Introduction to the History of East-Central Europe

This course introduces students to the major themes and events of the History of East-Central Europe from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Through close readings of primary sources students will draw their own conclusions on a number of major issues that divide specialists on the region. We will explore in particular the nature of Enlightened absolutism, the ideologies behind the 1848 revolutions, the rise of nationalism, the collapse of interwar democracies, and the modalities of power under state socialism.


Required Texts

Derek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History. Princeton  N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Paul Robert Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002.


Discussions of Primary Sources


Medieval states and Christianity

                       Lives of Cyril and Methodius

Jan Hus and Charles IV

                       Letters of John Hus

Catherine II

                       Writings of Catherine II

Frederick II

                       Writings of Frederick II

Maria Theresa

                       Writings of Maria Theresa

Joseph II

                       Writings of Joseph II

Poland and the Enlightenment

                        J. J. Rousseau, The Government of Poland

                       Polish Constitution of 1791

Polish Partitions

                       Writings of the Partitioning Monarchs

Polish Revolts

                       Nicholas I, Imperial Manifesto on Poland

Greek independence

                       Byron, Cephalonia Journal

                       Treaty of London

Frankfurt National Assembly

                       Statistics on standards of living

                       Paulskirche Constitution

                       Marx and Engels, Neue Rheinische Zeitung articles

Slavic Assemblies

                       František Palacký, Letter to Frankfurt

                       Marx & Engels, “The Prague Uprising”

                       Polish Democratic Society, Address to Frankfurt

Revolt in Budapest

                       Petofi, The National Song of Hungary

                       Louis Kossuth, Speech in Washington DC

Danubian Principalities

                       Avram Iancu, Letters

                       Nicolae Bălcescu, Writings

Romantic Nationalism

                       Herder, On the Origin of Language

                       Herder, Philosophy of the History of Man

National Music

                       Béla Bartók, Essays

                       Smetana, My Homeland

                       Bohlman, The Music of European Nationalism

National literatures

                       Njegoš, The Mountain Wreath

                       Eminescu, Doina

                       Mickiewicz, Crimean Sonnets


                       Iorga, A History of Romania

                       Lelewel, A History of Poland

National Art



                       Statistics on education in Vienna

                       Arnold Zweig, The Face of East European Jewry

                       Istóczy, Jews, the Iron Ring around our Necks

Religious identities

                       Ionescu, On Being a Good Romanian

                       Staniloae“Theological Interpretation of the Nation”

                       Excerpts from Bjork, Neither German Nor Pole

German unification

                       Bismark, Reflections

                       Treitschke, History of Germany

Habsburg Disintegration

                       Constitution of the Black Hand

                       Karl Kraus, Selections

                       Hašek, The Good Soldier Svek

Nation states

                       Pittsburgh Agreement

                       Polish Minorities Treaty

                       Constitution of the Hungarian Soviet Republic

Imperial Nostalgia

                       Roth, Bust of the Emperor                 


                       Masaryk, The Making of a State

                       Cuza, On Democracy


                       Von Salomon, The Outlaws



                       Kafka, The Penal Colony


                       Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality

                       Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

                       Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism


                       Codreanu, For My Legionaries

                       Mota, “To the Icon!”


                       Szálasi, Hungarianism

World War II

                       Klukowski, Diary from the Years of Occupation

Rise of Communism

                       Pătrăşcanu, Speeches

Resistance to Communism

                       Film: Ashes to Diamonds

Reinventing culture

                       Galaction, Journal

                       Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation

Everyday socialism

                       Film: Man of Marble


                       Kundera, The Joke


                       Havel, “The Power of the Powerless”



Essay One

Was the “Enlightened despotism” of monarchs in East-Central Europe an attempt to reform outdated systems or a reactionary attempt to hold onto power in a changing world?


Balázs, Éva H. Hungary and the Habsburgs, 1765-1800. Budapest: Central European University Press, 1997. pp. 22-27.

Beales, Derek. Enlightenment and Reform in Eighteenth-Century Europe. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. pp. 7-21.

Kann, Robert A. A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. pp. 174-187.

Ingrao, Charles W. The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. pp. 150-209.

Israel, Jonathan I. Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. pp. 295-305.

Wandycz, Piotr S. The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present. London: Routledge, 2001. pp. 105-134

Wilson, Peter H. Absolutism in Central Europe. London: Routledge, 2000. pp. 109-111.

Wuthnow, Robert. Communities of Discourse: Ideology and Social Structure in the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and European Socialism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. pp. 291-299.


Essay Two

What did the revolutionaries in Germany and the Habsburg Empire really want in 1848?


Evans, R. J. W. “1848-1849 in the Habsburg Monarchy,” in R. J. W. Evans and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann eds. The Revolutions in Europe, 1848-1849: From Reform to Reaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. pp. 181-205.

Freifeld, Alice. Nationalism and the Crowd in Liberal Hungary, 1848-1914. Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2000. pp. 58-87.

Namier, Lewis. 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1964. pp. 27-39.

Sked, Alan. The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire 1815-1918. London: Longman, 1989. pp. 53-60.

Taylor, A. J. P., The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of Germany since 1815. New York: Capricorn Books, 1962. pp. 65-89.

Vick, Brian E. Defining Germany: The 1848 Frankfurt Parliamentarians and National Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. pp. 19-43, 206-218.

Wandycz, Piotr S. The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present. London: Routledge, 2001. pp. 156-165.


Essay Three

Why did East Central Europeans abandon old ways of identifying themselves (such as religion, locality, class) and embrace national identities during the nineteenth century?


Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991. pp. 6-44.

Bjork, James E. Neither German nor Pole: Catholicism and National Indifference in a Central European Borderland. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2008. Pp. 1-9, 77-89.

Brown, Kate. A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. Pp. 38-47.

Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983. pp. 53-58.

Himka, John-Paul. Galician Villagers and the Ukrainian National Movement in the Nineteenth Century. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1988. pp. 204-215.

Popova, Irina. “Representing National Territory: Cartography and Nationalism in Hungary, 1700-1848,” in Nancy M. Wingfield ed. Creating the Other: Ethnic Conflict and Nationalism in Habsburg Central Europe. New York: Berghahn, 2003. pp. 19-30.

Sherwood, Peter. “‘A nation may be said to live in its language’: Some Socio-historical Perspectives on Attitudes to Hungarian,” in Robert B. Pynsent ed. The Literature of Nationalism: Essays on East European Identity. Basingstoke: Houndmills, 1996. pp. 27-37.

Stauter-Halsted. The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848-1914. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. pp. 185-215.


Essay Four

Why did democracy fail in East Central Europe during the interwar period?


Berend, Ivan T. Decades of Crisis: Central and Eastern Europe before World War II. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. pp. 185-202.

Borsody, Stephen. The New Central Europe. Boulder: East European Monographs, 1993. pp. 49-58.

Crampton, R. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century.  London: Routledge, 1997. pp. 31-38.

Davies, Norman. God’s Playground: A History of Poland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. pp. 393-426.

Kirk, Tim. Nazism and the Working Class in Austria: Industrial Unrest and Political Dissent in the “National Community.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. pp. 30-43.

Laqueur, Walter. Fascis : Past, Present, Future. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. pp. 16-27.

Mann, Michael. The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. pp. 61-69.

Riley, Dylan J. The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe: Italy, Spain, and Romania, 1870-1945. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. pp. 120-140.


Essay Five

How was power reorganized and redistributed in East Central Europe under state socialism?


Abrams, Bradley F. The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. pp. 276-288.

Bucur, Maria. Heroes and Victims : Remembering War in Twentieth-century Romania. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,  2009. pp. 165-171

Connelly, John. Captive University: The Sovietization of East German, Czech and Polish Higher Education, 1945-1956. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. pp. 208-214.

Crampton, R. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century.  London: Routledge, 1997. pp. 240-254.

Kenney, Padraic. Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945-1950. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997. pp. 204-229.

Kenney, Padraic. A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe, 1989. Princeton  N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003. pp. 7-11

Kligman, Gail, and Katherine Verdery. Peasants Under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. Pp. 408-415.

Shore, Marci. Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. pp. 305-314.

Verdery, Katherine. What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? Princeton  N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996. pp. 19-30.

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