The View East

Central and Eastern Europe, Past and Present.

Cambridge Paper: (Re)Interpreting the Chodove Farmers’ Revolt.

I have recently been invited to present a paper at Cambridge University, as a guest speaker on one of their history seminar series. The full title of my paper, which I will present on 15th October, is ‘Good Hussites, Good Nationalists, Good Communists? (Re)Interpreting the Chodove ‘Farmers’ Revolt’ of 1693 in the Bohemian Borderlands’. The changing historiography and varying historical interpretations of this event is a fascinating topic, and I very much look forward to the opportunity to speak about this area of my research. A short, introductory synopsis to the paper follows below.

Good Hussites, Good Nationalists, Good Communists? (Re) Interpreting the Chodové ‘Farmers’ Revolt’ of 1693 in the Bohemian Borderlands.

In July 1693 the residents of Chodsko, a small region comprised of eleven villages on the south-western border between Bohemia and Bavaria, rose up in rebellion against their landlord, Wolf Maximillian Lamingen. Their revolt was short-lived and unsuccessful, being quickly and easily subdued by Habsburg forces. In one sense then, the Chod rebellion was rather unremarkable, forming part of a wider pattern of peasant disturbances erupting at this time, with revolts recorded in over 100 Bohemian estates in the latter seventeenth century. There were several elements that served to distinguish the aims and causes of the Chod rebellion from the more general peasant unease evident in the Habsburg lands at this time, however. The rising of 1693 was linked to the Chods’ previously independent and ‘privileged status’ in Bohemian society and their traditional, time honoured role as ‘guardians of the Bohemian borderland’, forming part of an ongoing struggle between the Chodové and the Bohemian authorities which spanned the previous 150 years.

In the intervening centuries, the significance of this ‘farmers’ revolt’ (as the 1693 rising came to be known) has been variously interpreted to correspond with and promote various dominant beliefs and ideologies, which has resulted in the events of 1693 attaining almost mythical status. Initially presented as constituting evidence of the manifestation of anti-Catholic sentiment and ongoing religious tensions in Bohemian society in the post-Hussite period, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the history of the Chodové was then ‘claimed’ by the growing Czech nationalist movement, which celebrated the Chodsko region as a bastion against German intrusion and portrayed the 1693 rebellion as symbolic of the emergent national struggle against ‘German oppression’. Finally, after the communist coup of 1948, the story of the ‘farmers’ revolt’ was widely promoted by communist propaganda as personifying class struggle, an example of the peasant masses rising up against their feudal masters. Since the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, it has been possible for more independent scholarly analysis and interpretation of the history of the Chodové to emerge. This paper will explore the significance of the 1693 ‘farmers’ revolt’ in light of the traditional role played by the Chodové on the Bohemian-Bavarian border and in relation to the growth of Habsburg dominance and the evolution of power relations between centre and periphery in central Europe during the early modern period.

Kelly Hignett

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments