Most helpful positive review
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive in scope, energetic and engaging in style
on August 7, 2005
I really enjoyed this book, which is a comprehensive and fast-moving account of the history of the Czechs and their lands.
I teach (management) with the International Program of an American university in Prague. My students are almost all Czech and I greatly admire them and love the magical city of Prague. To help me understand my students and their context, I learned Czech and read Czech history pretty extensively. My interests, which focus on the period from the creation of the First Republic (1918) until the Velvet Revolution (1988/9), are explored by many current history texts. However, while specific periods in Czech history are dealt with, a truly comprehensive history has not been available.
This is now remedied. What Hugh Agnew provides, is a very readable, fast-moving text that covers Czech history from the eighth century until the present. The book is excellently researched and the style, while erudite and flowing, is without any pedantic undertone. Of great importance, changing political and power patterns of a broader European region are explored and their impact on the Czech lands explained. This provides the reader with a wider focus and sets Czech historical developments within a European context; something that many histories fail to do, or fail to do adequately.
A second significant issue is that Agnew deals even-handedly with competing forces in the Czech political and power scene. There has been a tendency for many historians, especially earlier Czechs writers, to follow predetermined fault lines in approaching their subject. This is often reflected in stereotypical themes of Germanic influence and Czech efforts to counter this. While Agnew deals sympathetically with the renascence of Czech national identity and aspirations he preserves a fine degree of informed criticism and balance.
I greatly enjoyed reading Hugh Agnew's book and think that many will find that it provides a much-needed, complete, balanced, and enthusiastic overview of Czech politics and the evolution of national identity. It provides excellent coverage and material for multiple ways of expressing the evolution of the Czech lands and the growth of a distinctive Czech national identity.