Great Arches Viewed from the Coasts of Bohemia: Reflections Inspired by Tables of Kings


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Derek Sayer

Considering the differences between the superficial orderliness of the English/British table of royal succession and the apparent anarchy of its Bohemian counterpart, this essay ques- tions aspects of the analysis of English state formation offered in Philip Corrigan and Derek Sayer’s 1985 study The Great Arch: English State Formation as Cultural Revolution. Rather than providing a contrast to England’s institutional political continuities over centuries, Bohemia’s manifestly fractured history furnishes a vantage point from which the ideological character of such claimed historical continuities becomes clear. E. P. Thompson’s image of a “great arch” of state formation attributes far too much shape, solidity, and coherence to a process that was always, whether in England or Bohemia, a matter of flux and fluidity – a landscape in constant erosion, upon which coherence is only ever imposed in momentary retrospect.

Keywords: Bohemia, state formation, England, Britain, history, narratives, nationalism