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Iron Landscapes: Nation-Building and the Railways in Czechoslovakia, 1918-1938

Jeschke, FK; (2016) Iron Landscapes: Nation-Building and the Railways in Czechoslovakia, 1918-1938. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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In the 1920s and 1930s, Czechoslovakia created a national railway network out of the fragments of the obsolete Habsburg system. The main aim of the construction project was to create a connection from the previously Cisleithanian Bohemian Lands to the previously Hungarian territories of Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia. The study examines how this new network contributed to the discursive development of a Czechoslovak national space. The railways in the twentieth century have been neglected as a research topic, since, unlike in the nineteenth century, they no longer represented the shift to industrial modernity. However, the two trajectories of the railway discourse in the inter-war period still evolved around the notion of modernity. On the one hand, the railways were considered an instrument of national unification capable of overcoming the geographic and ethnic fragmentation of the country. In highly organic imagery, the railway lines between Slovakia and the Bohemian Lands were imagined as the backbone of a healthy nation-state, and thus as material confirmation of a pre-existing unity. At the same time, railway lines never stopped at national borders. Due to their transnational character, they were turned into a symbol of Czechoslovakia’s modern cosmopolitanism. The study shows how these often incongruous goals were negotiated by examining the following themes: the railway plans developed by the geographer Viktor Dvorský, the new railway lines in Slovakia, the national conflict on trains, the new railway stations in Hradec Králové and Uherské Hradiště, the country’s representation in travel writing, and the discourse around a Czechoslovak high-speed train. As a cultural history of infrastructure, it uses a variety of sources that include ministerial documents, press clippings, contemporary travel literature and newsreels. The study thus not only contributes to literature on nationalism, but also to a spatial history of inter-war Czechoslovakia.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Iron Landscapes: Nation-Building and the Railways in Czechoslovakia, 1918-1938
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1476693
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