23 May 2011

BCSA Book Launch

My knowledge of Czech/Slovak history is woeful considering how long I have been a member of the British Czech and Slovak Association (BCSA) but it got a little better at the launch of two books at the Czech Embassy.

Tomas Masaryk and Eduard Benes: Czechoslovakia by the historian Peter Neville of Kingston University is one of numerous titles in Haus Publishing's Makers of the Modern World series, and deals with the role of the two statesmen as champions of the independent state of the Czechs and Slovaks.

I learned how Masaryk's and Benes' experience of studying and/or working abroad was vital in building links with other European countries in the period immediately after the First World War and led to the formation of Czechoslovakia with the more or less borders that they wanted.

This, in turn, led to a country of 14m people of which over 3m were ethnic German and another large minority were Hungarian.

Exile In and From Czechoslovakia during the 1930s and 1940s, edited by Charmian Branson and Marian Malet of the University of London's Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, is the proceedings of the very successful conference held at the Institute in September 2003, at which distinguished experts examined every facet of the subject.

We were given an overview of some of the topics covered by the conference; immigration from Germany to Czechoslovakia in 1933, experiences of specific groups of exiles who came to Britain in 1938, i.e. children and musicians, and finally about some of the exiles who became famous here.

Czechoslovaks were 10 thousand of the 80 thousand that fled to Britain during the war.

The question and answer session after the talks went on for quite a while and could have gone on for a lot longer. I'm sure that this is a period that the BCSA will return to in another talk and I'll try to get to that one too.

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