Research Areas

This project aims to comprehensively research the conflicts in Central Europe during the long fifteenth century. In three thematic strands, it approaches (1) religious and ideological controversies, (2) conflicts surrounding members of the Luxembourg dynasty, and (3) social tensions and disputes. The peculiar situation in the Czech Lands after the Compactata treaty of 1436, which officially ended the Hussite wars, is understood as an ‘institutionalized conflict’. Despite the stabilized situation which allowed the evolution of an Estate system, neither party (Catholic nor Hussite) could accept the correctness of the other’s faith without jeopardizing their own legitimacy. Seen as intertwined issues, the strategies of conflict management employed by individual actors, the communicative and performative aspects of controversies, and the evolution of institutions in a divided society will render a more adequate and nuanced image of the Late Middle Ages in Central Europe as a contentious period.

1. Religious Controversy in the Long Fifteenth Century (coordination: P. Soukup)

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries witnessed an intentional fragmentation of intellectual traditions: “schools” of thought emerged, and the aim of intellectual activity shifted from the harmonization of knowledge to the assertion of arguments. The complexity of major conflicts, especially during the Great Schism, increased the importance of intellectuals. The authors of polemics and proposals for conflict resolution had to anticipate the broader political and societal implications of their disputes.
The Hussite controversy reflects these general trends. At the same time, however, the position of the Hussites in the late medieval and early modern religious landscape remains obscure and ambiguous. The most useful explanatory model to date is that of the fifteenth-century “multiple options”, portraying the Roman Church as an institution that accommodated various religious energies and allowed for the pursuit of individual choices. However, the Hussite case cannot be easily harmonized with this model: except for a short-lived interlude, the fifteenth-century Church excluded the Hussites rather then integrating them. Nevertheless, the Hussite dissidents were able to establish themselves as an ecclesiastical and socio-political entity in Bohemia and Moravia. Although the case for the “reformation quality” of post-Compactata Utraquism has already been made convincingly, classifying Hussitism as a Reformation has not been universally accepted in international scholarship.
The researchers of Module 1 analyse the development and significance of religious disputes of the Hussite period. The results should help us to better understand the place of Hussitism and its emerging ecclesiastical institutions in contemporary Latin Christendom. Individual projects deal with the international position of Hussitism, its internal fragmentation and conflicts, and the impact of both factors on the bi-confessional society of the Czech Lands.

  • The crusades against the Hussites: Conflict management in late medieval Latin Christendom (Pavel Soukup)
  • Religious and political negotiations between the Hussites and the Council of Basel, 1431-1437 (Dušan Coufal)
  • Conflicts and compromise between Hussite groups (Pavlína Cermanová)
  • Revolutionary violence in the Hussite movement (Martin Pjecha)
  • Imperfect conflict resolution: The Compactata of 1436 as a driving force of disputes (Adam Pálka)

2. King and Conflict (coordination: K. Hübner)

In older constitutional history, late medieval kings were assigned only one role in conflicts – that of a peace-keeper seeker, fully aware of the regime-threatening dimension of long-term quarrels but also in control of the means of its solution. With the appreciation of the political and social radicalization during Wenceslas IV’s and Sigismund’s rule over Central Europe (1378-1437), we gain a much more realistic assessment of a king’s real options in conflict management. The perpetuated disputes of these decades challenged rulers in different ways: they suddenly had to act as detached, but sought referees or active conciliators. The kings became heirs to their predecessor’s latent conflicts, or they knowingly caused new conflicts. Long-term conflicts could become existential (or even physical) threats to the king himself, his public reputation, or the authority of the dynasty. Most of the perpetuated quarrels of the time (i.e. controversies with the Bohemian nobles, the Hussites, the succession questions in Hungary or Poland) challenged the usual strategies of resolution, and opened the matter to improvisation. The accumulation of partial, often unstable solutions (win-lose), or even situations of political impasse (lose-lose) indicates the foundation of alternative approaches.
The evolving means of conflict resolution constitute the focus of the module “King and Conflict”. Its research concentrates on the following thematic areas: 1. the impact of long-term disputes on the implementation of new political procedures; 2. the agents responsible for the adaptation of strategies (the king, his advisers, diplomats, and lawyers); 3. communication in conflicts and the role of explicit or implicit political intentions; the preferred media, their material aspects and language; and the effects on public opinion and historiography.

  • Rex arbiter – the arbitrating panel as an institution of King Sigismund’s policy in the Holy Roman Empire (Petr Elbel)
  • Constrained Royal Authority: the Conflict Between Sigismund of Luxembourg and the Hungarian Aristocracy, 1382-1403 (Janos Incze)
  • Money in Controversies: Financial Aspects of Late Medieval Conflicts (Stanislav Bárta)
  • Politics of Conflict? Kings and Emperors of the Romans as Rulers of Regnum Italiae, 1378-1437 (Ondřej Schmidt)
  • The Teutonic Order and Sigismund of Luxembourg in the dynastic quarrels in the period of Wladislaus Jagiello, 1386-1434 (Přemysl Bar)
  • A self-intoxicating dynasty: The political and ideological dimensions of the quarrel between King Wenceslas IV, Margrave Jobst of Moravia, and Sigismund of Hungary, ca. 1390-1419 (Klara Hübner)
  • Permanent struggles. The Swiss Confederation, the Empire and their Kings in the Luxemburg century, 1350-1450 (Heinrich Speich)

3. Seeking a New Order: Conflict as a Catalyst of Social Transformations (coordination: R. Novotný)

Great conflicts bring with them the introduction of new social configurations. Their duration and changing shape are formed by the contradicting interests of actors, whether attempting to maintain the status quo, or the restitution of the status ante. Thus, conflict latently continues, though in different spheres of activity, by different means, or through different interested parties. The situation in the Czech Lands during the fifteenth century is a typical example of this process. The Hussite Revolution initiated a complex transformation in the social, religious, economic, and partially, the national spheres, and the process of social reconciliation lasted the entire fifteenth century. The existence of two faiths, the rise or fall of individual social strata, the changes in property ownership, and population transfers created such a huge potential for future conflict that it was impossible to solve it with traditional instruments. In the sphere of social practice, therefore, we are able to observe the gradual institutionalization of the conflict, which created a satisfactory framework for cohabitation in Bohemian society.
The functioning institutions needed to respect the new constellation of power in order to function in society. This is the case of the Land Diets, where the lower social strata—emancipated over the course of the revolution—were now also represented. It also includes the Land Court, which was penetrated by members of the lower nobility. District assemblies were newly established to reflect the political ambitions of lower nobles and towns; the expansion of the “landfried”, a rarely-used institution before the revolution, was related to district organization. Also developing was the culture of armistices and the institution of the “uberman”, a magistrate whose informal authority served as an overriding arbitrator of conflicts.
Aside from the resolution of conflicts on the practical level, the module examines the matter on the discursive level, which was equally important in the search for social order. As with every major conflict, Hussitism brought about the exponential growth of literary expressions, whose primary task was the defence of the views of individual actors or groups. The audience of the literary works notably expanded, a fact which is not simply explained by the naturally-higher interest in the socio-political events of the tumultuous period; the Hussite era simultaneously witnessed a great growth in education across all social strata. This allowed the elaboration of the identity and legitimacy of individual groups in literary texts. Even if this literary “war” on the one hand encouraged conflict, it also tempered its violent expression on the other.

  • Between the king and estates: The Land Court as an indicator of social transformations (Robert Novotný)
  • The King as a decisive element in a society in permanent conflict (Václav Žůrek)
  • Conflicts and their resolution in the late Middle Ages: The case of South Bohemia (Martin Nodl)
  • Historiographic literature as an instrument of contemporary conflicts (Vojtěch Bažant)
  • Old-Czech literary “disputes”: Representing and interpreting conflict (Martin Šorm)