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At the margin of community: Germans in pre-Hussite Bohemia

Scales, L.E.

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Abstract

Arguably, the single most important dimension in the existence of any community, medieval or modern, is its members' shared conviction that it exists, and that its existence represents a significant bond between them. The central and later Middle Ages have been viewed as a period of particular importance for the growth of such self-consciousness - and for its growth, particularly among those large political communities which Susan Reynolds suggests we call ‘regnal’, and which many medievalists appear happy to refer to as ‘national’. As Reynolds showed, communities of this sort evolved legitimising mythologies which overlay existing structures of government with notions of ancient and primal ethnic solidarity, and thus placed such communities, imaginatively, outside the normal processes of contingency and change. Challenging questions therefore arise if we call to mind the many new political formations which were established during this period, which saw the extension into neighbouring regions, by both violent and peaceful means, of the political and social forms characteristic of continental western Europe. The new settlements had not only to be organised and defended physically, but also explained and justified. A vocabulary of argument thus evolved to account for their existence and to illuminate their relationships with existing political and social structures. In formulating this vocabulary, however, writers were con-fronted by the strong impulse in medieval thought to lay upon all significant communities a veneer of timelessness, or at least of antiquity. How this obstacle was overcome for particular new communities doubtless has many specific answers. But an obstacle it must surely have been, and the study of how — or whether — it was surmounted in any given instance is thus inherently worth while.

Citation

Scales, L. (1999). At the margin of community: Germans in pre-Hussite Bohemia. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 9, 327-352. https://doi.org/10.2307/3679408

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 1999-12
Journal Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
Print ISSN 0080-4401
Electronic ISSN 1474-0648
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Pages 327-352
DOI https://doi.org/10.2307/3679408