Kawamura, Sugao. The Bohemian State-Law and the Bohemian Ausgleich.

Author:Ference, Gregory C.
Position:Book review

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...

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