Petr Vorel
Helena History Press, 274 pages


The mid 16th century represents a turning point in the history of Central Europe. The power politics of Emperor Charles V of Habsburg, culminating in the first phase of the military conflict with the opposition within the Holy Roman Empire (1546-1547), after a short time ran up against the effective resistance of protestant princes, who after the subsequent military victory (1552) used diplomacy to force the emperor to accept the Lutheran reformation (1555). After the subsequent abdication of Charles V, the main activities of Habsburg politics within the empire were taken over by his younger brother Ferdinand I., then King of Bohemia. 

Up to now the historiography, which in the case of the central European power crisis of the mid 16th century focuses primarily on the confessional and political dimension of this conflict, has not taken the significance of the Kingdom of Bohemia (nowadays Czech Republic) into consideration in the given contexts. This is the result of the fact that the Bohemian estates did fulfill neither the mandate of their king, nor the requests of the Lutheran German princes for military aid. The relatively strong Bohemian estates army did not in the end participate in 1547 on the Habsburg side even on the Saxon side. 

But why? What really happened in Bohemia at that time? Was it the betrayal of Lutheran co-religionists in the Empire and former political allies on the domestic political scene, or the statesmen’s prudence, that prevented the country’s military devastation? How is it possible that, for the following several decades, after the Estates opposition was suppressed by King Ferdinand in the year 1547, the Kingdom of Bohemia experienced a long period of peace, unusually extensive religious freedom and extraordinary economic prosperity, even accompanied by the transfer of the Emperor’s permanent residence to Prague (in 1583)? Why, for the Bohemian royal towns which were stripped of all their assets and had their political power removed in 1547, does the second half of the 16th century represent a time of extraordinary internal cultural and structural development? Also, the Unity of the Brethren, whose members were expelled from Bohemia in 1547, represented the most important and well-organized political power in the country just half a century later. How is it possible that the Bohemian political elites, weakened by monarchal sanctions in the year 1547, managed to reject the principle of the so-called Religious Peace of Augsburg of 1555 a few years later? Why, instead of politically-enforced confessionalization, commonly applied in the Holy Roman Empire, did the Kingdom of Bohemia offer the already confessionally-broken Christian Europe its own solution: Charter on Religious Freedom (1609)?

This book does not offer any simple solution. Nevertheless, it can contribute to the understanding of the deeper roots of the complicated situation in Central Europe two generations later (at the start of the 17th century), when the Bohemian Estates and the Prague intellectual political centre became (for the last time in its long existence) a driving force of “great” European history.

About the Author:

Petr Vorel: is a Czech historian, who serves as the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Pardubice. He holds a PhD in history and Russian studies from Charles University in Prague where he also serves as an external lecturer. He headed the Association of Historians of the Czech Republic for several years, and serves as editor in chief of Theatrum Historiae, a scientific journal published by the University of Pardubice since 2006. 

Professionally Dr.Vorel deals mainly with Czech history of the early modern period, its nobility and the history of banking. He is considered an expert in numismatic history and was the organizer of an exhibition Thousand Year Tradition of Czech Currency from X to XXI Century organized by the Czech Center of New York. In 2000 he received the Egon Erwin Kisch Award for his book, Lords of Pernštejn.