Realism, Tolerance, and Liberalism in the Czech National Awakening reevaluates the formation of modern Czech intellectual and political culture. In this meticulous intellectual history, Zdeněk V. David traces the roots of the eighteenth-century Czech National Awakening, not to the Counter Reformation but to the Utraquist church (often called “Hussite”), which arose in pre-Protestant Bohemia. Utraquist ideas advancing realism, liberalism, and tolerance were, he shows, rediscovered, republished, and rearticulated by the Awakeners.

David’s thesis directly challenges the notion that the Czech National Awakening promoted a folkloric, linguistic, Romantic culture. Ultimately, he argues, the Utraquist legacy and its transmission by the Awakeners contributed to democratic vigor in twentieth-century Czechoslovakia.

Zdeněk V. David is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and was the Center’s longtime librarian. He is the author of Finding the Middle Way: The Utraquists’ Liberal Challenge to Rome and Luther.



1. The Czech National Awakening and the Bohemian Reformation in Recent Historiography

2. Tolerance, Universalism, and Plebeianism as Legacies of the Sixteenth Century

3. Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Enlightenment: An Acute Antithesis

4. Catholic Enlightenment and Utraquism: A Liberal Symbiosis

5. The Czech National Awakening as a Renaissance

6. The Bohemian Fate of Johann Gottfried Herder

7. The Roots of Resistance to German Idealism

8. Bolzano: Against Kant, Fichte, and Schelling

9. Hegel’s Collision with the Catholic Enlightenment in Bohemia

10. Bohemian Anti-Hegelianism: Slovak Contrast and Polish Paradox

11. Liberal Thought and the Authoritarian Church

Epilogue: The Global Legacy of Bohemian Anti-Hegelianism


“This is a formidable piece of scholarship. It offers a clearly conceptualized argument spanning several centuries, a plethora of intellectual cultures, and innumerable authors and texts in multiple languages. The historical depth of David’s argument and the incredible breadth of his repertoire will make this a widely read and very significant book.”—Kveta Benes, College of William and Mary

“This book reflects impressive erudition. The research has obviously been a labor of love and close application.”—Paul Shore, Boston College

“Readers with a background in high intellectual history will be richly rewarded.”—Choice

“A model of clarity in its structure and language…. David’s study is valuable stimulus for those looking for another approach to the themes be broaches, and an important addition to historical understanding.”—Patrick Hayden-Roy, Church History

“It exhibits tremendous erudition, deep reading of the sources, and expansive knowledge.”—Thomas A. Fudge, Catholic Historical Review

“Zdeněk V. David's magisterial study of the philosophical and political antecedents of the Czech National Awakening marks a major departure from current academic opinion on the subject. David’s thesis is that the Czech awakeners of the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century found their primary inspiration for their liber and ‘realism’ program in the middle-ground, irenic reform movement of the sixteenth century known as Utraquism.”—Alfred Thomas, Slavic Review

“[David] has established himself as a leading student of the Bohemian Reformation…. In the present volume, David develops themes from his earlier work in two major directions, to far-reaching and unexpected conclusions. One direction leads David, with his customary scholarly erudition and breadth, to an original contribution to the long-running polemic about ‘the meaning of Czech history.’ The other direction takes him even more audaciously through the development of a Central European, realist and empiricist ‘Austrian’ philosophical tradition that he contrasts with a metaphysical, idealist ‘German’ tradition.”—Hugh L. Andrew, KOSMAS

“This is an important and challenging work, likely to be challenged in its turn…. All, however, will benefit from considering and responding to David's arguments and conclusions.”—Hugh Agnew, Journal of Modern History

“Zdenek V. David has produced an extremely interesting, thought-provoking book on Czech history…. David's book is a must read for all those engaged in Czech studies.”—Andrew M. Drozd, Slavic and East European Journal