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Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria Hardcover – January 31, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0674023253 ISBN-10: 0674023250

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Editorial Reviews


A significant contribution to the literature on the Habsburg Empire, its successor states, and German nationalism, Guardians of the Nation provides a useful antidote to misleading interpretations of the Empire as a 'nationalist quagmire.' Judson's lively, engaging, and witty writing makes this book not only a pleasure to read but also easily accessible. His argument, that even in an age of widespread nationalist rhetoric many people continued to be nationally indifferent or ambivalent, will be controversial. But his conclusions are so well documented and convincingly presented that many a skeptic will be forced to rethink how nationalism worked in central Europe and, more importantly, how it did not work. (Alison Frank, Harvard University)

A highly original book that shows how nationalist activists worked to bring their vision of well-defined national loyalties and a sharp separation of national groups to the population in linguistically mixed rural districts of Habsburg Central Europe. In clear, vivid language, Pieter Judson shows how nationalist activists tried to create clear-cut linguistic frontiers and national borderlands as political realities where they had not existed before. This impressive contribution will evoke great interest. (Gary B. Cohen, University of Minnesota)

Here is refreshingly readable, responsibly revisionist history. Pieter Judson ranges over the arts, consumer culture, colonization schemes, the Jewish question, village violence, and small-town tragicomedy to make new sense of national conflict­-and national indifference­-within the mental landscape of the imperial Austrian language frontier. Readers interested in nationalism, political rhetoric, or material culture and the history of everyday life will join historians of modern Europe in finding Guardians of the Nation top notch: crystal clear, masterful, imaginative, and wise. (Jeremy King, author of Budweisers into Czechs and Germans)

Pieter Judson has written a remarkable book that shows how natural non-national identities in the borderlands of Austria-Hungary seemed. He invites us into a world where bilingualism was the norm, not the exception, and where German and Slavic speakers sent their children into each other's homes and schools. This is a major achievement­-fiercely original and brilliantly conceived­-that will revise accepted orthodoxies concerning the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy, the salience of nationalism to the real life of the linguistic borderlands, and the purported ubiquity of national identities. (Helmut Walser Smith, Vanderbilt University)

Guardians of the Nation is a brilliant book. Once again, Pieter Judson has compelled us to rethink our most basic historical assumptions about nations, nationality, and nationalism in the Habsburg monarchy. His penetrating and original analysis of the politics of language, the complexity of rural society, and the concept of the 'frontier' makes this book essential reading for every scholar and student of modern European history. (Larry Wolff, New York University)

Judson's sophisticated analysis offers a significant modernist contribution to the debate over the historical depth of national consciousness among Europe's peasantry. (P. G. Wallace Choice 2007-11-01)

Nationalists within the [Austrian] empire did their best to upset and even to destroy the long established cohabitation of diverse groups in such regions where people spoke two or more languages. Judson proves that the undoing of mutual tolerance was not the fault of the locals, who must be regarded more as victims than as perpetrators, but that of outsiders from urban areas who considered the conquest of every schoolhouse, city hall, and farm a major victory for their ‘nationality’. For the nationalists, it was a life-and-death struggle between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between Czechs and Germans, Slovenes and Germans, as well as Italians and Germans...Well equipped in terms of theoretical knowledge and familiarity with the historical literature which reflects assiduous archival research and a fine writing style, Judson has created a first-class study in nationalism. (Istvan Deak International History Review 2007-09-01)

About the Author

Pieter M. Judson is Professor of History at Swarthmore College.

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