Kawamura, Sugao. The Bohemian State-Law and the Bohemian Ausgleich.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Ference, Gregory C.
Pub Date: 09/22/2011
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Fall-Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 86 Source Issue: 3-4
Topic: NamedWork: The Bohemian State-Law and the Bohemian Ausgleich (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Kawamura, Sugao
Accession Number: 279722826
Full Text: Kawamura, Sugao. The Bohemian State-Law and the Bohemian Ausgleich. Tokyo, Japan: Chuokoron Jigyo Shuppan, 2010. 226 pages. Cloth, [yen] 3,800 (approximately $50.00).

Many years ago my grandfather, an emigrant from Austria-Hungary, told me about the attempts of the Czechs to achieve equal rights within the empire through their own Ausgleich (Compromise), but were thwarted by the Magyars. Other than this simplistic statement and rare referrals in English language historical texts, one could not locate much information about the topic other than a single brief treatment by historian and geography Eric Fischer published during World War II. (1) Habsburg history is extremely complex due to many facets including its multiple nationalities. It can especially be a minefield for students. As British historian Alan Sked aptly notes, "History students rush toward the doors or even windows when the subject is mentioned." (2)

Sugao Kawamura, a Japanese scholar of Bohemia and the Czechs, has filled this void with his original monograph and makes it accessible for all levels. His book deals with the negotiations associated with the unsuccessful attempt by the Czech nobility and growing middle class to secure a federalized Habsburg monarchy with the Crownlands of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, thus becoming an equal partner with Austria and Hungary, changing the structure of the empire from a dualist to a trialist one. Four years after Emperor Francis Joseph made a deal with the Magyars creating Austria-Hungary, he was willing to do the same with the Czechs in 1871. This study provides a detailed treatment of the discussions regarding the contemplated Czech Ausgleich.

Kawamura begins with an excellent objective historiography of the topic noting the various phases of scholarship starting during the Habsburg period, continuing with post-World War One, the Nazi era, the Cold War, and post-Cold War. Aside from Fisher's article, the only published sources are in German and Czech, making any attempt to peruse the topic quite difficult for the average reader. In addition to consulting these sources, the author has mined the national archives in Vienna and Prague and the personal papers of the key personalities in the discussions, including those of Emperor Francis Joseph, Foreign Minister Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust, Austrian Prime Minster Karl yon Hohenwart, Minister of Commerce Albert Schaffle, and Czech nationalists Jindrich Clam-Martinic and Frantisek Rieger.

The author then presents the background to the 1871 negotiations showing how the Bohemian Crownlands lost much of their state-rights and autonomy after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, early in the Thirty Years' War, to be placed under the centralized rule of Vienna. By 1848, Czech nobles wanted to reassert their traditional rights and privileges ante-1620, while the rising Czech bourgeois demanded natural rights. As a result, by 1861, the two groups came together to stress historic and national rights. After the 1867 Ausgleich, which created the dualistic Austria-Hungary, the emperor agreed in principle to a Bohemian Ausgleich that would have further federalized the empire. At this juncture, Kawamura delves into great detail about the negotiations between the Vienna government and the Czechs resulting in a plan that would eventually change the structure of the entire empire. However, Foreign Minister von Beust, Hungarian nobleman Gyula Andrassy, and Austrian-German liberals scuttled the idea by voicing unjustifiable concerns. Von Beust, a Saxon in Habsburg service, persuasively argued that such an Ausgleich would change the monarchy's orientation to a pan-Slavic or pro-Russian one, thus endangering the new found friendship with the just created German empire. Count Andrassy foretold the end of Magyar domination in the Hungarian half of the empire, while the Austrian-German liberals liked Viennese centralism from the 1867 December constitution which granted them political and social dominance in the Austrian half of the empire. Furthermore, it was feared that the Austrian-German liberals might turn their loyalties from the Habsburgs to the Hohenzollerns if the Czechs won equal rights. Czech intransigence toward compromise sealed the fate of the Bohemian Ausgleich. Despite this failure, the collaboration between the two Czech groups led to the rise and maturity of modern Czech nationalism in the second half of the nineteenth century, which resulted in the creation of Czechoslovakia after the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918.

The book, an abridged version of Kawamura's doctoral thesis, contains six chapters, each with several subsections making reading this, at times, dense, descriptive account an easy task. Czech titles and words are translated into English while German ones are not. Although this was once standard practice, few general readers will be able to understand the German titles. The author has included two maps and numerous illustrations offering a glimpse of the many players in the ill-fated talks. Kawamura also includes sixteen appendices of documents regarding the Bohemian Ausgleich in about forty pages. These documents, which offer further insight into the negotiations, include such items as "The Viennese Conference," "The Final Draft of the Fundamental Articles," "The Nationality Law," and the "Final Plan of the Second Imperial Rescript." These documents are important links to the narrative of the negotiations in the text. Despite the fact that the author has translated the titles of these documents into English, they are all in German. Overall, Kawamura's work is a welcome addition in English to the history and nationalism of the Czech lands and the overall history of East Central Europe.

Gregory C. Ference, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Salisbury University

Salisbury, Maryland


(1) Eric Fisher, "The Negotiations for a National Ausgleich in Austria in 1871," Journal of Central European Affairs 2 (1942):134-45.

(2) Alan Sked, The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire (London: Longman, 1989), 2.
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