Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Why is Bohemia so called?

Peter Winder writes (Jun 2006)

It seems that Bohemia was a foreign term for the Western part of the Czech Republic and that it was widely thought in France that gypsies came from Bohemia.  In the 19th. Century when many artists started to break away from the formal academy and lead, what were seen as, eccentric lives, they were compared to gypsies or Bohemians. This idea was spread, at least in part, by the publication of a collection of stories called Scenes de la Vie de Boheme, which were centred around the lives of painters, musicians and writers.  The term ‘Bohemian’ was apparently applied to the Bloomsbury Group, but was still in use when I was about 16, when it was applied to young men in duffel coats and sandals, with beards and young women who wore beads and black stockings.  (It wasn’t difficult to be outrageous then). None of this explains how a place in Sussex came to be so named. Peter Winder, Manningtree, Essex.

Peter Winder writes (Jul 2006)

In edition 19 I asked why an area of St. Leonards was called Bohemia.  I still have not had an answer, but Mr. Dave Kent did send a, rather dismissive, reply.  His letter implied that Bohemia was so called because it was around Bohemia Road and that roads were often named quite arbitrarily.  He may be right, but I find it interesting that the Bohemia Road in St. Leonards appears to be the only Bohemia Road, Street, Place, etc. in Britain.  I would still like to know why the street namers of the time, presumably the local council, thought that Bohemia suited St. Leonards. Peter Winder, Manningtree, Essex. 

[It’s fairly certain that ‘Bohemia Road’ is so named because it runs through Bohemia. It is hoped to obtain an expert opinion on this important question from local historian Edward Preston in the not too distant future. Apparently there is a ‘Bohemia Place’ in Hackney, London  – ed.]

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