Kirschbaum traces the history of the Slovak people back to the sixth century and of their land to ancient times, bringing to bear a great deal of work done by Slovak historians, most of it until now unavailable in English. It is fitting, moreover, that a newly independent Slovakia have its story told in full, from the ninth-century Great Moravia Empire through the thousand years of Magyar domination, the nationalist struggles of the nineteenth century, to the first Czechoslovak Republic and the postwar communist regime. Perhaps inevitably this history has come with a Slovak nationalist slant.
Kirschbaum marvels at the capacity of the Slovak people to maintain their identity, language, and culture over more than a millennium without a state of their own. The first Slovak state emerged in 1939, as part of Europe's march toward tragedy. For Kirschbaum, "Czechoslovakism" as an ideology belongs in the same nefarious category as Magyarization in the nineteenth century and communism in the twentieth. Trouble is that when the first Slovak state appeared, it was in the service of Hitler's Germany, which Kirschbaum also chalks up to the struggle for survival.