Protestantism in the Czech historical narrative and Czech nationalism of the nineteenth century

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A number of the leading figures of nineteenth-century Czech nationalism were Protestant, either by upbringing (Kollar, Safarik, Palacky) or by conversion (Masaryk). Another Protestant - the French historian, Ernest Denis - became the leading national historian after Palacky. They opposed the Czech 'genius' to the Austrian 'genius', defining the latter in terms of Catholicism and the former in terms of Hussism, and portraying Hussism as the first expression of the typically Czech aspiration to a freedom of the spirit and of the people. This prominence of Protestants happened at a time when Protestants represented only 2.3% of Czechs. Bohemia poses, therefore, the same enigma as France of the Third Republic: how could two countries almost entirely Catholic allow historians and statesmen favourable to Protestantism (re-)write the national narrative and set in motion a process of laicisation? The answer lies in the fact that in each case the adversary to a modernisation ardently sought (in the form of Third Republic in France and national independence in Bohemia) was conceived as fundamentally Catholic.

Keywords: Bohemia; Czech nationalism; France; Masaryk; Protestants; Tomas G; national narrative

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Toulouse, Le Mirail, France

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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