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University – Historiography – Society – Politics

University – Historiography – Society – Politics

Selected Studies of Jan Havránek

Havránková, RůženaPešek, Jiří

subjects: history – 20th century, political science and international relations

paperback, 494 pp., 1. edition
published: december 2009
ISBN: 978-80-246-1554-7
recommended price: 470 czk



From the 1960s Prof. Dr. Jan Havránek (1928–2003) belonged among the internationally renowned personalities of Czech history focusing on the 19th and 20th century. He was an inventive researcher and author of lucid critical papers as well as a formulator of great syntheses about the history of the Czech Lands. He preferred topics such as the history of structures of society and politics, Czech-German relationships, the problems of national, ethnic and religious groups, in particular the Jewish ethnic group, education and science, particularly universities, the development of history and great figures of the past – from Bolzano to Einstein. The presented volume, prepared by an international group of editors, collects some of his studies written in English, German and French from among his extensive works.

table of contents

Editorial (Jiří Pešek)

Liste der Erstveröffentlichungen der edierten Studien


Nineteenth Century Universities in Central Europe – Their Dominant Position in the Sciences and Humanities
Das politische Klima an der Prager Universität zur Zeit Bolzanos
The Education of Czechs and Slovaks under Foreign Domination, 1850–1918
Das Prager Bildungswesen im Zeitalter nationaler und ethnischer Konflikte 1875 bis 1925
The University Professors and Students in Nineteenth-century Bohemia
Albert Einstein's Appointment as Professor in Prague
Materialien zu Einsteins Wirken in Prag aus dem Archiv der Karlsuniversität
Anti-Semitism in the Prague Universities in November 1929
Die Prager Universität nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg
Charles University in Prague between 1945 and 1950: From a Liberal to a "Socialist" University – the Crucial Conflict during the Years 1945–1950

Institutionen der tschechischen Geschichtswissenschaft bis zum Zweiten Weltkrieg
Anton Gindely – ein Historiker zwischen zwei Nationen
Versuche einer Gesamtdarstellung der tschechischen Geschichte im Spannungsfeld zwischen Forschung und Politik
Central Europe, East-Central Europe and the Historians, 1940–1948

Bolzanos "Vom besten State" und Cabets "Voyage en Icarie"
Social Classes, Nationality Ratios and Demographic Trends in Prague 1880–1900
Die ökonomische und politische Lage der Bauernschaft in den böhmischen Ländern in den letzten Jahrzehnten des 19. Jahrhunderts
Structure sociale des Allemands, des Tchèques, des chrétiens et des juifs à Prague, à la lumière des statistiques des années 1890–1930
Soziale Struktur und politisches Verhalten der großstädtischen Wählerschaft im Mai 1907 – Wien und Prag im Vergleich
Der tschechische Pazifismus und Antimilitarismus am Vorabend des Ersten Weltkrieges
Die Austritte der Tschechen aus der katholischen Kirche nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg – ihre Ursachen und Folgen
Die Rolle der Intellektuellen in der tschechoslowakischen Gesellschaft zwischen den Weltkriegen
Ein Selbstporträt der Deutschen in der Tschechoslowakei aus dem Jahre 1937
Die Juden zwischen den Tschechen und Deutschen in Prag

The Development of Czech Nationalism
Böhmen im Frühjahr 1848 – Vorbild der nationalen Problematik in Europa für das folgende Jahrhundert
Der tschechische Liberalismus an der Wende vom 19. zum 20. Jahrhundert
Die tschechische Politik und der Ausgleich von 1867
Sprachliche Gegensätze und Nationalitätenfragen in Böhmen und Mähren bis zum Mährischen Ausgleich 1905
Die rigorose Überprüfung der tschechischen Schulbücher im Jahre 1916
Das tragische Jahrzehnt in Mitteleuropa


Jan Havránek's greatest hits (nd a few misses)

Jan Havránek was born in 1928 in Prague to an upper middle class Czech Jewish mother and a Czech father who was a Gymnasium teacher and a serious scholar. Being of half Jewish origin, he spent a good deal of his youth under the Nazis as a forced laborer and then in Terezín concentration camp,
Because of his background, the Communists prevented him from having a normal university career. He was assigned to work in the university archives where he made the best of a difficult situation. Using archival materials, he wrote extensively on social, economic, and intellectual aspects of history in the Czech lands and beyond. He was able to publish many of his articles abroad, primarily in German and in English, Consequently he attracted the attention of foreign scholars and assisted a large number of doctoral students from Germany and the United States. The international recognition he acquired resulted in the publication of two volumes in his honor, a Festschrift for his sixtieth birthday, Bildungsgeschichte, Bevölkerungsgeschichte, Gesellschaftsgeschichte in den höhmischen Ländern und in Europa, published in Munich in 1988 before the velvet revolution, and a second volume, Magister Noster, which appeared in 2005 after his death as a memorial volume.
His students and friends then decided to publish his most important articles in the present volume, which deals with social and ethnic history, higher education, the changing position of Jews between Czechs and Germans, questions of historiography and historical method, and two historians whose values he shared. The main focus is on important aspects of Czech, and to some extent Slovak, history in the broader context of Central Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. All articles but one are reprints. They were kept in their original German and English, and only in one case in French or in Czech respectively.
A possible weakness of the volume is that there is no underlying theme uniting the articles. It does not represent a synthesis of Havránek's work, but reflects his central interests and throws light on aspects of Czech political and social attitudes which have been neglected and call for further study. The titles of the essays in the volume often promise less than the reader learns from them.
One strong point of the volume is that Havránek avoids broad generalizations and wherever possible supports his arguments with empirical statistical information. Statistics never stand by themselves but are integrated in the analysis of a social, or political, situation and trends of change. Thus in his article on academic anti-Semitism in the First Republic he buttresses his presentation with a careful statistical analysis of ethnic composition, including the percentage of foreign, particularly Jewish, students from Eastern Europe, especially in 1929 and the efforts to exclude them. Although most of the essays deal with the twentieth century through the First Republic, the continuity of trends since the mid-nineteenth century is not overlooked. In several essays the question of ethnic identity is discussed. An article about comparative electoral behavior in Prague and Vienna in the parliamentary election of 1907 examines the role of ethnicity and social class played in the outcome of the election, and again with the aid of statistical information comes to the somewhat surprising conclusion that in both cities there was proportionately a larger working class than middle class participation in the election as reflected in the strength of the social democratic vote. In an essay on schools in Prague between 1875 and 1925 he traces the gradual increase of the percentage of Czech students in the gymnasiums. In the same period Havránek follows the numerical switch of the Jewish population from German to Czech nationality and language, again with the help of statistical data.
A good deal has been written recently about the secular character of Czech society, but little has been said about how this came about. Havránek devotes an article, again supported by statistical data, to explore why so many Czechs left the Catholic Church after the First World War. In another article he deals with the censorship of Czech history textbooks in primary and secondary schools by the Austrian government in 1916, For example, of eighteen books in grade schools only eight could still be used, while ten were eliminated for political or moral reasons-whatever that meant. While it is generally assumed that Europe was generally jubilant about the outbreak of World War I, Havránek shows convincingly that there was strong opposition to the war among the Czechs, especially among intellectuals.
Several articles on the development of Czech nationalism go back to the 1848 revolution, which for Havránek foreshadows the ensuing national problem and the crisis of Czech liberalism into the twentieth century. Tensions increased with the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic.
A very depressing article deals with the situation at the universities and the historians, particularly in Prague, in the three years between the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945 and the Communist seizure of power in 1948. The stage was set for the acceptance of the Soviet model and the break with democratic academic traditions and outlooks. The article which shows most vividly the essence of the Czech-German tragedy deals with the historian Anton Gindely, the son of a Czech mother and a German-Hungarian father. The high point of his career were the three years between 1860, when he was chosen by Palacký to continue his history of the Czech nation, and 1862 when he was appointed extraordinarius at the University of Prague and became director of the state archives of Bohemia, Gindely's writings were in no way nationalistic-which should give pause to people who stress Palacký's nationalism. He wrote in Czech and German and taught at a high school in Czech and at universities in German, Gindely favored the founding of the Czech university long before negotiations began. While he had little hope for the future of the Czech language, he was a Bohemian patriot and a patriot of the Austrian Empire. He distanced himself from his compatriots who glorified Russia and the Slavs and was worried about the increasing polarization of the two nationalities. When Czech scholars criticized his writings for not being sufficiently Czech, he decided to teach at the German university, which led to the unanimous protest by the German professors. Even about such an emotional issue Jan Havránek was able to write objectively.
This is a very worthwhile volume.

Wilma A. Iggers, History, Canisius College, Buffalo
Austrian Studies Newsletter, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fll 2010, 16 p.