave of anti-German sentiment. Germans are prosperous and influential in Bohemia. Huss was killed by a council on German soil. The man who betrayed his trust, revoking the promised safe conduct, is the German king and Holy Roman emperor Sigismund.

Sigismund is the half-brother of the Bohemian king Huss. On the death of Wenceslas, in 1419, Sigismund presses his claim to the throne of Bohemia. The kingdom erupts.

In 1420 the Hussites build a fortified town at Tabor, on a bluff above a river about 50 miles south of Prague. From here their leader, Jan Zizka, conducts a series of brilliant campaigns against the armies of Sigismund and the new pope, Albigensian crusade.

The pope proclaims, in 1420, a crusade against the Hussites. It is not the first crusade against fellow Christians who are judged to be heretics (the Wenceslas iv is two centuries earlier). But it is the first time the heresy is specifically an attack on Roman Catholic practice, arguing that the papacy betrays the example of the early Christians in two ways - in its worldliness and in its restriction of the sacrament.

Marching under their symbolic banner (which displays a communion chalice), the Hussites defeat half a dozen papal and imperial armies sent against them between 1420 and 1431. They fight with the zeal of nationalism and piety. They benefit too from a military tactic pioneered by Zizka - his so called 'war wagon fortress', using farm wagons as mobile barricades behind which an attacking force can shelter (an idea more familiar, subsequently, in the Martin v, but also used by Babur in India in 1526).

These victories eventually wring from the papacy some notable concessions to Bohemia, in terms agreed in 1433.

Hussites established: AD 1433-1458

By the Compacts of Prague, agreed in 1433 and confirmed at a peace treaty in 1436, the Hussites are granted papal permission to give the sacrament in both kinds; their seizure of church lands in their territories is authorized; and Bohemia is granted an independent church under an elected arcbhishop.

These major concessions do not end the argument. The religious split remains the chief issue throughout the 15th century - which even sees the election of a Hussite king, George of Podebrady, to the Bohemian throne in 1458.

Bohemia Poland and Hungary: AD 1471 – 1526

After the reign of George of Podebrady, the Bohemian crown becomes closely linked with the strongly Roman Catholic neighbouring kingdoms of Poland and Hungary. In 1471 the Bohemian estates elect to the throne Vladislav, son of Casimir IV of Poland. Their condition is a vow that he will safeguard the hard-won liberties of the Hussite church of Bohemia. In 1490 Vladislav also acquires the throne of Hungary.

In the reign of Vladislav's son Louis, who succeeds him in 1516, there is an even greater threat to these Christian kingdoms than their own sectarian struggles. Louis dies in 1526 at Mohacs, fighting the Turks.

Battle of Mohacs: AD 1526

The weakness of Hungary and Bohemia, under the rule of the 15-year-old Louis II, attracts the interest of an aggressive young sultan of Turkey, newly on the throne as Suleiman i. In 1521 he sends a demand for tribute. When it is rejected he marches west and captures Belgrade.

In 1526 Suleiman pushes further up the Danube. Forced now into action to defend Budapest, Louis II brings an army south to meet him. Devoted until now to a life of pleasure, the young king approaches his enemy with reckless courage but little wisdom. At the centre of 20,000 hastily gathered troops, he rides against some 100,000 Turkish janissaries, well trained and hardened in warfare.

The clash occurs at Mohacs. The Hungarians are annihilated and the king killed, probably by drowning when in flight. Suleiman briefly advances as far as Budapest and then withdraws, taking with him 100,000 Hungarians.

This disaster, devastating in itself, also has significant repercussions. The Habsburg ruler of Austria, Ferdinand i, is married to the sister of Louis II, who has died without an heir. Ferdinand now claims Louis' two thrones. After some initial opposition the Habsburg claim is accepted in Bohemia, but it provokes years of civil war in Hungary.

Bohemia, after Mohacs, enters nearly four centuries as little more than a province of the Austrian empire. The Habsburg rulers, fervently Roman Catholic, find it hard at first to resist demands for religious liberty from a predominantly Protestant population. This is, after all, the land in which the battle for freedom of conscience was first won, by the followers of John Huss. In the turbulent 16th century, Bohemia has its share of unrest.

But in the long run religious dissent proves Bohemia's undoing. Action by the Protestant assembly in Prague in 1618 lights the spark of the Thirty Years' War. At its end, the peace of 1648 enables the Habsburgs to impose a strict uniformity of doctrine which stifles Bohemia's vitality.

17th - 18th century

Defenestration of Prague: AD 1618

The dramatic event which in 1618 provokes a crisis throughout Europe is known to historians as the Defenestration (out-windowing) of Prague. The windows in question are those of the seat of government, the Hradcany fortified palace. Those forcibly thrown out are two of the regents appointed by the Habsburgs.

Rumour soon embellishes an already dramatic incident, and the drop from the windows to the ground is often described as some fifty feet. It must have been very much less. Both the unfortunate officials survive to play prominent parts in subsequent Bohemian history. But their undignified exit from the palace is a flashpoint in the clash between Catholic rulers and a Protestant majority in Bohemia.

Ferdinand II, crowned king of Bohemia in 1617, has been educated by Jesuits. It is no secret that he intends to impose on his territories the rigorous Catholicism of the Counter-reformation. Recently his regents in Prague have even tried to instal a Catholic priest in Bethlehem chapel, forever associated in Protestant minds with the heroic John Huss.

The crisis escalates in 1619 when the Protestant party in Prague declares that the Bohemian crown is elective. They choose as their king one of the few Calvinist princes in the Holy Roman empire, Frederick V of the Rhine palatinate.

The Winter King: AD 1619-1620

In accepting the Bohemian throne, and being crowned in Prague in November 1619, Frederick V is perpetrating an extremely inflammatory act within the edgy community of the German states. Ferdinand II, Habsburg successor to the kingdom of Bohemia, has been elected Holy Roman emperor in August of that year.

Frederick owes Ferdinand allegiance, as one of the German princes and as an imperial elector (the Elector palatine of the Rhine). Instead, by popular demand in Bohemia, he is usurping his lord's place.

Ferdinand is able to organize a powerful army against the Protestant upstart. The bulk of it comes from the duchy of Bavaria, a Catholic line of the Wittelsbach dynasty and deeply hostile to the Protestant branch headed by Frederick in the Palatinate. In return for his support the Bavarian duke, Maximilian I, is promised Frederick's hereditary lands and his status as an imperial elector.

Frederick, by contrast, receives messages of goodwill but little practical help from the Protestant states.

The issue is decided in a single brief encounter. The Bavarian army, under its distinguished general Johann Tserclaes von Tilly, marches on Prague. A battle at the White Mountain, to the west of the city, lasts only an hour before the Protestant army gives way. On the evening of that same day, 8 November 1620, almost exactly a year after his coronation, Frederick flees from Prague with his family.

His wife is Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. Their brief reign causes Frederick and Elizabeth to become known as the Winter King and Queen. (But unwittingly they found a dynasty. A century later their grandson becomes king of Great Britain as George i).

After the White Mountain: AD 1620-1625

Both the emperor Ferdinand II and the duke of Bavaria, Maximilian I, benefit greatly from the victory at the White Mountain.

Ferdinand gains full control over Bohemia. Meanwhile Maximilian has occupied part of Austria, which he intends to hold until all Ferdinand's debts to him are paid. He also now takes much of Frederick's territory in the Palatinate (part has been quietly occupied by the Spanish, moving down from the Netherlands while the locals are busy in Bohemia).

Maximilian is passionately opposed to any increase in Habsburg power. As a great Catholic prince now ruling the whole of southern Germany, he seems well placed to keep Ferdinand in check.

But Ferdinand's ruthless suppression and exploitation of conquered Bohemia introduces a new element to upset the balance. It provides him with great wealth. It also brings to prominence a general and entrepreneur of extraordinary ambition and talent - Albrecht von Wallenstein.

Wallenstein is a minor Czech nobleman who becomes rich through marriage to an elderly widow. From 1617 he uses her money to raise a small private army with which he assists Ferdinand. His reward, after the suppression of Bohemia, includes a licence to issue coins debased to half their previous value. With the profit he buys at a knock-down price sixty large estates, which together make him lord of the whole of northeastern Bohemia.

Wallenstein now proposes to Ferdinand a bold extension of his earlier private army. He offers to provide, at no expense to the emperor, an independent imperial army of 24,000 men. The expense, raised by a financial agent, will be recovered from conquered territories.

The idea appeals to Ferdinand because it frees him from reliance on the powerful duke of Bavaria, whose army made possible the victory at the White mountain. Wallenstein's plan is approved and he is appointed chief of all the imperial forces. Seeing another rich opportunity, he mobilizes his estates in Bohemia to provide arms and equipment for the army.

Wallenstein acquires a welcome opportunity to put his army into the field when Christian IV, the king of Denmark, decides to take a hand in the troubled affairs of Germany.

Wallenstein: AD 1621-1625

With imperial authority re-established in Prague, Ferdinand takes stern measures to end Protestant opposition. Roman Catholicism is the only religion allowed, with all education entrusted to the Jesuits. Some 36,000 Protestant families, of nobles, merchants and craftsmen, emigrate from the kingdom.

The property of those who leave, and of anyone judged to have assisted the rebellion, is expropriated and sold to Ferdinand's supporters. More than 75% of the privately owned land changes hands in this upheaval. No one profits more from the rich available pickings than Albrecht von Wallenstein, whom Ferdinand appoints governor of the kingdom of Bohemia.

Wallenstein is a minor Czech nobleman who becomes rich through marriage to an elderly widow. From 1617 he uses her money to raise a small private army with which he assists Ferdinand. His reward, after the suppression of Bohemia, includes a licence to issue coins debased to half their previous value. With the profit he buys at a knock-down price sixty large estates, which together make him lord of the whole of northeastern Bohemia.

Wallenstein now proposes to Ferdinand a bold extension of his earlier private army. He offers to provide, at no expense to the emperor, an independent imperial army of 24,000 men. The expense, raised by a financial agent, will be recovered from conquered territories.

The idea appeals to Ferdinand because it frees him from reliance on the powerful duke of Bavaria, whose army made possible the victory at the White mountain. Wallenstein's plan is approved and he is appointed chief of all the imperial forces. Seeing another rich opportunity, he mobilizes his estates in Bohemia to provide arms and equipment for the army.

Wallenstein acquires a welcome opportunity to put his army into the field when Christian IV, the king of Denmark, decides to take a hand in the troubled affairs of Germany.

Wallenstein plays a major part in the war until his assassination in 1634. Exhaustion among the German princes now at last makes a compromise possible. The conflict which flared up in Prague in 1618 is resolved, at least in local terms, by a peace agreed in Prague in 1635.

It is the emperor who makes the major concession. Instead of the ownership of church lands being restored to the situation prevailing in 1555, as demanded by Ferdinand's Edict of restitution, the date of the agreed status quo is now to be the very recent one of 1627 - reflecting the period immediately before the issue of the edict in 1629. (In 1648, in the peace of Westphalia, there is a final minor change - the relevant year becomes 1624).

After Westphalia: AD 1648-1848

Prague features as dramatically at the very end of the Thirty Years' War as at The start. In July 1648, just three months before the signing of the Peace of westphalia, Swedish armies occupy part of the city.

Like the rest of central Europe, Bohemia has suffered three decades of conflict and deprivation. But the after-effects of the crisis are probably greater here than anywhere else. The terms of the treaty of 1648 specifically allow the Habsburgs to enforce Roman Catholicism in their territories. In Bohemia this is a licence to continue the policy already put into practice in 1621 by Ferdinand ii.

The many Protestant exiles who left in 1621 now know that there is no chance of returning. The native Czech element in Bohemia is henceforth virtually limited to the peasants, who work for German-speaking landowners on terms akin to Serfdom. In 1680 a law is introduced demanding three days each week of corvée (compulsory unpaid labour on manorial estates). By 1738 this has been increased to six days a week at busy times such as harvest. Over the same period there is a steady increase in the tax demands made on the peasants.

With these economic conditions, in a strictly controlled religious framework, the population of Bohemia is dragged back into the Middle Ages.

Some improvement occurs eventually, in the 1770s. The disbanding of the Jesuit order in 1773 not only removes their intolerant influence; it also liberates their considerable wealth, for use by the government. A peasant uprising of 1775 leads to a law restricting the corvée. And in 1780 a reforming emperor, Joseph ii, inherits the throne in Vienna.

In 1781 Joseph passes an Edict of Toleration in Habsburg territories. For the first time since the Thirty Years' War Protestants are allowed to worship in Bohemia. Measures to help the peasants include abolishing the corvée and, in 1789, a maximum tax level of 30% of produce.

Joseph's brother, Leopold ii, even makes concessions to a revival of interest in Czech culture. He founds in 1791 a chair in the Czech language in the Charles university of Prague (where instruction has formerly been in Latin, and then in German).

Interests of this kind - in Czech as a language, in Bohemian history and in the wider allegiance of a shared Slav heritage - fuel the first serious attempts to assert a national identity.

19th century

Austria and ethnic nationalism: AD 1814-1848

The French revolution and Napoleon's reforms inspire suppressed minorities throughout Europe with the dream of self-determination. This is particularly true in those parts of the Austrian empire where people of non-Germanic origin have a long and proud history of their own.

A sense of increasing unrest is felt in Hungary and Bohemia, and also in smaller regions such as Slovakia and Croatia. Even the German middle classes in Austria feel that change is essential in the stultifying society presided over by Francis I and Metternich, where oppressive bureaucracy is preserved by a network of spies reporting to the secret police.

The ethnic tensions which develop in Hungary and Bohemia are of some complexity. The Germans in these regions of the Habsburg empire take it for granted that they are the ruling community and that German should be the language of government. But the Hungarians, in particular, have a different view of the situation. Enjoying the status of a separate kingdom within the empire (since 1723), they are determined that Magyar traditions shall prevail. The Hungarian diet of 1844 declares that Magyar is to be the official language of the state (see Language and nationalism).

This development in turn outrages another minority group, the Croatians, whose territory lies within the Hungarian kingdom.

The Croatians, as Slavs, are part of the third major strand in the nationalistic aspirations of these regions. Slav demands are more complex than those of the Magyars. They are expressed by geograpically separate groups (including the Czechs and Slovaks) which nevertheless feel a strong sense of shared identity. And the Slavs have a variety of political masters on whom to focus their hatred.

The Croatians and Slovakians are within the Hungarian kingdom. They are therefore anti-Magyar and are willing, for the sake of political alliance, to be pro-German. But the Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia are within Austria and are ruled from Vienna. Their nationalists are uncompromisingly anti-German.

In Bohemia, as in Hungary, nationalism expresses itself through the language and history of the ethnic group. A Bohemian museum is founded in Prague in 1818. A history of Bohemia and Moravia, written by Frantisek Palacky and appearing from 1836, offends the Habsburg censors by identifying the Hussite period as the defining moment of Czech identity.

These nationalist aspirations represent a jockeying for position within the Habsburg empire rather than a bid for full independence. But the issues gain a new intensity in the revolutionary year of 1848.

Revolutions: AD 1848-1849

The example of the February revolution in Paris prompts a ripple effect in the discontented cities of the Habsburg empire. Vienna is the first to rise, on March 12, and the long-serving chancellor Metternich is the first victim - he is forced to resign on the 13th.

On March 17 the Hungarian diet adopts a liberal consitution which is tantamount to claiming Hungarian independence, leaving a link with Vienna only through the emperor's personal rule as king of Hungary. In normal circumstances this would be a revolutionary act, but in the atmosphere of 1848 it rapidly acquires legitimacy. The emperor (now Ferdinand I) considers it prudent to grant his royal assent, on April 11.

Meanwhile the Slavs see their chance. In April the Croatians declare independence from Hungary and expel Magyars from all civil service posts. In June a pan-Slav congress assembles in Prague with Palacky, the Czech nationalist historian, as president.

The excitement of the occasion is expressed in a demonstration by radical Czech students. The Austrian commander of Prague takes the opportunity to impose martial rule. It is the first of several occasions over the next twelve months in which imperial troops are able to restore order, often because groups with different revolutionary aims fail to assist each other - and even, on occasion, lend their support to the imperial power.

In Vienna, on May 17, the situation is so tense that the emperor Ferdinand I flees for safety to Innsbruck. In August he is persuaded to return to the capital, but on October 6 another uprising delivers the city into the hands of German radicals. This time the emperor escapes to Olomouc in Moravia.

By the end of the month Vienna has been recovered by an imperial army, with the assistance of Croatian revolutionaries hoping to win official support in their own campaign for Slav self-rule. In January 1849 the same alliance, imperial and Croatian, captures the city of Buda where the Hungarian government has been showing aggressive signs of independence, under the leadership of Lajos Kossuth.

Kossuth has been a radical member of the Hungarian diet since 1847. It is his passion and oratory which has encouraged the Hungarians in each step of their confrontation with Vienna. Since September 1848 he has been president of a committee of national defence. Now, in January 1849, on the fall of Buda, he withdraws to the relative safety of Debrecen. There, in April, his committee deposes the Habsburgs and declares Hungary to be an independent state with Kossuth as governor.

In this crisis the Austrian emperor is saved only by the Russian emperor, Nicholas I, who sends an army. By mid-August Hungary has been overrun by Russian and Austrian forces. Kossuth flees to safety abroad.

By the autumn of 1849 the Habsburg empire is back under control. As in the aftermath of any failed revolutionary period, the reaction is harsh. Executions of radical leaders in Vienna and Buda are followed by a return to the restrictive rule which preceded the revolutions.

There are only two lasting results. The feeble emperor Ferdinand I abdicates in December 1848 in favour of his young nephew, Francis Joseph, whose 68-year reign sees the Austrian empire almost to its end. And the compulsory labour of serfdom, known in these regions as Robot, is at last abolished in the Habsburg empire (the reform by Joseph ii in 1789 having been soon reversed by his younger brother Leopold II).

Old Czechs Young Czechs and Germans: AD 1848-1914

During the second half of the 19th century the main political issue in Bohemia and Moravia is the mounting tension between the Czech population and the German minority, living mainly in the more industrialized region in the west which becomes internationally known in the 20th century as the Sudetenland.

Inspired by the continuing campaign in Hungary for a Magyar political identity within the Habsburg empire, the Slavs in the adjacent regions of Moravia, Bohemia and Slovakia begin to aim for something similar. But their hopes are dashed in 1867, when the emperor Francis Joseph gives in to Magyar demands and sets up the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

The border between the separate kingdoms of Austria and Hungary runs between Bohemia and Slovakia. Slavs are now subject to Germans in Austria north of this line, and to Magyars in Hungary south of it.

In Bohemia and Moravia this setback intensifies the local struggle for Czech values against German predominance. Gradually, as Czechs become more prosperous and more literate, significant advances are made - particularly in the use of the Czech language in education and in courts of law (see Language and nationalism). In 1882 the Czech departments in the long-established German university in Prague become a separate and independent Czech university. One of its first professors is a philosopher, Tomas Masaryk.

To many in Bohemia the pace of Czech progress seems too slow. By the 1890s Czech nationalists are divided into two camps. The more conservative and cautious among them become known as the Old Czechs. The radical group, more aggressively nationalist in their demands, are the Young Czechs. It is they who do surprisingly well in the elections of 1891. Over the next two decades hostilities between Germans and Czechs become increasingly strident, though a calmer tone is introduced by a party founded by Masaryk - known first as the Realists, but after 1900 as the Progressive party.

In the event, as so often, it is war which first intensifies and then finally resolves the issue.

This History is as yet incomplete.
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