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Politics of Ethnic Survival

Germans in Prague, 1861-1914

by Gary Cohen

Publication Year: 2006

This book examines how one of Imperial Austria's principal ethnic conflicts, that between Czechs and Germans, developed in one of the major cities during the era of industrialization and urban growth. It shows how the inhabitants of Prague, the capital of Bohemia, constructed and articulated ethnic group loyalties and social solidarities over the course of the nineteenth century. The German-speaking inhabitants of the Bohemian capital developed a group identification and defined themselves as a minority as they dealt with growing Czech political and economic strength in the city and with their own sharp numerical decline: in the 1910 census only seven percent of the metropolitan population claimed that they spoke primarily German.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Title page

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Maps, Tables, and Plates

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pp. vii-x

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A Note on Place Names and Czech References

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pp. xi-xii

Like so much else in public discourse, place names became a hotly contested issue in the nationalist disputes of Central Europe during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is not the purpose of this study to take sides in the old contests about which language to use for the names of places. For the sake of practicality, the current-day Czech designations...

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xiii-xiv

It is a rare privilege to publish a revised edition of a scholarly book twenty-five years after the first edition appeared. When I first published this study of the German minority of Prague in 1981, studies of ethnicity and nationalism in the Habsburg Monarchy focused on the ideology of the national movements and on parliamentary and electoral...

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pp. xv-xvi

Over the years a number of individuals and institutions provided critical assistance, enabling me to complete this study. Three historians in particular offered vital guidance during the formative stages. Carl E. Schorske supervised the original doctoral dissertation, and he brought...


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pp. xvii-xviii


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pp. xix-xx

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pp. 1-17

Historians of the Habsburg Monarchy during the nineteenth century have long concerned themselves with the political and social conflicts of the national groups in the monarchy. For decades before the final collapse in 1918, observers blamed the bitter national contests for making the polity increasingly ungovernable. Later, scholars cited the national...

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Chapter One: From Bohemians to Czechs and Germans

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pp. 18-40

In the late nineteenth century, leaders of Prague’s German community developed elaborate historical justifications for their presence in the city and their insistence on political and social recognition. This was part of a larger effort to cultivate a strong German group identity and stem the minority’s decline. German spokesmen contrasted the unpleasant realities of life as a beleaguered...

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Chapter Two: A German Community Emerges, 1861–1879

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pp. 41-64

German group life emerged in Prague after 1861 with the creation of an elaborate network of voluntary associations. Common language and education, commitment to the special status of Germans in Bohemia and Austria, and a strong need to defend their own local position gave the German groups...

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Chapter Three: The Demographic Realities

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pp. 65-104

The critical importance of numbers has become a commonplace in the ethnic conflicts of our era, but statistics on ethnic loyalties first attracted public attention in the Habsburg Monarchy during the 1880s and 1890s. Reforms of the Cisleithanian suffrage in 1883 and 1897 and increasing government...

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Chapter Four: Defense of the Liberal Community

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pp. 105-136

The German community in Prague assumed a new defensive stance in the early 1880s. The middle-class Germans had already faced political challenges from Czech nationalists and clerical-conservatives in the two preceding decades, but German liberal control of the Austrian government and Austrian Germans’ economic strength had given the Prague minority...

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Chapter Five: The German Lower Strata, 1883–1897

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pp. 137-169

The liberal community found it difficult to increase the numbers of lowerstrata Germans in Prague and engage them in liberal group life. Poorly qualified employees, workers, and their dependents comprised around one-third of the German-speaking citizens of Prague and the inner suburbs after 1880. Their total numbers ranged from around 13,000 in 1880 to about 10,000 in 1900. Yet they were too mobile and too thinly dispersed in the poorer districts to be easily reached...

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Chapter Six: The Decline of Liberal Society, 1897–1914

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pp. 170-200

The development of Austrian society and politics entered a new phase in the 1890s as the masses began to find their own voice in public affairs. Together, mass politics, advancing industrialization, and the consolidation of great modern urban centers transformed public life. Willingly or not, the lower middle classes and workers had previously...

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Conclusion: Ethnic Identity, Group Solidarity, and Historical Change

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pp. 201-210

The history of Prague demonstrates how the German-speaking urban elites in Austria’s linguistically mixed territories developed ethnic identity and group solidarity during the nineteenth century. Previously, most of the cities and larger towns in the Czech and Slovene areas had a corporate social structure dominated by German-speakers drawn from the...

Appendix I: Statistical Procedures

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pp. 211-214

Appendix II: Supplementary Tables

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pp. 215-224


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pp. 225-286


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pp. 287-324


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pp. 325-332

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490588
E-ISBN-10: 1612490581
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557534040
Print-ISBN-10: 1557534047

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Prague (Czech Republic) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Prague (Czech Republic) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Germans -- Czech Republic -- Prague -- History -- 20th century.
  • Germans -- Czech Republic -- Prague -- History -- 19th century.
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