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History in brief

History in brief

The first people came to the region and formed small settlements in the fertile lowlands of today’s Plzeň region in the Neolithic period, about 6,000 years ago.

The first people came to the region and formed small settlements in the fertile lowlands of today’s Plzeň region in the Neolithic period, about 6,000 years ago. Important ancient settlements of high cultural level are represented by the so-called Milaveč people from the early Bronze Age who left behind themselves grave-mound fields. The settlement found in Sedlo near Sušice is an excep­tion among the numerous fortified Celtic centres in the region in that it is located in the Šumava highlands. The first documented traces of Slavonic settlement are dated to the 7th century AD. Significant developments of the Berounka river basin took place in the early Middle Ages (till the first half of the 13th century) when the fortified settlement of the rul­ing Přemysl house in Stará Plzeň (Old Plzeň, now called Starý Plzenec) controlled the historical Plzeň district. One of the oldest historic sights in Plzeň is the Romanesque church of St Jiří. At that time, the historical Prácheň district in the Otava river basin at the foot of the Šumava mountains formed part of today’s Plzeň region.

   The economic and political developments of the region were significantly influ­enced by the Cistercian monasteries in Nepomuk and Plasy, the Benedictine monastery in Kladruby and the Premonstratensian convent in Chotěšov. The flourishing economy of the country in the Middle Ages gave rise to the Royal towns founded alongside the trading routes to Bavaria – Plzeň, Klatovy, Sušice, Stříbro and Domažlice. Among other things, the population of the region profited from extensive ore mining activities, includ­ing silver and gold mining.

   The Plzeň region played an important role in the Hussite revolutionary period. Two important battles that both brought victory to the Hussite troops took place there: near Tachov in 1427 and near Domažlice in 1431. The Hussites originally chose Plzeň, which they called “the Sun City”, for a centre of their movement. However, the Catholic forces eventually prevailed and the Hussites were driven out. The period of continued economic and cultural developments in the 16th century brought about further growth of both Royal and feudal towns.

    In 1599, to flee the plague raging in both Prague and Vienna, the Czech King and Roman and German Emperor Rudolf II and his court spent almost a whole year in Plzeň. The proud city was conquered only once – in 1618 by the troops of Count Mansfeld. After the Battle of White Mountain in Prague, when Thirty Years’ War broke out in Europe, the Catholic church started to gain ever greater economic power. Among the largest and richest land owners in the region were again the monasteries in Kladruby

and Plasy and the Chotěšov convent, and remained so until their liquida­tion under the rule of Emperor Josef II. The re-catholicisation pressure after the Thirty Years’ War gave rise to a general social discontent. An unsuccessful peasant rebellion exploded in the northern parts of the region in 1680. More widely known is the rebellion in Chodsko led by Jan Sladký Kozina in 1693.

   The industrial revolution in the second half of the 19th century brought substantial changes to the region. Major deposits of bituminous coal and kaolin were found near Plzeň. The city itself became the seat of Škoda Works, a well known engineering combine founded in 1869. Since 1842, Měšťanský pivovar (the Burghers’ Brewery) in Plzeň had been brewing its famous lager Pilsner Urquell. The first patients came to the spa in Konstantinovy Lázně in the mid 19th century. The basic network of railway lines in the region was constructed in 1861-76 including the longest railway tunnel in Bohemia under Špičák in the Šumava. The inventor František Křižík lighted up his first elec­tric-arc lamp in Plzeň. The main cultural and political centres of the region then were Plzeň, Klatovy and Domažlice. Josef Dobrovský, one of the leading figures of the National Revival movement, often visited in Chudenice where the local museum shows exhibits preserved from his stays there.

    Following the Munich treaty in the autumn of 1938, a major part of the region was annexed to the German Reich and Plzeň became a border town. The German occupation of Czechoslovakia was ended by the lib­eration of the region by the American Army who were given an enthusiastic welcome by the local population. The communist coup in 1948 placed the region of West Bohemia at the frontier dividing two different worlds by the ”iron curtain”. The new rulers chose to call the Plzeň region ”a strong wall of socialism”. When the iron curtain fell in 1989, democracy returned to the country and with it quickly growing private entrepreneurship and inter­national tourism. In the 1990s Plzeň became the seat of the newly established diocese and a university town.

 

Last edited by: Beránek Filip (23.06.2010)

 


 

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