This is the first comprehensive study in English of Czech society and politics in the High Middle Ages. It paints a vivid portrait of a flourishing Christian community in the decades between 1050 and 1200. Bohemia's social and political landscape remained remarkably cohesive, centered on a throne in Prague, the Premyslid duke who occupied it, a society of property-owning freemen, and the ascendant Catholic church. In decades fraught with political violence, these provided a focal point for Czech identity and political order. In this, the Czechs' heavenly patron, Saint Vaclav, and the German emperor beyond their borders too had a role to play.
An impressive, systematic dissection of a medieval polity, Hastening Toward Prague is based on a close rereading of written and material artifacts from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Arguing against a view that puts state or nation formation at heart, Wolverton examines interactions among dukes, emperors, freemen, and the church on their own terms, asking what powers the dukes of Bohemia possessed and how they were exercised within a broader political community. Evaluating not only the foundations and practice of ducal lordship but also the form and progress of resistance to it, she argues in particular that violence was not a sign of political instability but should be interpreted as reflecting a dynamic economy of checks and balances in a fluid, mature political system. This also reveals the values and strategies that sustained the Czech Lands as a community. The study honors the complexity and dynamism of the medieval exercise of power.
Lisa Wolverton teaches history at University of Oregon.
"An exemplary piece of work. . . . [Hastening Toward Prague] will interest any medieval, political, or social historian who picks it up and starts reading. It is beautifully written, clear, even elegant."—William Chester Jordan, Princeton University