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Throughout the nineteenth and into the early decades of the twentieth century, it was common for rural and working-class parents in the Czech-German borderlands to ensure that their children were bilingual by sending them to live with families who spoke the "other" language. As nationalism became a more potent force in Central Europe, however, such practices troubled pro-German and pro-Czech activists, who feared that the children born to their nation could literally be "lost" or "kidnapped" from the national community through such experiences and, more generally, by parents who were either flexible about national belonging or altogether indifferent to it.
Highlighting this indifference to nationalism―and concerns about such apathy among nationalists―Kidnapped Souls offers a surprising new perspective on Central European politics and society in the first half of the twentieth century. Drawing on Austrian, Czech, and German archives, Tara Zahra shows how nationalists in the Bohemian Lands worked to forge political cultures in which children belonged more rightfully to the national collective than to their parents. Through their educational and social activism to fix the boundaries of nation and family, Zahra finds, Czech and German nationalists reveal the set of beliefs they shared about children, family, democracy, minority rights, and the relationship between the individual and the collective. Zahra shows that by 1939 a vigorous tradition of Czech-German nationalist competition over children had created cultures that would shape the policies of the Nazi occupation and the Czech response to it.
The book's concluding chapter weighs the prehistory and consequences of the postwar expulsion of German families from the Bohemian Lands. Kidnapped Souls is a significant contribution to our understanding of the genealogy of modern nationalism in Central Europe and a groundbreaking exploration of the ways in which children have been the objects of political contestation when national communities have sought to shape, or to reshape, their futures.
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"Tara Zahra has written a pioneering work that brings together the most complex issues of nations and nationalism with the history of the family and the history of childhood. Focusing on Bohemia from the late Habsburg monarchy through World War II, this brilliantly conceived book illuminates our historical understanding of nationhood and childhood, their relation to one another, and the crucial importance of that relation for modern European history." --Larry Wolff, New York University, author of Inventing Eastern Europe
"In Kidnapped Souls, Tara Zahra reveals an incredible talent for archival sleuthing. She masterfully accomplishes what many historians neglect to attempt by giving voice to those very anonymous historical actors whose opinions and perspectives nationalists have labored to silence. Far from being too simple to merit attention, these parents and children, students and citizens had a nuanced and contextualized conception of 'nation' that historians must, if not admire and emulate, then at least acknowledge and seek to understand."--Alison Frank, Harvard University
"Tara Zahra tells us that the nationality struggle in the Czech lands was fierce because people did not care about nationality. But everyone--nationalist or not--cared about children,though often in harshly conflicting ways. From these original insights Zahra takes us through a half century of Central Europe's history, discovering and illuminating unknown stretches of modern nationalism's most heavily explored terrain. But she not only remaps her subject: she reconstitutes it."--John Connelly, University of California, Berkeley
"In Kidnapped Souls, Tara Zahra reconceptualizes significant parts of the Central European past. She engages productively with cutting-edge scholarship in several fields and deftly analyzes aspects of nationalism, childhood and the family, the European welfare state, and Nazism."--Jeremy King, Mount Holyoke College
"Kidnapped Souls brilliantly details how Czech and German nationalists attempted to claim, secure, and then mold children for their respective nations--often in the face of stiff resistance from nationally indifferent parents. Along the way, it offers thought-provoking analyses of the rise of the welfare state, interwar democracy, domestic life under Nazi rule, and the rise and fall of a forgotten political culture in the Bohemian Lands. Ambitious in its chronological breadth and supported by a dizzying array of archival sources, the book challenges historians of Europe to rethink many fundamental presumptions about the aims and successes of modern national movements."--Chad Bryant, The University of North Carolina at Chapel HillAbout the Author:
Tara Zahra is Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago.
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Book Description Cornell Univ Pr, 2008. Hardcover. Condition: Brand New. 2nd edition. 288 pages. 9.25x6.25x0.75 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # __0801446287
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