Czech History

500 - 1306: The Great Moravian Empire and the Přemyslid Dynasty
1310 - 1378: John of Luxembourg and Charles IV
1415 - 1526: The Hussite Era and George of Poděbrady
1526 - 1790: The Habsburg Dynasty to Joseph II
1790 - 1914: National Revival to World War I
1918 - 1945: The First Republic and World War II
1945 - 1989: The Communist Era
1989 - present: Velvet Revolution and Beyond

The Habsburg Dynasty to Joseph II

Ludwig Jagellon died in battle in 1526 and Ferdinand I of Habsburg took up the Czech throne, thus initiating the Habsburg rule over the country that lasted until 1918. Ferdinand strengthened the position of the king and firmly reinstated the Catholic religion in the country, which included the arrival of the Jesuits in Prague based upon his invitation. The seat of power moved to Vienna and the Prague Castle became more of a recreational site for the Habsburgs. It was reconstructed in the Renaissance style and the Royal Garden, the Belvedere, and the Ballgame Hall were added.

Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, was crowned the Czech king in 1576 and moved his court back to Prague in 1583, thus promoting Prague to the imperial seat of power again. This era is sometimes referred to as Prague's Second Golden Age. Rudolf was obsessed with art and science, not spending much time on his royal duties, and made Prague the center of science and alchemy. It was during his reign that Prague earned its nickname "Magic Prague". Rudolf's court attracted scientists and artists from all over Europe, including astronomers Tycho de Brahe and Johannes Kepler. The legend of the Golem comes from that time, too.

Rudolf's successor Matthias attempted to deprive the Protestants of the few freedoms they were left with since the Habsburgs took the throne, and this oppression resulted in another Protestant uprising. The rebellion started with the Second Defenestration of Prague in 1618 when several Matthias' governors were thrown out of a window of the Prague Castle (they landed on a pile of garbage and survived). The protests culminated in the Battle of the White Mountain (bitva na Bílé hoře) in 1620 in which the Protestants were severely defeated by the Habsburgs. The Battle of the White Mountain resulted in the Thirty Years' War that spread across Europe. 27 Protestant leaders were executed on the Old Town Square in May 1621 and all religions except Catholic were banned. The Czech language and national consciousness were suppressed for the next 150 years. Prague lost its importance and the Prague Castle deteriorated. This period in Czech history is referred to as the Dark Age (doba temna).

The situation started improving with Marie Therese who ruled the Austrian Empire from 1740 to 1780. She and her son and successor Joseph II (1780-1790) brought some needed reforms that included reducing the power of the Catholic Church, expelling the Jesuits from the country in 1773, and issuing the Edict of Tolerance in 1781, which granted political and religious rights to religious minorities. The four independent urban areas of Prague (Old Town, Malá Strana, Hradčany, and New Town) were united by Joseph II in 1784. Josefov (named after the emperor) was added to the Prague's historical center in 1850.

In 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited Prague and was the guest of the Dušeks, leading Czech musicians, at their villa Bertramka. His opera Don Giovanni had its premiere at the Estates Theatre.

Related books on

- Rudolf II and Prague: The Court and the City
- The School of Prague: Painting at the Court of Rudolf II
- The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815
- The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918: A History of the Austrian Empire...
- The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 1815 - 1918 (2nd Edition)

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