Austro-German Liberalism and Bohemian State Rights, 1861-1879
This article aims to investigate the viewpoint of the Austro-German liberal movement – both ideologically and practically – towards the arguments for Bohemian state rights made by the conservative Bohemian Great Landowners and Czech political parties in the period from 1861 to 1879. The February Patent of 1861 is a convenient starting point because it reintroduced representative bodies to the Habsburg Monarchy and facilitated the development of modern democratic politics. The 1879 parliamentary election is this article’s end point since it constituted a significant turning point in Austrian and Bohemian politics. The Austro-German liberals lost the majority in central parliament while the conservative Bohemian Great Landowners and Czech parties attended parliament after a sixteen-year absence, joining the conservative-Slav coalition supporting the government. The principal argument is that while the Austro-German liberals (particularly the Bohemian-German faction) were generally opposed to Bohemian state rights, this must be qualified by the genuine desire for compromise (under certain conditions), considerable tactical flexibility and the wider Imperial context. Chronologically, the article focuses on key parliamentary debates to illustrate the changing relations: the fluid 1860s, the crucial period from 1867 to 1871 (when there was a real possibility of Bohemian state rights) through to the turning point of 1879.