pdfVolume 7 Issue 2 CONTENTS

FEATURED REVIEW

European Regions and Boundaries: A Conceptual History. Edited by Diana Mishkova and Balázs Trencsényi. New York–Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017. 401 pp.

The social construction of markers on which we rely to interpret the world has functioned as an inexhaustible source of raw material for historians and social scientists. Research in this field has become increasingly prevalent over the course of the past three decades. Space especially has emerged as one of the concepts closely interrogated in a wide variety of research projects. It is a fundamental device of orientation, and its constructed character is masked by its appearance as quintessentially a priori in character, always already “given.” By engaging critically with the semblance of naturalness, research can uncover a multiplicity of knowledge production mechanisms linked to the social construction of space.

There remain, however, aspects of such practices which have attracted limited attention so far, precisely because of the vastness of the material available for study. While notions of national territory and boundary-making have been analyzed repeatedly, regionalization, which in this context means the imposition of supranational divisions over continuities of physical expanse, has remained understudied. Discipline-specific treatises on the academic or political construction and instrumentalization of specific regions abound, but the existing literature has been less inquisitive regarding what may be said in general about the logics of regionalization as recurring modes of knowledge production.

The ambitions of this edited volume include making inroads into this latter, imperfectly charted meta-territory of academic and political language games. The research project organized by editors Diana Mishkova and Balázs Trencsényi adopted two different perspectives with an effect similar to organizing two concurrent expeditions towards the same hard-to-reach summit. The first half of the book presents interdisciplinary analyses of the construction of regionalized spaces in the mode of conceptual history. The concepts investigated here are Western Europe, Scandinavia/Norden, the Baltics, The Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Iberia, the Balkans/Southeastern Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. The second part changes the perspective, offering disciplinary case studies of logics of regionalization operating in specific fields of academia (European History, Political Geography, Economics, Historical Demography, Linguistics, Literary History, and Art History). The two parts should ideally lead the reader towards the same destination, offering complementary analyses. These analyses would demonstrate how conceptualizations of space converge around certain ideologically (if not academically) overdetermined regions, on the one hand, and offer the reader a peek into the academic laboratories of regionalizing knowledge production, on the other. The latter would emerge as a meta-study of “how-to” construct regions (regionalizing knowledges), while one expects the former to contain case studies (regionalizing practices) that tie in with the meta-studies.

If one accepts this logic, European Regions and Boundaries may be summarized as an exceptionally rich and productive failure. Failure here does not refer to the quality of either the contributions or the work of the editors. Rather, failure here is a research outcome. It highlights an important imbalance in the production of spatial knowledge with regard to conceptualizing regions which causes the two parts of the book to be more corrective to each other than symbiotic in character. Nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century political, civilizational, and geopolitical frames have shaped and often determined the ways in which we think about regions. This is shown in the first half. The second half of the book demonstrates the extent to which these inherited notions of regions that populate even present-day collective imaginaries have either been deconstructed or superseded by critical and reflexive academic work within the individual disciplines. The first half is a reminder of the ideological determinants of spatial thinking, the second perhaps a cautious argument in favor of academia’s potential (at least in some cases) to recast its toolbox by generating novel and ideologically less burdened conceptualizations.

The first half presents a survey of regions as strategic concepts. Some of these regions have been strikingly underutilized in shaping public thinking throughout the Late Modern Era, the notion of Iberia, for instance (discussed by Xosé M. Núñez Seixas). Others have become thick and layered to the point of being impossible to disentangle. This is notably the case with the Balkans/Southeastern Europe (Mishkova), Central Europe (Trencsényi), and most importantly Western Europe (Stefan Berger). The latter emerges as a polyvalent signifier that can enter almost any discourse as a point of comparison, and, accordingly, the notion of the (or “a”) West resonates across almost all chapters. Berger’s perceptive analysis provides a solid footing, but the reader begins to understand the omnipresence of “some” concept of Western Europe only when repeatedly encountering it, with shifting meanings, in the subsequent papers as a point of reference and comparison. In the end, the (nuanced, yet fairly unequivocal) image that emerges is one of the West against the Rest. Dichotomies based on normative contrasts between the meaning of Western Europe and the concept of some other region appear as the rhetorical devices governing the discourses. Relying on these dichotomies, the regionalizing discourses disseminate notions of belatedness or “authenticity”, depending on whether they possess a westernizing or a more autochthonous bent. Regionalization is shown to function (in the clearest form perhaps in Frithjof B. Schenk’s chapter on Eastern Europe) as yet another battleground for the competing ideologies.

Despite the Archimedean position of the “West” in the conceptualization of macroregions, the thickest and most intriguing (hi)story emerges out of a parallel reading of several chapters on the shift in spatial thinking under the aegis of liberal ideology in the nineteenth century. These highly dialogical chapters on Eastern Europe, the North, and Eurasia (by Schenk, Marja Jalava and Bo Stråth, and Mark Bassin, respectively) significantly enrich our understanding of this complex process, which has had repercussions into the present. This is accomplished by drawing liberally on past scholarship, including Larry Wolff’s classic contribution on the construction of Eastern Europe in the “West” (Inventing Eastern Europe [1994]) and also on less frequently cited, yet groundbreaking texts, inter alia by Hans Lemberg (“Zur Entstehung des Osteuropabegriffs im 19. Jahrhundert,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas [1985]) and Ezequiel Adamovsky (Euro-Orientalism: Liberal Ideology and the Image of Russia in France [2006]). The chapters offer an exceptionally nuanced account of how the triadic division of Europe was reduced into an often orientalizing East–West dualism in the wake of the Napoleonic wars. As both Jalava and Stråth and Schenk observe, the repositioning of Russia as an Eastern rather than a Nordic power opened up a way to a reconstruction of the concept of the North as a minor region with positive connotations, becoming synonymous with Scandinavia in the process (pp.36, 45–47, and 189–93). At the same time, the mapping of Russia onto the East also “colonized” understandings of Eastern Europe as a zone not only of backwardness, but also of political otherness, under the specter of tyranny (p.194). This added a juridico-political layer which reinforced the already established civilizational cleavage. While the chapters do not explore current European controversies about perceived threats to regional identities in any detail, this tradition of intracontinental othering has already been traced to the present and shown to influence current discourses of political identity in the European Union, most recently by Maria Mälksoo (“’Memory Must Be Defended’: Beyond the Politics of Mnemonical Security,” Security Dialogue [2013]).

If the authors can be faulted for anything, it is perhaps the relative lack of attention given to nineteenth-century reflections originating from the newly constructed “East.” Schenk’s discussion of interwar conceptualizations of East Central European is an important quasi-digression in his text on Eastern Europe, and his subsequent account about region-focused research in the Eastern Bloc is both detailed and conceptually refined (pp.195–97 and 199–203). Adding to these, Balázs Trencsényi’s detailed chapter on twentieth-century notions of Central Europe further enriches the image of intellectuals belonging to a mesoregion (the non-Russian East, rebranded as East Central Europe). They are seen struggling to distance themselves and their homelands from the dominant image of the macroregion under which they have found themselves subsumed, while also increasingly resenting the orientalizing discourse they perceive as developed and deployed by the “West.” What is not discussed in either chapter is the nineteenth-century liberal reaction in the non-Russian parts of the new East, to which Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, and other intellectuals contributed in droves. Before the birth of intellectual discourses about East Central European specificity, such as that of Oskar Halecki, the initial reaction to finding oneself relegated to the zone of backwardness and tyranny was to reject the classification (while acknowledging the fact of backwardness itself) and to construct discourses about belonging to the West by virtue of culture and often constitutional or legal traditions.

The tradition of negating the perennial character of one’s “home” region (Eastern Europe or the East) even made spearheads into Russia through the ideology of zapadniks. Yet, as Bassin’s essay makes clear, Russian spatial thinking was shaped to a far greater extent by the idea of Eurasia. Eurasia represents a rather novel construct when compared with the triadic and dualist Western divisions of Europe, and it was usually deployed, from the late nineteenth century on, as a trope challenging the orientalism inherent in the East/West dichotomy. It replaced (and is still used to replace) the expanse traditionally thought of as the East, providing it with an autochthonous and positive character (pp.211–13). With some of the ideas familiar from present-day Russian neoimperialist thought, the essay also works as a reminder of how Eurasia once enjoyed broad currency also in Western scholarship and spatial thinking in general. In the end, both Russia and its smaller Western neighbours, that is to say both the imperial half and the other half composed of nation-states managed to produce their respective emancipatory discourses. However, Eurasia and (East) Central Europe represent divergent elective affinities symptomatic of the thinking of the intellectuals who promoted and still promote these concepts. One of the chief virtues of the book is that it sheds light on how these identity discourses have unfolded in the interplay of often competing regionalizing logics.

The second part of the volume offers a different background narrative to the social construction of regions. Traditional “allies” of regionalizing discourses, first and foremost history (Stefan Troebst) and political geography/geopolitics (Virginie Mamadouh and Martin Müller), are revisited in discipline-specific analyses which suggest patterns of increasing reflexivity as a mode of “scientific evolution.” With regard to both of the aforementioned disciplines, the texts relate how in recent decades scholarly discourse has tended to move towards critical engagement with earlier entanglements in the production of spatial impositions, or, in plainer terms, with having functioned as a language of power. As the overlaps and synergies with the first half of the tome make evident, these disciplines were indeed responsible for sustaining and refining the bulk of conceptualizations that have structured social thinking about Europe’s regions in the past.

The other disciplines differ from history and political geography both with regard to their impact on collective imaginaries of space and their modes of engaging with intra-disciplinary legacies. While both history and political geography have engaged in the deconstruction of its earlier regionalizing modes, disciplines less impacted by linguistic and reflexive turns and less central to the production of the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century cognitive maps of European regions have tended simply to evolve away from earlier modes of regionalization. This movement has involved abandoning conceptualizations borrowed from prevailing ideologies and engaging in discipline-specific conceptualizations. Some chapters in the volume are thoroughly historicizing and offer ample insight into this process (for instance the chapter on historical demography by Attila Melegh). Others tend towards academic presentism and highlight the current prevalence of discipline-specific regionalizations (the chapter on economics by Georgy Ganev, for instance). Yet more straddle a medial position (the chapters on linguistics by Uwe Hinrichs, literary history by Alex Drace-Francis, and art history by Eric Storm). Despite this variation, the overarching realization that academic evolution has led to, inter alia, the discipline-specific and increasingly autonomous production and deployment of regionalizing discourse shines through most contributions.

The shared character of this trend nevertheless allows for considerable variation. Historical demography both reflects and diverges from received spatial knowledges, reproducing regional divisions familiar from historical and political thought (as in the case of LePlay), but as a discipline it has also “evolved away” from the traditional patterns of dividing Europe either into a triad or two opposing poles (pp.303–04 and 312–14). At the same time, these legacies have never quite disappeared. In Melegh’s text, they transect the discipline itself. A more traditional approach investigates existing regionalizations and considers whether demography reflects or lends support to them. Simultaneously, a broadly critical stream argues against projecting cultural-ideological regionalizations onto demographic data and vice-versa.

The chapter on linguistics does not reflect this kind of bifurcation. It describes a fairly linear evolution away from reliance on exogenous, culturalist notions of regions towards a procedural (as opposed to substantive) understanding of them. In this latter mode, the existence/operability of a certain regionalizing frame within the discipline is conditional on confirmation by linguistic markers, rather than being accepted as existing a priori. Similarly to the “critical stream” in demography, contemporary linguists (and also economists) have tended towards generating their own, intra-disciplinary concepts, which are less connected to the political and cultural legacies of earlier patterns in regionalizing knowledges.

Despite all of the above, a survey of the volume as a whole demonstrates first and foremost the confluence of research and ideology in the invention of regions. Traditional academic knowledges have greatly contributed to the construction of a value-laden, culturalist lexicon of regions on which most of us still routinely rely in referencing larger European spaces. Both in the humanities and the social sciences, practitioners have mapped onto the globe images of civilizational difference, neatly tucked in behind regional boundaries. The studies included in this selection enable the reader to trace these processes both across disciplines and across specific cases. Continuing and expanding on earlier work by some of the contributors (such as Bassin, Troebst, and Trencsényi), the volume respects the divergent disciplinary histories, paying the cost of this attention to detail and idiosyncrasies with an occasional loss of coherence or dialogue between the individual contributions. This is especially palpable towards the final chapters of the book. The present-day state of linguistics or economics seems to have little bearing on the nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century genealogies of regions which the reader encounters in the first chapters. At the same time, this relative lack of coherence highlights the very justified emphasis on the collusion of other disciplines (history and political geography) with political languages of spatial division. Perhaps current regionalizing schemes prevailing in linguistics or economics could also be deconstructed as older onesschemes in interwar history and geopolitics have been deconstructed in this book, i.e. through engagement and self-reflective critique.

This volume accomplishes a great deal even if it stops short of this (i.e. offering a deconstruction of current regionalizing schemes used in linguistics or economics). It analyzes and subverts the late-nineteenth century regionalizing frames by highlighting the ideological contingencies underpinning them and adds to this a survey of contemporary, more reflexive and cautious, less sweeping trends of thinking about regions within the confines of individual disciplines. In this respect, the book amounts to a considerable reflexive achievement, and it is itself part of the cross-disciplinary trend towards the kind of greater academic autonomy its last half-dozen or so chapters aptly survey.

Gergely Romsics
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Vpdfolume 7 Issue 2 CONTENTS

BOOK REVIEWS

A kalandozó hadjáratok nyugati kútfői [Western sources on the tenth-century Hungarian military incursions]. By Dániel Bácsatyai. Budapest: HM Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzeum, 2017. 296 pp.

pdfIn his recent book, Dániel Bácsatyai examines the Latin sources on the period of the Hungarian incursions into Western Europe. By offering a critical historico-philological analysis of the sources, he provides an overview of the events, stages, directions, and methods of the incursions that took place in the ninth and tenth centuries.

The book is organized into three chapters. In the first, Bácsatyai presents assessments in the French historiography of the Hungarian incursions which were launched against Burgundy, and he examines sources from the Burgundian monasteries on the Hungarians. This chapter is a case study which demonstrates that the interpretations by Western historians of the narrative sources from the period can be misleading. Modern Belgian and French scholars often presume that the references to the arrival of Hungarians in settlements in the West are untrue, and they consider these references stereotypical remarks or hagiographical and rhetoric clichés. According to them, by mentioning the Hungarians and the raids they conducted, the chroniclers only intended to create a ‘necessary’ enemy, which a Christian religious community could overcome. Bácsatyai contradicts this approach by pointing out that even if there are descriptions in the sources which rest on or rehearse stereotypes, this does not mean that their authors should be dismissed entirely as unreliable. A fine example of this is the Vita Sanctae Wiboradae, which describes how Wiborada suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Hungarians in Sankt Gallen in 926. As Bácsatyai states, the Hungarians depicted in the vita are indeed clearly portrayed as the necessary executives of Wiborada’s martyrdom, but their presence in Sankt Gallen can be confirmed by other, more reliable sources. This questioning of the rather critical concept about the Hungarian incursions is a valuable methodological innovation with which Bácsatyai manages to argue persuasively that many Hungarian incursions which have come to be seen in much of the secondary literature in the West as never having taken place (i.e. as mere rhetorical fictions) did indeed happen.

In the second chapter, Bácsatyai discusses a theory suggested by the historian Szabolcs Vajay, according to whom some of the Hungarian military expeditions, – e. g. the campaign in 917 to Alsace and Lorraine or the attack against Burgundy in 937, – were part of an alliance between the Hungarians and the Carolingian rulers. Bácsatyai gives an overview of the related events in support of his argument that there was never any such alliance.

In the third chapter, Bácsatyai analyzes Western sources containing notes about the incursions. The subchapters are organized according to source-types: annals from the ninth and tenth centuries, tenth-century necrologies, chronicles by abbots, hagiographic works, chronicles (most importantly those of Liutprand and Widukind), and charters and letters.

It is particularly useful that Bácsatyai evaluates these sources alongside a discussion of the relevant historical-philological problems, and he demonstrates the manuscript-traditions of the sources, too. A fine example of the usefulness of this approach is his exploration of a manuscript of the Annales Bertiniani by Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims. By emphasizing the significance and the authenticity of this manuscript, – which until now has been largely overlooked in the Hungarian secondary literature –, Bácsatyai argues persuasively that the manuscript’s note about the Hungarian incursion of 862 can be accepted as credible.

Another valuable finding in the book concerns the settling of a number of chronological disputes. Drawing on the sources, Bácsatyai outlines the chronological order of the Hungarian military campaigns from the middle of the ninth century to the end of the tenth, which were launched against East and West Francia, Moravia, Italy, Bavaria, Carinthia, Saxony, Swabia, Thuringia, Burgundy, Lotharingia, and Aquitaine.

The clarification of the events of the great campaign against Italy (899–900) is extremely valuable. With the help of a charter from Altino, Bácsatyai demonstrates that the expedition began in the spring or summer of 899, and after the Hungarians were defeated in Venice, they probably devastated the monastery of Altino on June 29. Using the Gesta/Catalogus abbatum Nonantulani, Bácsatyai clarifies the date of the Hungarian victory over Berengar I in Brenta (September 24). As Bácsatyai points out, the Annales Fuldenses reported that Berengar lost 20,000 of his soldiers in this battle. Using a necrology, Bácsatyai specifies the possible date of the Hungarian attack against Vercelli and the murder of bishop Liutward. The chronology of the events of the Hungarian campaign against Italy, – which ended in the spring of 900, – offers a good example of how Bácsatyai uses different types of sources concerning each episode of the Hungarian incursions in order to obtain a picture that is as complete as possible.

In addition to these strengths of this important monograph, I would be remiss not to mention another new finding in the book. Bácsatyai draws attention to a story from a work entitled Translatio et miracula Sancti Marci. The tale, which has been ignored by Hungarian historians so far, tells the story of a crippled churchman. Seeking (for) healing, the man visits a site of pilgrimage which, – according to the Translatio, – fell under the control of the Hungarians. Bácsatyai points out that there is only one settlement in the Carpathian Basin where a relic was kept in the ninth century, and this was Mosaburg/Zalavár.

In conclusion, Dániel Bácsatyai’s monograph presents significant findings. His opposition to the minimalist attitude of the Western European scholars and the theory presented by Szabolcs Vajay about the Hungarian-Carolingian alliance can be regarded as important progress and therefore an important addition to earlier historiographic viewpoints. Bácsatyai was able to add several insights concerning the chronology of events, and he has also made a number of corrections. His examination of the manuscript-traditions also yields important findings, and he has made unique discoveries, such as the identification of Mosaburg/Zalavár as an early site of pilgrimage in the Carpathian Basin.

In addition to the insights and contributions mentioned above, the most important point of the book is the argument it presents according to which the Hungarian tribal federation pursued an organic, unified foreign policy in the first half of the tenth century. This contention is significant in part because it runs contrary to the interpretations of some of the most well-known scholars of the period (such as József Deér and Gyula Kristó). Kristó’s main argument was that there were certain occasions, namely in 917, 934, and 943, when the tribes appeared in Western-Europe, and Byzantium. This implies that the tribes must have acted independently, without central guidance. However, as Bácsatyai points out, the sources reveal that the Hungarian defeat in Bavaria took place in 945, not 943, there are no reliable sources verifying the existence of an incursion in 934, and the authenticity of the expedition in 917 is also questionable. Therefore, it seems that the Hungarian incursions in the first half of the tenth century fit a pattern of a conscious strategy, and they were far from random campaigns.

Iván Kis
Eötvös Loránd University

 

pdfMagyarországi diákok a prágai és a krakkói egyetemeken, 1348–1525, I–II. [Students from Hungary at the universities of Prague and Kraków, 1348–1525, I–II]. By Péter Haraszti Szabó, Borbála Kelényi, and László Szögi. (Hungarian students at medieval universities, 2.) Budapest: Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem Levéltára / MTA–ELTE Egyetemtörténeti Kutatócsoport, 2016–2017, 152 pp., 592 pp.

Peregrination (or study tours) of Hungarian students has long been a subject of interest for scholars dealing with Hungarian history and literature. Though the important series in which the present volume was published was launched nearly two decades ago, medievalists and early modernists have been waiting for new volumes, their appetites endlessly whetted by the research produced by László Szögi and his colleagues, which has, so far, produced twenty-four rich volumes about Hungarian students who traveled to destinations abroad (between 1526 and 1919), including the lands of the Habsburg Empire, (and for instance cities like Vienna), Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, the Baltic region, England, Scotland, Italy, Kraków, Prague, and, in the most recent and final volume, France, Belgium, Romania, Serbia, and Russia.

The two new volumes about Hungarian students in Prague and Kraków step back in time, since they are part of the subseries on peregrination in the medieval period. The first volume of this section dealt with the University of Vienna between 1365 and 1526 (Anna Tüskés, Magyarországi diákok a Bécsi Egyetemen, 1365–1526 [2008]), and this is now complemented by examinations of the lives and scholarly endeavors of Hungarian students at two other universities important in Hungarian cultural history. The earlier publication on Kraków dealing with the modern period has now been supplemented with student data from 1401 onwards, while the list on students from Prague ranges from ca. 1365 to 1526. The two volumes are not divided by university; the first volume contains introductions and essays in Hungarian and shortened versions in English about the two universities. The second presents the data regarding the students.

The first volume (published in 2016) begins with introductions to both Prague and Kraków. Péter Haraszti Szabó provides a detailed summary of the secondary literature on the former, and Borbála Kelényi provides summaries of the literature on the latter. Haraszti Szabó offers a history of the university founded by Charles IV, describes the judicial and economic aspects of the institution, and plots the rise and fall in the number of students. He also addresses the influence of monarchs (such as the aforementioned founder and Louis the Great) and figures and groups such as John Wycliffe and the Hussites. The introduction concludes with a list of Hungarian students in Prague. Though the sources are fragmented, some 252 students (of which 84 are potentially Hungarian in origin), most of whom studied at the institution before 1420, can be identified. (To highlight the difficulties with the sources, the estimated number of Hungarian students at this important university over the course of the two centuries in question is around twelve to fifteen hundred.) Borbála Kelényi introduces a much wider corpus concerning the Hungarian students in Kraków. The Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 by Casimir the Great (and re-founded in 1386 by Vladislaus II), hosted 4,476 students (229 of whom had ambiguous origins) from the territory of medieval Hungary between ca. 1365 and 1526. In its heyday in the second half of the fifteenth century, the Jagiellonian University was the most popular destination for Hungarian students. In its peak year (1484), there were 109 registered students of Hungarian origin. Notably, almost ten percent of those who studied in Kraków continued their studies at other European universities (mainly in Vienna and at German and Italian institutions). While information regarding Prague is rare, Kraków has copious accurate and detailed descriptions allowing for a variety of views. Both authors adopt a wide-ranging view which takes into consideration the history, structure, and everyday life of the university, with information about university circles (such as the Bursa Hungarorum in Kraków) and Hungarian professors. They also include numeric information regarding graduations and average student numbers, and they comment on the geographical and social origins of students. (Interestingly, while most of the Hungarian students in Prague appear to come from southwestern Hungary, the largest number of students in Kraków came from Upper Hungary and the east-central region.) Both introductions have extensive bibliographies, and the first volume concludes with illustrations and detailed maps and visualizations.

The second volume (published in 2017) contains a list of the students with indices of names and places. Though the preface, which details the methodology and format, is in Hungarian, the entries follow a logical pattern: student name, ecclesiastical rank, dioceses from which the person was sent, date of birth, date of registration at the university, faculty, academic rank received, names of other universities the student visited, information concerning later career, and other details about the student and his studies. Though the editors repeatedly stress that the entries could be expanded (as the new charters and data in the second volume prove), the 4,722 names clearly bear witness to the effort invested in the enterprise. Though further findings will be included in the planned online edition on peregrination, these two volumes are a substantial resource for any scholar even vaguely connected to the topic. Any researcher dealing with a figure who attended one of these universities, which exerted a strong influence on the intellectual, political, and cultural life of the Hungarian Kingdom in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, will find ample context, and any researcher interested in the broader picture will likewise be fruitfully rewarded.

Borbála Lovas
MTA–ELTE Humanism in East Central Europe Research Group

 

pdfSamospráva města Košice v stredoveku [Urban administration in Košice in the Middle Ages]. By Drahoslav Magdoško. Košice: Univerzita Pavla Jozefa Šafárika v Košiciach, 2017. 304 pp.

The organization and execution of administration are cornerstones to an understanding of the history of any town or city within any historical period. In European urban history, analysis of different forms of municipal governance is a popular topic which has great potential for comparative research. These two reasons in themselves are sufficient explanation for why the publication of the book by Drahoslav Magdoško devoted to the self-governance of the city of Košice in the Middle Ages is to be welcomed. Chronologically, the book covers the period from the mid-thirteenth century to the end of the first third of the sixteenth century. In fact, there are more reasons to appreciate this book. Its findings are based on long-term and careful archival research, which has yielded several new insights and revisions of our previous knowledge on this subject. Primarily, Magdoško has focused on the mechanisms of operation related to the performance of municipal self-governance in Košice, such as the agenda of the local town judge (villicus, iudex, ger. Richter) and of the city council, the role of the Community of Burghers (later replaced by the Council of Elders), the functioning of the municipal offices, management of the urban economy, administration of the local suburbs, etc. To frame this issue in context, Magdoško dedicated the introductory passages of his book to an outline of the history of Košice in the Middle Ages and also to an assessment of the position and role of this city in the urban network of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary.

The tendency to compare the situation in Košice to other contemporary Hungarian towns is generally strong in the text, making Magdoško´s book very relevant for urban historiography on this area. One might regret that the same comparative point of view was not always consistently applied to compare his findings for Košice to the history of cities in the neighboring countries, in particular Lesser Poland, Silesia, Moravia, and Bohemia. Certain issues, such as the election and competencies of the town judge, are viewed from a wider, Central European perspective. In other cases, however, Magdoško offers not a systematic comparison, but rather an indication of wider contexts. For the periods of time in question, when the events in Hungary were closely linked to the situation in the surrounding kingdoms under the rule of one sovereign (Sigismund of Luxembourg, Matthias Corvinus), the comparative approach would be particularly desirable. Moreover, to assess the situation in the neighboring countries, it is possible to rely on various secondary literature titles.

Despite the fact that Košice´s urban sources are preserved in greater integrity only from the second half of the fifteenth century, Magdoško has succeeded in compensating for the lack of direct evidence by considering analogies with the situation in other Upper Hungarian towns. In this respect, it is possible to quote, for instance, his convincing reasoning that although a specific document attesting to this is missing, one can nonetheless assume, on the basis of other sources, that Košice had complete judicial autonomy even before 1342.

The most interesting parts of the book include a description of the processes the common denominator of which was the effort of the Košice urban elites to ensure their share of power in the city. Their endeavors had a significant result. In the mid-fifteenth century, for the election of town judge and councilors, the Community of Burghers (a group of full-fledged citizens owning property within the city walls) was replaced by the more exclusive Council of Elders, which included several dozen men who were appointed by the outgoing members of the council and by the town judge. We can hope that by providing a description and analysis of these events, Magdoško has paved the way for more detailed (and potentially very interesting) prosopographical studies devoted to the particular families belonging to the circle of Košice power elites, which consisted mostly of wholesalers. Magdoško’s observations concerning the analysis of incomes and expenses of the city, which are neatly presented in the appendix of the book, are also valuable, as is his detailed survey of the competencies of individual urban officials and city employees, who were determined by the town judge and councilors. In the city’s leadership there were visible efforts by a limited group of burghers to restrict the government in the city to themselves as much as possible. It would be very interesting to see whether and to what extent these tendencies of the Košice power elites were manifested, for example, in the socio-topography of the city (as suggested in tables in the appendix), marriage strategies, the existence of the exclusive urban societies, etc.

It is also necessary to acknowledge with gratitude the carefully crafted appendices, including lists of notaries, town judges, and members of municipal councils until 1534, which clearly show continuity in the individual personalities/families who occupied these offices. The book also includes a detailed summary in English of the main findings and conclusions.

Michaela Antonín Malaníková
Palacky University, Olomouc

 

pdfA költészet születése: A magyarországi költészet társadalomtörténete a 19. század első évtizedeiben [The birth of poetry: A social history of poetry in Hungary in the first decades of the nineteenth century]. By Gábor Vaderna. Budapest: Universitas, 2017. 656 pp.

Gábor Vaderna’s new book represents a significant contribution to both nineteenth-century literary and social historical studies. It takes as its primary aim the reading of the neglected corpus of poetry in Hungary from 1800 to 1820. Following the author’s classification, this corpus consists of a discussion of poetry written for ceremonial (representational) functions on or for various occasions important to members of the upper classes; popular and bardic poetry, and finally, the poetry of sensibility. Later reactions against this immense number of texts and nineteenth-century literary canon formation produced a state of cultural amnesia which Vaderna’s book engages to correct. It will certainly provoke discussion among anyone interested in the decades of poetry it considers.

As far as Hungarian literary history writing is concerned, much of this enormous corpus of texts has been rather ignored so far, and not much scholarly work has been devoted to this kind of writing. This neglect has caused a serious deficit in our ability to read and examine the poetry of the first decades of the nineteenth century. Consequently, our understanding of modern poetry in Hungary has also suffered. Vaderna’s book offers a convincing explanation of the genesis of this indifference, as well. Ferenc Toldy, considered the “father of Hungarian literary history writing,” established a long tradition of an extremely narrow literary canon in his handbooks published in the mid-nineteenth century. Though Toldy had a good knowledge of the poetry investigated in Vaderna’s book, he eventually disqualified most of these texts based on criteria such as language, aesthetic value, and characteristics associated with the concept of the “genius.” Due to his particular approach to literary history, he decided to omit non-Hungarian texts, occasional poems, and traditional forms of poetry. No wonder that the ensuing literary history writing, strongly influenced by Toldy’s handbooks, again ignored the vast amount of manuscripts and printed material written in the first decades of the nineteenth century. As a result, literary canon formation not only erased a large corpus of vital and important poetry, it also obscured the conventions that supported such writing. This impressive monograph is therefore an attempt to recover an almost lost world.

As stated in the introduction, Vaderna seeks to explore the poetry of the first decades of the nineteenth century in its originating social historical contexts. In other words, Vaderna is not only interested in texts but also in the social milieu in which the cultural practice of literature emerged. Thus, combining the methodological practices of ingenious text interpretation, social historical analysis, and the history of ideas, the monograph eventually reads as an alternative story of modernization within the Habsburg Empire and East Central Europe.

The book is prefaced by a brief history of research and some major considerations regarding its structure. Following the preface, two long introductory chapters reflect on the position of the lyrical poetry of the first two decades of the nineteenth century within the narratives of Hungarian literary histories. Moreover, the introduction provides a detailed overview of the poetic tradition of the eighteenth century, indispensable to an understanding of the poetry of the first decades of the 1800s. According to Vaderna, the five chapters that follow the introduction establish the structure of a previously unknown poetical system.

Chapter 1 considers works of poetry associated with public representations of the upper classes. The authors of this kind of poetry were usually literate people, secretaries and tutors, living in the employment of the nobility. The literature they wrote followed fixed verse forms taught in the schools of law and theology they had attended. Furthermore, the poetry of patronage they practiced was intimately linked to rites of passage of their patrons’ lives: births, weddings, inaugural ceremonies, and funerals. This chapter also deals with poems written by aristocrats themselves. Chapter 2 examines another consistent corpus of texts generally regarded in Hungarian literary history as popular poetry. This kind of poetry is basically a hybrid literature of both popular and folkloric forms, a large corpus located at the crossroads of elite and popular culture, and respectively orality, scribal culture, and print publicity. Chapter 3 investigates the writing practices of clergymen authors and focuses on the ways in which ecclesiastical practices intertwined with secular poetry. Chapter 4 explores the poetics of sensibility targeting the lyrical cycle, a genre of considerable importance in Hungarian literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Finally, Chapter 5 ponders the possibilities of bardic poetry in the oeuvre of Dániel Berzsenyi, a major representative of neoclassical poetry in Hungarian literary history.

In general, Vaderna’s monograph addresses a broad variety of texts structured around lively case studies to illustrate points in the argument. The title, ambitious as it is, refers in fact to the birth of modern poetry: poetry written for publication by an individual author expressing individual experiences and common group identities. The corpus of texts examined in Vaderna’s book is relevant because it unfolds an intricate story of the birth of modern poetry, and it uncovers the various traditions from which this poetry emerged. From a socio-historical perspective, the monograph also accentuates the importance of eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century educational institutions and an educational system that deliberately nurtured poetry writing. Therefore, from the perspective of the twenty-first century, the story of the evolution of modern poetry becomes the story of a process of deinstitutionalization, as well. For while the eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century educational system provided young people (mainly young men) with the necessary knowledge and skills to become poets or to write poems occasionally if needed, this process gradually became an autodidactic one in the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first. The monograph, however, does not aim to offer teleological explanations: it exhibits traditions and practices of poetry which can only be understood in their own sociohistorical and cultural contexts.

Clearly, the problem that most concerns Vaderna is not a change in the Hungarian literary canon, it is the tendency to approach literature in all its forms (canonical or non-canonical) in rational, scientific terms. His study therefore is an ambitious and consistent effort to reevaluate the Hungarian cultural and literary heritage. Serious in its argumentation but often humorous in style, the monograph is a most relevant contribution to our understanding of larger processes between literature and society during the first decades of the nineteenth century.

Zsuzsa Török
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

 

pdfThe World of Prostitution in Late Imperial Austria. By Nancy M. Wingfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 288 pp.

The World of Prostitution in Late Imperial Austria explores the history of prostitution in the Austrian provinces of the empire from the late nineteenth century to the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy after World War I. Based on extensive research in archives found in cities, towns, and regions across the former empire, the book provides new insights and a novel approach to the history of prostitution.

In terms of its methodology, the study takes a three-pronged approach. It examines prostitution on the level of individuals, the larger society, and the state. The book presents prostitutes as individuals who made conscious choices and therefore possessed agency. It also reveals a society that projected its fears about the effects of modernization, urbanization, and dramatic social transformation onto the issue of prostitution. Finally, Wingfield analyzes the official approach of the state and its representatives to prostitution. Concerned as they were with public morality and protecting the health of middle-class men, public officials believed in regulating the supply side of prostitution. In contrast to studies that focus on large urban centers or individual towns, Wingfield’s approach integrates large cities, such as Vienna and Prague, and provincial centers, such as Cracow and Salzburg, with small municipalities, such as Theresienstadt, and spa towns, such as Karslbad, as well as other rural areas. In addition to providing new local histories of prostitution, the author’s expansive scope illuminates a complicated web of interrelationships in the realm of commercial sex between the imperial center, provincial centers, and the periphery of Habsburg Austria. In so doing, The World of Prostitution portrays a Monarchy-wide integrated sexual economy which the book contextualizes within contemporary European and global trends.

The book opens with a discussion of the 1906 trial of Vienna’s infamous madam, Regina Riehl, a Jewish brothel owner charged and ultimately convicted of embezzlement, fraud, and pandering. Wingfield’s colorful narrative of the trial and the media frenzy it generated is a window into contemporary views about prostitution and its regulation. Widely considered an inevitable part of society, prostitution was treated by the state primarily as a public health issue. In an age when there was no effective cure for syphilis, prostitutes (although not their clients) were considered disease carriers who had to be controlled and regulated. Placed under the authority of the Vice Police, prostitutes voluntarily registered with police officials and agreed to have regular medical examinations in order to work in brothels or police-approved private residences. The Riehl trial brought attention to the treatment of prostitutes, while Vienna’s anti-Semitic press stressed the alleged role of Jews in the corrupt brothel business. Yet as Wingfield’s analysis of official responses in Chapter 2 highlights, despite attempts to reform prostitution, the 1911 revision of the law did not change the overall approach. This approach continued until the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire and even beyond in the new nation states created out of it.

At the same time, by incorporating smaller cities into the history of prostitution, the book provides new insights into the considerable role local officials played in the regulation of prostitution. Even as centrifugal forces from Vienna provided general guidelines, local circumstances and particularly the local police determined how regulations would be enforced in the provinces (p.80). This was especially the case in smaller municipalities. In contrast to the provincial centers of Prague, Trieste, or Czernowitz, which tended to follow Viennese reforms enacted in 1911, as revealed in Chapter 3, middle-sized and smaller municipalities adjusted regulations to fit the needs of their local communities.

One of the book’s important contributions to the scholarship on sexuality is the social history of prostitutes, brothel keepers, pimps, and panderers. The discussion of contemporary views of female prostitutes is particularly valuable. Scrupulous research and her discovery of the voices of women who worked as prostitutes, combined with a critical reading of official sources about them, allow Wingfield to compare the actual lives of prostitutes with contemporary discourse about them. In contrast to official and public attitudes that framed prostitutes as women either to be saved or damned as immoral creatures, Wingfield reconstructs the actual lives of registered and unregistered prostitutes. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on the varied reasons which might influence a woman to choose to become a prostitute and the paradox of making choices and having agency amidst the daily difficulty of making a living in this era.

Chapter 6 places fin-de-siècle Austria and the specter of Mädchenhandel within the broader context of European conversations about trafficking women. While popular representations usually depicted deceitful Jewish traffickers moving “innocent” girls to foreign (often South American) brothels, the reality was much more complicated. Both the traffickers and the women trafficked defy this kind of simplistic portrayal. As Wingfield demonstrates, traffickers and panderers also included non-Jewish men and women, while many women who were trafficked decided to go on their own terms. Regardless, concerns over young women being forced into prostitution aided both official and voluntary efforts to “save” them.

The last chapter investigates the impact of World War I and how deprivation and economic austerity on the home front led to the collapse of regulated prostitution and an explosion of clandestine activity. As a result, men in the military were subjected to forced inspection for venereal disease for the first time. The goal was to cure those infected so they could return to the front. Predictably, the state continued to view women as primarily responsible for the spread of disease. As in most of the countries at war, women who transgressed sexual norms faced greater scrutiny than men, whether officials or civilians. Consequently, World War I brought further intrusion by government authorities into the private lives of working-class women.

The book would have benefitted from the inclusion of Budapest and the Hungarian side of the Monarchy into the analyses. This would have highlighted the role of Vienna as a model for larger cities on both sides of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and it would have strengthened and added more context to the argument about local autonomy in dealing with prostitution, while also placing greater emphasis on the role of ethnic stereotypes in shaping public discourses on prostitution. This is a relatively minor criticism, however, of a book which otherwise shows remarkable range in its coverage.

Anita Kurimay
Bryn Mawr College

 

pdfKarl Polanyi: A Life on the Left. By Gareth Dale. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. 381 pp.

As Gareth Dale puts it in his introduction, Karl Polanyi is “an attractive biographical protagonist” (p.8). The contemporary revival of interest in Polanyi’s social-economic theories, his exciting and sometimes contradictory personality, and his inspiring career all make him an appealing main character. Dale’s previous books on the great thinker (Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market [2010], Karl Polanyi: The Hungarian Writings [ed., 2016], and Reconstructing Karl Polanyi [2016]) focused on analyses of Polanyi’s ideas. His new monograph concentrates instead on his life. However, it undertakes something more complex than the mere retelling of a life story, as Dale aims to offer an intellectual biography. His ambition is to reconstruct the cultural and social milieu in which Polanyi’s intellectual formation took place and to paint a picture of both his formative years and the intellectual currents that influenced later developments in his thought. Dale also explicitly notes, furthermore, that the “lessons” of Polanyi’s life shed light on the whole intellectual climate of his era and his milieu and, more specifically, on the history of reformist socialism, “an international movement that sought to transform capitalism into a socialist society by means of parliament-led piecemeal alterations” (p.9).

This “lost world of socialism” not only provides the context of the Polanyian defense of a “nonmarket utopia,” it also constitutes the main concern of the book itself, which is Polanyi’s search for an alternative to “market fundamentalism,” as Dale characterizes (using Polanyi’s words) the global economy’s current neoliberal face. Without having written a political pamphlet, Dale expresses explicit regret that after the 1959 Bad Godesberg Conference of the German Social Democrats adopted a program of combining democratic systems with self-regulating market capitalism, the reformist version became marginal and the chances of a radical transformation were reduced to the minimum.

The contextualization of Polanyi’s intellectual biography takes place in two directions, as, chapter by chapter, Dale offers detailed descriptions of the social background of his protagonist, whether this background was fin-de-siècle Budapest or Columbia University in the 1950s. Dale also provides an exhaustive history of ideas connected to Polanyi’s intellectual world. From Hungarian radical bourgeois circles through H.G. Wells-inspired guild socialists to the London-based Christian socialists Robert Owen and Richard Tawney, Dale examines personal and intellectual encounters in order to reconstruct Polanyi’s lifelong quest for a feasible form of socialism. This double agenda makes the book rich and thoughtful, but it is a vertiginous ambition which ultimately leaves the reader with an occasional feeling of incompleteness.

One can only admire the quantity and quality of research into sources in three languages and from archives in five countries, the careful and critical use of oral history, and the meticulous reconstruction of links between life and scholarly work. An exciting example of the latter is Dale’s interpretation of the fact that for Polanyi, when diagnosing the crisis of his age, the main concern was social unification and the search for solidarity in a fragmented society whereby individual moral responsibility would remain subsidiary. This concern, Dale reasons, was related to Polanyi’s Budapest years, when “the Jews of his milieu (…) were acutely sensitized to questions of detachment, alienation and community” (p.83). The way Dale sketches the very different but also (re)unification-centered ideas of Georg Lukacs and Karl Mannheim, both of whom came from the same milieu, makes his conclusions all the more intriguing and convincing.

At the same time, Dale is less persuasive when providing accounts of some historic events. Obviously, the reader cannot expect a detailed history of the countries in which Polanyi lived and worked, but against the brilliantly drawn background, some key moments of history should have been sketched more precisely. Because of the absence of this more analytic approach, some simplistic judgments attenuate the argumentative strength of the narrative. Qualifying for instance the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy as “a short-lived and forgettable empire that […] was destroyed by the mutiny of its own armies” (p.1) is such a strong statement that at least some supporting evidence should have been provided. Similarly, when describing the Republic of Councils, Dale seems to oversimplify the events when he accepts without critical overtones a Polanyian appreciation of the Commune, described as “desperate but not inglorious” (p.71). As a matter of fact, even Polanyi had more ambivalent feelings about this experience, which descended into paramilitary violence (the so-called red terror). Polanyi was deeply concerned about Bolshevism and gave several lectures warning against such a turn. It would have been worthwhile to investigate Polanyi’s attitude towards the events and the people who shaped them, as he was very close to several of the Commune’s leaders but nonetheless chose emigration at the time. At these specific points and, more generally, whenever Dale reports on other highly controversial events, one could reasonably have expected him to draw on the relevant proliferating debates in historiography.

Dale has the rare ability to bring a personality closer to the reader through, for instance, descriptions of his warm family relations, but without entering into intimate details. He evokes not only the popular and the brilliant from Polanyi’s oeuvre, but also the failures, dilemmas, and even some of the embarrassing details. Ironically, by the 1930s, the man who made it his lifelong vocation to bring the moral dimension back into the political and economic spheres and who had had a nuanced view of the 1919 commune of Béla Kun had become blind to the inhuman practices of the Soviet Union under Stalin. The most striking example might be the way in which he stubbornly defended Stalinist methods of governance even when his own niece, Éva Zeisel, became the victim of a show trial in 1936. (Her experiences were to inspire parts of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.) In spite of the warm relationship between the Polanyi brothers, on which Dale writes in detail, Michael sternly reproached Karl on the issue.

This was not a singular instance of Polanyi’s lack of clear discernment. Even this sometimes idealized portrait, which describes him as a man of principle with a very strong sense of duty, occasionally makes note of his “Hamlet-like irresolution” (p.77), though the delicate conflicts between this “life on the left” in principle and the comfortable bourgeois lifestyle of the Polanyi’s in practice goes unmentioned. When, for instance, Polanyi describes his standard of living as “a normal proletarian life” (p.78), in spite of the fact that his family employed a servant (Erzsi, whose last name, of course, has been forgotten) and he could count on a significant annuity from his wife’s family, the irony seems to be lost on Dale.

The narrative strikes a truly critical tone only in parts of the Epilogue. This is regrettable, given that more explicit reflections by Dale regarding some of the abovementioned issues would have enriched the text. Furthermore, only in the epilogue does Dale undertake to analyze briefly the contemporary reception of Polanyi’s oeuvre, including his popularity among the most diverse tendencies critical of capitalism. Nevertheless, for a reader interested in these kinds of critical tendencies, this volume makes an enormous contribution to a better understanding of Karl Polanyi’s sometimes contradictory but always thought-provoking ideas.

Veronika Eszik
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

 

pdfEurope on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution during World War II. By István Deák. Boulder, Colorado: Westwiew Press, 2015. 257 pp.

This monograph by István Deák goes against the conventional narratives of World War II. The widely accepted accounts of the war which were established after 1945 won approval from the major participants in it in no small part because these accounts were convenient. According to these narratives, World War II was basically a struggle between the “democratic” and the “fascist” powers. Furthermore, a special but popular exculpatory interpretation was established as a kind of subplot of these stories which held significant sway until the 1960s, according to which ordinary German people were not responsible for Nazi crimes, as these crimes had been committed by the Nazis who “captured” ordinary Germans as well. The Polish took a privileged position in the remembrance of World War II because they could be represented entirely as victims, and the Poles did not miss the opportunity to portray themselves as martyrs. However, several books have been published since the mid-1990s (for instance Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men about the role of “ordinary” Germans in the Holocaust or Jan T. Gross’ work on the massacre in Jedwabne) which undermine these interpretations (which have enjoyed a significant degree of consensus). The new monograph by István Deák, professor emeritus at Columbia University, fits in this recent trend in the secondary literature. The keywords of his book (as one can see from its title) are collaboration, resistance, and retribution, and he is more interested in the limit situations of everyday life during the war than in major war operations, in no small part because he has personal experience of them. His brother-in-law and idol Béla Stollár, an antifascist journalist and member of the resistance in Hungary, was killed in 1944 by members of the Hungarian Arrow-Cross Party, which ruled the country as a pro-Nazi puppet government at the time. Deák also shares with his reader the latest results of research on World War II, offering new perspectives on various key issues.

In clear opposition to revisionist works, István Deák’s book rehearses the traditional interpretation of the outbreak of the war. According to this interpretation, the war was launched consciously by Hitler in order to colonize the territories of Eastern Europe and destroy the Jewish communities there: “the extermination of the Jews, as a war goal, at least equaled the goal of winning the war” (p.134).

In their ambition to exterminate the Jews, Germans could count on the assistance of locals. Perhaps the most important and also provocative and unpalatable statement of the book is Deák’s assertion that, “if there was one major European project, it was ethnic cleansing” (p.10). With this assertion, Deák deprives the Holocaust of its aura of “incomprehensibility” and supposed uniqueness in the sense that he places it in a series of ethnic cleansings, which he describes as the logical, if radical consequence of the absolutization of the idea of the “organic” nation state. He thus links the deportation of the Jews to the expulsion of the East European Germans after World War II, without, however, intending to relativize. Another link between the deportation (or in the case of the Jews of Europe, the deportation and massacre) of both scapegoated ethnic groups was the redistribution of properties and wealth, i.e. the governmental practice of bribing or rewarding “desirable” social groups by redistributing the stolen property of the victims and thereby making these social groups accomplices.

Collaboration with Hitler’s Germany allowed countries to realize their “national” goals, which included territorial acquisitions, ethnic homogenization (or “cleansing”), and taking possession of the property of people who lost their civil rights and later their lives. Deák does not mute his critical view of the Hungarian “gentry middle-class,” which he sees as the greatest beneficiary of the Holocaust in Hungary. Hungary realized each of the aforementioned goals (at least, in the case of territorial acquisitions, for a time), and this may explain why the Hungarian elite did not turn its back on Germany even on the verge of certain defeat and Soviet occupation.

Deák characterizes the attitude of European leaders and citizens during the years before World War II and in the first period of the conflagration as political and moral bankruptcy, and he maintains that the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia was the moral nadir. (It is worth noting that, as a consequence of the decision in Munich, a huge part of the European military industry was given to Germany.) Deák does observe (and contributions like this make Europe on Trial a revelatory book) that food rations were better in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (created in 1939) than in Germany. Moreover, “the survival rate among Czech males [was] much higher than among Sudeten German males,” as Czech males were not recruited for military service (p.34). During the German occupation, the Czech public administration functioned like the public administration of ‘an eminent allied state,’ even without ideological identification. This phenomenon was not specific to the Czech lands: Germans trusted “obedient bureaucrats” over “new Nazis” in almost every country. The “new Nazis” were given power only as a last resort, for instance in Hungary with the coup by Ferenc Szálasi and his Arrow Cross Party in October, 1944.

Deák continues to complicate and undermine the traditional narrative according to which the European countries could be divided into “bad” and “good” countries, active “conquerors” and passive “victims.” He points out how the allies, above all Italy, typically caused more problems for Germany than the occupied countries. Denmark, which tends to be idealized because it saved its Jewish citizens, even entered the Anti-Comintern Pact in November 1941.

Operation Barbarossa was not a preventive attack, as revisionist authors tend to claim, but a direct consequence of Hitler’s explicit aim: the desire to acquire Lebensraum. However, in spite of the Nazi racial theory (according to which Slavs were subhuman), many locals helped the invaders, especially in territories which had been occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939/40.

A contention characteristic of Deák’s ambition to avoid and challenge simplification is his observation about people who are usually referred to as “partisans” and who were uniformly idealized by the Soviet propaganda as “antifascist heroes.” Deák insists that these people (and the groups of which they were part) conducted ethnic cleansing similar to the German genocide. The various partisan groups fought against one another on several occasions, and the fault lines in these conflicts were based on perceived ethnic difference. The Jewish inhabitants of Timothy Snyder´s Bloodlands were targets not only of the German invaders, but also of the nationalistic and anti-Semitic partisan groups, for instance of Ukrainian nationalists, who simultaneously fought both the Germans and the Soviets.

Deák makes the bold claim that serious resistance in the countries of the West only began in 1943, when, after the German defeat at Stalingrad, it began to seem possible that Germany might lose the war. As the resistance groups did not hesitate to commit attacks that typically prompted German acts of revenge against civilians, any evaluation of the acts of these groups must grapple with serious moral dilemmas. Excellent examples of this include the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich or the contested case of the Italian communists who exploded a bomb at Via Rasella in Rome in March 1944.

Assessments of the practices of retributions after World War II are even more contested. Europe on Trial gives a panoramic overview of the various attempts at retribution in every single country after the war, and it reminds the reader that several prime ministers of Hungary were executed, whereas German Plenipotentiary and key Holocaust perpetrator Edmund Veesenmayer spent only a short period of time in prison and went on to become a successful businessman in West Germany. As Deák writes, “The great irony of history is that whereas Eastern Europe paid a heavy price for its political purges and its ethnic cleansing, Germany, which hardly had any purges and received millions of German and other refugees, soon became a model democracy and the motor of the postwar European economy” (p.223). Of course, the main explanation for the lack of adequate retribution in West Germany remains the outbreak of the Cold War, in which West Germans became “valuable allies” for the Atlantic Powers (p.193). From this perspective, the West German “economic miracle,” which enabled Germany to become the engine of the Common Market (the predecessor to the European Union), was launched and operated by Nazis who could (and should) have been punished for their war crimes. From this point of view, the “Adenauer Deal” was problematic on ethical grounds, but one could well claim that history has justified the acts of politicians “who had dreamed of a new, unified, and better Europe” (p.229), to close my review with the final words of Deák’s provocative book. It will make an interesting and informative reading for anyone who would like to learn more, easily and quickly, about the most recent findings of the scholarship on the history of World War II.

Péter Csunderlik
Eötvös Loránd University – Institute of Political History

 

pdfThe Value of Labor: The Science of Commodification in Hungary, 1920–1956. By Martha Lampland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 348 pp.

While the 1990s transition to capitalism has sprouted an impressive amount of literature, from buoyant transitologies to more sober analyses, very few scholars of Central and Eastern Europe have dared to zoom in on an equally significant transition: the one from capitalism to socialism in the immediate postwar period. In an ironic twist, it seems the claims of post-1945 communist leaders have surreptitiously seeped into the academic literature, being taken for granted: the advent of socialism has been customarily described by scholars as a moment of powerful rupture, of total discontinuity, a new era in stark contrast with the interwar years.

Framed within an elegant conceptual structure, Martha Lampland’s The Value of Labor brings an important corrective to this narrative. The work traces the diverse technologies and practices used in Hungary to evaluate agricultural labor before and after World War II. This seemingly unassuming topic allows her to pose crucial questions, however. The book offers an inquiry into how the history of the region may be integrated into a larger analysis of commodification as a global process, a process marked by local contingencies and discontinuities, but also molded by global structural constraints and international networks of expertise. Similarly, the book touches upon the crucial issue of how an analysis of state socialisms could enter into dialogue with the history of capitalism, catering in this way to a varied readership, from labor historians and STS scholars to social anthropologists.

The volume is a prequel to Lampland’s previous work, The Object of Labor (University of Chicago Press, 1996), an ethnographic foray into the labor practices structuring the agricultural cooperatives of state socialist Hungary. A central, unavoidable reference for (post)socialist anthropology, the 1996 study was a daring attempt to historicize and put to work, through meticulous fieldwork, Moishe Postone’s reconceptualization of commodification and labor value. It highlighted an apparent paradox: that the commodification of labor could thrive in conditions which, at face value, would seem inimical to such developments, a collectivized agriculture where market institutions were fairly rare. Lampland’s earlier book also posed a chronological challenge. It traced a direct continuity between the pre-socialist conceptions of labor and the ones emerging after collectivization, and it emphasized the centrality of work in determining social value at large.

The current volume picks up this insight into the relevance of labor in creating and establishing social worth, thus continuing to draw on Postone’s notions, but it develops it further through the instruments of an STS scholarship sensitive to the importance of formalizing practices and knowledge technologies. The main question concerns how labor as such was valued, assessed, and formalized and what types of technologies were used in this process. The answer provided by Martha Lampland moves from work science experts in interwar Hungary and their focus on agrarian labor to the first collectivization attempts and wage formulas developed by the communist authorities. Underpinning her narrative is an attempt to avoid a rather common pitfall of commodification debates: the excessive focus on markets which, according to her, has prevented us from analyzing other means of assessing and evaluating labor. This dangerous market-bias has obscured the gigantic infrastructure necessary to make labor “commodifiable” in various historical contexts.

This infrastructure includes the complex formalizing techniques needed to standardize labor practices across local variations. The development of work sciences at the end of the nineteenth century and their global spread gave rise to different forms of expertise, harnessed in order to streamline and frame the rich variety of labor forms. For the Hungarian case, it was German business economics and scientific work management, from Taylorism to work psychology, that provided the novel instruments and new formulas that were used to regulate and evaluate labor power. Through a permanent dialogue with the local manorial traditions of labor administration, these developments spurred the emergence of original wage schemes and accounting techniques. At least as importantly, however, these kinds of formalizing practices required a complex infrastructure, straddling the boundaries between academia, state institutions, and the private economy: research centers, new university departments, statistical offices, bureaucratic experts, etc. And throughout the interwar period, Hungarian work scientists were at pains to find the resources necessary to establish and maintain such a complex infrastructure of expertise. Analyzing both the formalizing technologies developed by the Hungarian labor experts (new wage schemes, new accounting methods) and the infrastructure of knowledge they relied on, the first part of the volume draws a fascinating portrait of Hungary’s agricultural modernizers: work scientists, accounting experts, agricultural economists, etc.

This portrait is framed by a specific ambiguity regarding capitalism and market institutions. Although they were generally market enthusiasts, Hungarian modernizers devised formal tools and evaluation instruments which could be impervious to the vagaries of a market shaken by constant economic crises, from the Great Depression to waves of postwar inflation. Thus, the way in which they conceived of rural labor was somewhat outside market constraints or at least indifferent to them. For this reason, adopting and making use of their technologies became an easy job for a communist regime keen on scraping off market institutions. As Lampland shows in the second part of the book, communist agricultural modernization was not so much a revolution from abroad as a process underpinned by techno-political devices developed locally throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The end result was an original synthesis which can hardly fit a specific label. It was neither a Soviet import nor simply a local offshoot. A case in point is the history of the work units, a complex hybrid between Soviet collectivization practices (trudnoi), interwar work science, and manorial practices, each of which was constantly changed by the social violence of the immediate postwar years.

Commodification appears throughout the volume as a complex bundle of practices and technologies that can hardly be confined to market mechanisms. This has the heuristic advantage of problematizing the relationship between capitalism and socialism. Following the archival trail, one can trace these technologies across economic systems and construct a more inclusive historiography in which the relationship between state socialism and postwar capitalism is one of constant dialogue and interaction. The book leaves untouched, however, a more extensive discussion on the relationship between market mechanisms and the technologies of commodification it analyzes. We do not find out, for instance, exactly how the formalizing practices developed by Hungarian work scientists might have interacted with agricultural labor markets. More generally, we do not know too much about pre-1945 labor markets as such or the way they functioned (in conjunction with other commodification mechanisms or not). This is far more than a mere empirical addendum, as it raises an important theoretical question that should interest economic anthropologists and social historians alike. And the period analyzed by Martha Lampland, marked as it was by extensive economic experiments, might provide one of the best empirical terrains for research going in this direction. Similarly, it would be important to see how essential shifts in managing economic life, such as the Great Depression or the war economy, might have influenced the management and evaluation of labor and the formalizing practices developed by work scientists before and after 1945.

It is of course one of the chief ironies of the book that the techno-political dreams of the advocates of capitalism, the work scientists of interwar Hungary, could take shape only under the auspices of communism. It is, however, precisely these kinds of ironic insights, born out of an acrimonious attention to technical detail that may help scholars reconnect the history of capitalism with the study of state socialism, building up a more inclusive global historiography. An understanding of commodification as a complex bundle of practices and technologies, which can easily circulate and be adapted to local conditions, might offer a more nuanced grasp of the economic history of the twentieth century.

Mihai-Dan Cirjan
Central European University – CEFRES Prague

 

pdfSearching for the Human Factor: Psychology, Power and Ideology in Hungary during the Early Kádár Period. By Tuomas Laine-Frigren. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä, 2016. 369 pp.

The Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä in central Finland is one of the most important institutes at which Hungarian history and culture is studied and taught outside of Hungary, both from the perspectives of teaching and research. Many historians, ethnographers, and literary historians have gotten doctorates at the university pursuing research on Hungary and its culture, and the institute has managed to catch the attention of many young Finnish scholars, who have then taken a more active interest in Hungary. The university, in keeping with tradition, publishes every dissertation as a book and, now, also online. Tuomas Laine-Frigren’s dissertation, which has now been published as the 280th volume in this series (the number is not a typo), offers important new information and insights for scholars of the Kádár era and anyone interested in the history of sciences in Hungary and, more narrowly, the historiography on the social sciences.

Laine-Frigren examines how the science of psychology developed under Kádár, or more precisely, how it was reborn. He considers how the institutional system first began to take shape and the various political and professional/scientific debates amidst which it developed in the period that lasted from the defeat of the 1956 Revolution to the mid-1980s. Laine-Frigren refers to himself as a revisionist historian, by which he means that he considers the state socialist system a meeting and collision point of many competing interests. He adheres to a complex analytical method which includes perspectives from the history of ideas, the history of science, and political history. His discussion is polycentric, by which I mean that he considers, alongside the discipline of psychology in Hungary and its connections to international scholarly life, the significance of formal and informal networks, circles, and individuals, and he also examines the various discourses on this branch of the sciences.

The book is divided into four chapters. In the first, Laine-Frigren offers a historical glance back, providing a portrait of the rich and recognized school of psychology that developed in Hungary, going back as far as the work of Sándor Ferenczi. He also shows how utterly devastating the anti-Jewish laws, the Holocaust, and the destruction of the war were to the discipline, followed, after a brief moment of respite, by the Stalinist dictatorship. He quite rightly notes that the science of psychology never disappeared entirely in Hungary. A slender thread of continuity always remained, though separation from the world of international (and particularly Western) scholarship unquestionably was a serious hindrance.

In the second chapter, Laine-Frigren examines the ideological milieu in which psychology prospered or struggled. This process clearly was in close parallel with the processes underway in the Soviet Union, where behaviorism (based largely on the ideas of Ivan Pavlov) and the ideas of education theorist Anton Makarenko had become dominant. On the other hand, however, the desire of power to rear and shape society collectively also created opportunities. Indeed, the process which came to its culmination in the 1960s and 1970s had already begun before 1956, if only very embryonically. Researchers managed to secure major financial resources and launch comprehensive programs, since the government had ever greater demand for the advice and counsel of psychologists in its attempts to deal with the various social problems it found itself compelled to confront.

These developments are perhaps most clearly evidenced by the changes which took place in the approach to child and youth psychology and treatment, which Laine-Frigren presents in the third chapter (which is the most thorough and circumspect chapter of the book). He was able to draw on serious preliminary studies, since the circumstances of and problems faced by the younger generations in Hungary after 1956 have become popular subjects of study. Laine-Frigren persuasively argues that the large number of young people who took part in the 1956 Revolution and the various forms of counterculture which emerged in the 1960s deeply worried the political leadership of the country. The various measures which were adopted and organizations which were created in order (allegedly) to protect children dealt with these problems in an array of varying ways. Numerous serious issues came to the surface, including the traumas faced by the generation which was growing up in the postwar decades, overburdened parents, and shifts in family roles. Furthermore, the authorities often criminalized and labeled as deviant the behavior of young people who found themselves in difficult circumstances, and instead of providing care, they strove to isolate them. Laine-Frigren offers analyses of numerous case studies, and he offers examples of the kinds of tragedies which took place in the foster and community homes. He also shoes how, with the passage of time, it became increasingly clear that the state was not able and did not particularly even want to address the causes of juvenile delinquency.

The book includes a similarly excellent chapter on the ways in which social psychology gained ground and became increasingly institutionalized. Laine-Frigren essentially ties the increasing prestige and prominence of the social sciences to the introduction of the process of economic reform. The debates which preceded and followed the introduction of the new economic mechanism helped nudge the processes of decision making away from the ideological and towards the rational. The sciences of economics and agriculture acquired new value and respect, but so did branches of the sciences which focused on the ways in which society functions and responds to shifts, as these branches of inquiry provided important information for decision makers. This shift had a positive influence on assessments of the science of psychology.

Laine-Frigren offers two examples illustrating this, examples one might describe as concealed. Ferenc Pataki began his career as part of the People’s College Movement, and was given a Soviet scholarship, and became involved in the Petőfi Circle. In the 1960s and 1970s, through his personal ties to György Aczél, he played a key role in the management of the institutional and personal background of psychology and, in particular, social psychology. The book contains frequent mention of his name, the titles of his works, and references to the decisions he made, and quite rightly so. Pataki’s career quite clearly illustrates that it was possible to pursue a career within the state socialist system which may well have been founded on political loyalty, but which nonetheless yielded important contributions to the field. Not everyone was so fortunate, of course. For Ferenc Mérei, who had a similarly outstanding mind, the period between 1945 and 1949, i.e. the golden age of the short-lived People’s College movement, was the zenith of his career. Mérei was pushed to the margins of official scholarly life, first because of the anti-Jewish laws, then because of the Stalinist dictatorship, and then because of the role he played in 1956. His life story, however, is clear testimony to the fact that a person of his talents could not be completely banished from scholarly life in Hungary. Because of his remarkable intellectual capabilities and stunning knack for pedagogy and teaching, he was given an opportunity, as a laboratory leader, to form a significant circle of students at the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology (known more familiarly as Lipótmező after its location in a neighborhood in the Buda hills). The effects of his work and the works of this group of students can still be discerned today. Perhaps the only more serious shortcoming of the work lies in the fact that Laine-Frigren was not always entirely aware of the antecedents in the careers of the psychologists on whom he has chosen to focus, and this sometimes leads to odd lacunae.

In the closing chapter, in which Laine-Frigren offers a summary of his findings, he again raises the central questions: to what extent did the development of a discipline depend on the individual wills of the decision makers in the party state and to what extent did it depend on submitting to political pressures and constraints? Were there any real intentions to reform, and was it possible to resist calls to catch up, as it were, with the science of psychology in the West? One of the great strengths of the book, in conclusion, is that Laine-Frigren has very precisely depicted the opportunities for action and the limits of these opportunities.

István Papp
Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security

 

pdfOf Red Dragons and Evil Spirits: Post-Communist Historiography between Democratization and New Politics of History. Edited by Oto Luthar. Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2017. 248 pp.

The volume surveys eight national contexts from East Central and Southeastern Europe in an attempt to reconstruct the defining features of the contemporary politics of the past. As the authors suggest, falling short of the hopes and expectations of many in the aforementioned two regions, instead of a process of democratizing the narratives about the past, there is a return to or rather no change in the dominance of nation-centered narratives. This diagnosis strikes the often rather disillusioned and pessimistic tone of the volume. The introduction by editor Oto Luthar identifies a veritable watershed in the politics of history in 2010, after which serious breaches of professional standards have occurred within the respective countries. However, this periodization is explicitly reflected upon only by some of the contributors.

Most chapters discuss state socialist politics of history and historical narratives before delving into more recent developments. The new or recurrent narratives analyzed in the various chapters embrace the equation between Nazism and Communism and refuse any investigation of broader societal participation in the most infamous episodes of the past century. It is suggested that such currents are initiated from within the scholarly field (Luthar, p.8). While this is a defensible position, it can be usefully complemented by a focus on all those engaging in the discourse from the margins of scholarship or well beyond its realm, most notably, the prime makers of politics of the past, the so-called memory brokers. Though Of Dragons and Evil Spirits is a fairly coherent edited volume, the foci of the chapters oscillate between national memory brokers and academia-bound debates, politics of history pertaining to specific episodes of national history or the battles over establishing the grand narrative of the nation after the collapse of state socialism. Therefore, in the following I will pinpoint several shared topics to highlight the comparative potentials of the volume.

Some of the authors find it important to reflect on the lustration laws in their respective countries, suggesting that an investigation into their qualities and functioning (or often mere existence) is essential to an understanding of politics of history in a broader sense. Daniela Koleva underlines not only the specific features but also the modest institutional effect that these laws had in Bulgaria. Šačir  Filandra is quite disillusioned with the lack of Bosnian lustration laws and explains their absence by pointing to “post-independence chaos.”

As for the narrative aspects of this new politics of history, all of the authors in the volume claim that an opportunity for the thorough pluralization of historical discourses emerged with the respective regime changes, but this moment has passed. The practically monophonic national canons hardly allow for self-reflection, and their instrumentalization to serve the purposes of politics of the past result in “memorial militancy” (Koleva), which uses selective negationism (Michael Shafir) as a key discursive strategy. In the Croatian case, some sort of pluralization is mentioned, though as Ljiljana Radonić argues, this does not really help further a more critical assessment of the nation’s past. In the Hungarian and Croatian cases, Jewish suffering during the Holocaust serves as shorthand for the rhetorical practice of subsuming different victim groups under the same category (i.e. victims of World War II) and downplaying societal involvement. Although the concept of collective and competitive victimhood has been established primarily in relation to the post-Yugoslav societies, which have been subjected to a form of transnational justice, as Shafir demonstrates in particular, its analytical virtues can be applied to the interpretation of East Central European cases as well. (Shafir’s notion of competitive martyrdom has considerable overlaps with that of C. A. Nielsen, “Collective and Competitive Victimhood as Identity in the Former Yugoslavia,” in Understanding the Age of Transnational Justice: Crimes, Courts, Commissions and Chronicling, ed. Nancy Adler [2018].)

The European dimensions of the politics of history are tacitly present in all of the chapters but are discussed in greater detail only in the contributions by Daniela Koleva and Ferenc Laczó. The former calls attention to the lack of integration of communist experience into common European remembrance after the entry of post-communist countries into the European Union. Laczó does not fully share her view, as he claims that both radical left-wing and right-wing actors’ responsibility for equally serious crimes has been acknowledged to a certain extent. EU conditionality regarding the establishment of consensual remembrance is discussed by both authors. While Bulgaria was a notable exception to this condition, Laczó claims that for the Hungarian public, EU accession amounted to another missed opportunity for engagement and reconciliation.

Although visual representations of the past constitute one of the most often scrutinized aspects of the politics of history, this volume focuses more on narratives and agendas. There are sporadic utterances though, regarding both public spaces and exhibitions. Radonić briefly discusses how Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (2003–2009) ordered the removal of controversial memorials, and Koleva underscores the importance of local initiatives in Bulgaria, where a comprehensive museum of communism has yet to have been built. At the same time, Todor Kuljić describes competition, i.e. an ever-changing hierarchy among ethnic groups that make similarly exclusive claims to the remembrance of “their” victims at the expense of others.

Although the introduction sets a clear agenda for the volume, some degree of divergence in terms of approaches and style remains inevitable; the authors tend to share a conceptual framework which enables the reader to perceive the texts as directly comparable. Of Dragons and Evil Spirits as a whole has the virtue of addressing some time-specific aspects of contemporary politics of history. Scholars and policy makers may learn important lessons from the cases presented. However, only time will tell whether the authors have truly managed to capture the starting points of a new politics of history.

Réka Krizmanics
Central European University

 

pdfLong Awaited West: Eastern Europe Since 1944. By Stefano Bottoni. Translated by Sean Lambert. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2017. 292 pp.

It has been almost three decades since Eastern Europe’s communist governments fell and over a decade since the countries of the former Soviet Bloc joined the European Union. The time has certainly come for historians to revisit the grand narrative of Eastern European history under socialism and beyond. Long Awaited West is Stefano Bottoni’s attempt to do just that. This is an ambitious work of synthesis that aims to distill the history of an enormous region over seven tumultuous decades. Bottoni defines “Eastern Europe” as the area that came under the influence of Soviet communism during and after World War II (p.6), a definition which encompasses parts of what became the Soviet Union (the Baltics, Western Ukraine, Moldova). The book concentrates, however, on the countries that made up the former Soviet Bloc, along with Yugoslavia and Albania.

While Bottoni makes an excellent effort to incorporate recent scholarship into the book, his narrative nonetheless largely hews to existing frameworks. The book is organized chronologically along established turning points in political history, with chapters on the impact of the war and creation of communist regimes across the region (1944–48), the Stalinist period (1949–55), the era of the Thaw and the failure of more radical reform (1956–72), the years of stagnation and the collapse of the system (1973–91), the chaos of the 1990s, and a final chapter on European integration and recent challenges to the post-communist neoliberal order. The story Bottoni tells in these chapters is focused on the actions of governments and political elites, giving only cursory attention to the everyday experiences of ordinary people. The choice to concentrate on political history and economic policy fits his general interpretation of Eastern Europe’s communist regimes. Here, they are largely portrayed as repressive forces concerned primarily with maintaining their hold on power. While this is never spelled out explicitly in the text, the title of the book, Long Awaited West, implies that most East Europeans were not invested in socialism, but instead merely dreamed of the day when they would be able to join the West and achieve its higher standard of living. This is underscored by the cover design, which consists of an image of a barbed wire fence with a gate tantalizingly left open, pointing the way across a field into the setting sun.

In line with Bottoni’s previous work, one of the book’s important contributions is its attention to the issue of national minorities and nationalist politics. Bottoni argues the region’s communist governments failed to create viable policies to deal with national difference. Particularly as the region’s economies began to sputter in the 1970s and 1980s, this failure encouraged different groups to see economic woes in national terms. By putting the experiences of Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union itself side by side, the book allows us to see common threads in what were otherwise quite different histories.

What most sets this book apart from similar surveys of East European history is its orientation in the contemporary moment. The motivating question behind this book is not a re-evaluation of the socialist past, but a desire to understand the situation of Eastern Europe in 2017 (when the last pages were being written). The post-communist period is therefore not treated as an epilogue or coda, but as an integral part of the narrative; fully one third of the book deals with the period after 1989. Unlike earlier authors, Bottoni does not tell a triumphalist story, in which communism is vanquished and Eastern Europe emerges free and ready to be reunited with the West. He writes from a vantage point from which we already know that joining the European Union and NATO did not bring the prosperity many had imagined. Instead, corruption became even more entrenched and neoliberal “reforms” hurt even wider swaths of the population. The 2008 financial crisis helped fuel a wave of anti-EU and nationalist populism, leading, in Hungary, to the enormous victory by Fidesz in 2010 and the Law and Justice Party in Poland in 2015. For Bottoni, this more recent past highlights the cruel irony that the Iron Curtain might be gone, but “Eastern Europe,” itself a creation of the Cold War, still remains as a region that is not, and may well never be, the same as the West.

In the conclusion, Bottoni implies that the desire to be like the West—or, more precisely, to have the same standard of living as the West—has itself been the cause of Eastern Europe’s misery and malaise. It created unreasonable expectations that could never be fulfilled and had the effect of widening the gap between elites who prospered and the majority who did not. What is happening in Eastern Europe today is, says Bottoni, only the most recent iteration of a longer dilemma; whether Eastern Europeans should try to mimic the West or define themselves against it in nationalist terms. Yet, for Bottoni, the only hope for Eastern Europe in the end is to become integrated into the West. Anything else, he says, would result in a “new era of catastrophe” (p.254). The book leaves us, then, at a critical juncture, wondering what the future may hold.

With any survey text, there is the question of audience. Long Awaited West was first published in 2011 as part of a longer history of Eastern Europe that was used by Italian university students. This revised English-language version, however, is too dense and complicated for a typical U.S. undergraduate audience. It assumes a fair amount of knowledge on the part of the reader and does not define basic concepts and terms (like “central planning” or “Stakhanovite”). Given this, the best audience for this book would consist either of graduate students or of specialists looking for a recent and readable survey of the East European past.

Melissa Feinberg
Rutgers University

pdfVolume 5 Issue 4 CONTENTS

BOOK REVIEWS

Slavery in Árpád-era Hungary in a Comparative Context. By Cameron Sutt. (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages 31.) Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2015. 240 pp.

 

This study, which is based on a Cambridge dissertation supervised by Nora Berend, takes up a discussion—now more than one-hundred years old—about the actual status of persons called servi, mancipia, or ancillae in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries in Hungary. To put the issue in a wider context, the author first summarizes older and more recent research on the conditions of dependent labor in early medieval Western Europe. As his findings demonstrate, one should be cautious with any unequivocal or general definition of these people’s social positions: even historians working with a significantly wider array of sources than those available in Hungary have failed to reach any consensus on the question of whether or not these people could be accurately characterized as slaves, serfs, or any of the other names that have been given to them. Then, in contradiction to the contention that very little research has been devoted to this question in Hungarian historical scholarship (p.1), Sutt gives a thorough and informative survey of the literature from the beginning of the twentieth century to, roughly, the present day (pp.7–18).

A crucial subchapter follows on the definition of slavery (pp.18–32). Much of the debate rests on semantics. Most historians have tended, tacitly or otherwise, to equate the notion of slavery with the Antique Roman slave bands or the African plantation slaves of America. Sutt widens the discussion by introducing evidence from ancient Mesopotamia to present-day (or recent) slave-holding societies in Sub-Saharan Africa. As with other similar comparisons between ancient states or contemporary “societies without writing” and medieval Europe, I am not sure that these are as useful as the author believes. (The debate on this question, however, is far too broad for me to cover it in any detail here.) Sutt ends up with a four-point “definition” (p. 32):

1 a slave was property, and as such could be bought, sold, and traded in whatever manner his or her owner desired;

2 a slave was separated from his or her kin. Slaves may have children, but cannot establish the broader relationship of kin. Separation from kin found manifestation primarily in the inability of a slave to participate in the rights of patrimony. A slave could enjoy certain limited rights to property, and this property could be sizeable and may even have consisted of land in some form, but all of a slave’s property was merely part of his or her peculium. A prime characteristic of peculium was that a slave could not bequeath it to succeeding generations;

3 the labor of a slave depended solely upon the will of his or her master. Slaves could be required to perform all sorts of tasks, both heavy and light, but their master alone determined both the nature and the amount of work demanded of them;

4 slave marriages were not secure in all societies. This criterion must be qualified because, as we have seen, some societies allowed the legal protection of the union between slaves. Serfs, by contrast, always had such legal protection. Thus, while the presence of protected marriages does not necessarily indicate serfs, the forcible break up of unions does indicate slaves.

With these criteria in mind, the author peruses the laws of St. Stephen (pp.52–90), St. Ladislas and Coloman (pp.91–108), and other Hungarian records, always comparing them to the Lex Baiuvariorum and related sources, as well as evidence from Carolingian French territories. This inquiry is prefaced by a chapter on “Árpádian Hungary and the Land” (pp.35–51), which presents the discussions on the nomadic or semi-nomadic character of the Hungarians in the ninth and tenth centuries, the development of ecclesiastical and lay landed property, and their structure.

In the subsequent three chapters the evidence is analyzed topically, according to the author’s definition. He presents evidence suggesting that servi were regarded as “things” (res) (pp.109–22), i.e. they could be bought and sold even without land, that their labor obligations were mostly undefined, though less so on church property (pp.123–30), and that their families (pp.131–58) were systematically split up. The last point is the most contradictory, and is supported by the least reliable evidence. One frequently finds mention in the sources of married servi or ancillae, but some of these unions may have been between manumitted servants.

On the basis of the very systematic and exhaustive (as exhaustive as reasonably possible) survey of the scattered sources, Sutt finds evidence in the laws and charters of Árpádian-age Hungary for almost all of the points in his definition, although never for all. There is, however, evidence to the contrary as well, even apart from the exceptional case of a servus being in charge of a castle (Stephen II: 18). For example, when a distinction is drawn between Hungarian servi and others, the Hungarian servi are clearly regarded as persons, even though in another source they are listed together with cattle and tools. Surely, the Hungarian evidence points to conditions fairly similar to those of (earlier) Western European ones, in which there were very significant differences in the statuses of servile populations. From what can be established, the legal division of liber and servus was unequivocal, but that may not have covered the actual social and economic reality. (As in later centuries, the legal notion of nobilis covered great landowners and one-plot peasant-noblemen alike.)

The comparison with “serfs” (already used in the definition and then in the last chapter) is also problematic. To use this category—different from “slave”— in the Hungarian case is highly problematic. Calling the dependent tenants of the later Middle Ages and beyond—i.e. the jobbágy/jobagio peasants, who had de facto inheritable plots and the freedom to move (or be moved) to other lords—serfs is definitely misleading. Might it not be more useful, even in the case of periods as early as the first centuries of the kingdom, to speak of slave-like and serf-like dependencies among the servile laborers and peasants, but clearly to distinguish them from the later (from the late thirteenth century onwards) peasants? The attempt to make them ad glebam astricti and disarmed (in 1514) clearly suggests that their position was different before (and, in fact, did not even change for the worse in general thereafter).The study closes with a discussion of the disappearance of servi (pp.159–210), already touched upon. Sutt persuasively dismisses the influence of the Church, drawing on a wide array of theological sources and canon law. He also offers a good survey of the relevant debates and argues that in essence the servi disappeared because of changes in agriculture and settlement patterns (i.e. the end of the small praedia).

The book also includes a good index and a map of thirteenth-century Hungary. (It is, however, puzzling how northern Transdanubia became “Burgenland.”)  

My critical remarks notwithstanding, I regard this study as a very important one. Sutt is right to urge an up-to-date inquiry into this long-debated issue in a European context, and he has made a substantial contribution. By having made both the older Hungarian discussions of this question and his own extensive research accessible to the scholarly public beyond Hungary (the studies in Hungarian are almost entirely unknown abroad, as Sutt notes on p.1), he has done a valuable service for social and legal historians worldwide.

János M. Bak

Central European University, Budapest

Koldulórendi konfraternitások a középkori Magyarországon (1270 k. – 1530 k.) [Mendicant confraternities in medieval Hungary (ca. 1270 – ca. 1530)]. By Marie-Madeleine de Cevins. Pécs: Virágmandula, 2015. 308 pp.

 

The French historian Marie-Madeleine de Cevins is well known among Hungarian medievalists. She is one of the few Western European historians whose research field is in East Central Europe, more precisely in medieval Hungary. She has dealt with questions of ecclesiastical history for the last twenty or so years. In addition to a number of articles and a book on the church institutions in the Hungarian towns, she published a thick volume on Franciscan Observants in Hungary (Les Franciscains observants hongrois, de l’expansion à la débâcle [vers 1450 – vers 1540] Rome [2008]), and she also organized a research group dealing with mendicant economy in East Central Europe, financed by the French Agence National de Recherche (Marginalité, économie et christianisme: La vie matérielle des couvents mendiants en Europe centrale). The question of mendicant confraternities came up in the framework of this research.

Almost as if showing respect for a long tradition, works on medieval Hungarian history often begin with the contention that sources are scarce either because they never existed or because they did not survive the upheavals of East Central European history. Certainly there are far fewer written sources in this part of Europe than in the Southern or Western regions of the continent. However, there are some exceptions. The subject of de Cevins’ book seems to be one of them. Although confraternities are documented in Western Europe centuries earlier, the adoption of this form of piety in the mendicant orders seems to have found much less expression there than it did in East Central Europe, especially in Hungary.

The book consists of seven chapters, including a conclusion and a long appendix of nearly seventy pages containing tables, maps, graphs, photos of documents, followed by the publication of sixteen charters. Between the two sections, there is a fifteen-page bibliography which lists both published and unpublished sources, as well as works of secondary literature mainly in French, Hungarian and English, but there are also German and Flemish titles.

In the first chapter one of the main questions is the terminology, since confraternities need to be distinguished from other forms of piety such as, for instance, pro anima donations. In fact, one of the difficulties is that the sources are not only very uneven, but they also contain very few details. Sometimes even the name of the beneficiary is missing, not to mention the circumstances under which he or she joined the mendicant community. The first half of the chapter offers a short history of the confraternities and their monastic roots. The second part gives an overview of the historical research with a brief discussion of the secondary literature in English, French, Danish, Polish, and Czech, with a special focus on the works in Hungarian.

The second chapter enumerates the sources themselves, from the normative texts, which are very few in number, through the charters, the registers, and the formularia, including the relevant sources issued by the Pauline Order. De Cevins’ scope is larger here than the mendicant confraternity charters stricto sensu, partly due to the fact that the sources survived in very different forms and under very different circumstances. In this context, she also discusses the problem of conflating the confratres with the “simple” benefactors of the orders; this aspect is important when categorizing the sources. Finally, there is a short summary of the formal characteristics of the confraternity charters.

The third chapter, entitled “The success of mendicant confraternities in Hungary till about 1530,” is the main thematic part of the book. It discusses the chronology, spatial distribution, and social background of the phenomenon. As far is this last aspect is concerned, de Cevins underlines that the nobility is clearly overrepresented in the source material. This is not simply a Hungarian phenomenon. De Cevins quotes the English and Burgundian examples, but she notices an important difference, namely the relatively low number of aristocrats and, in contrast, the strong presence of the nobility. I agree with her contention that further research is needed in order to determine whether this phenomenon was a Hungarian peculiarity or not, but whatever the case, this detail fits well into our image of late medieval Hungarian society.

The following three chapters analyze the process of how one joined the confraternity and the levels of benefices (Chapter 4), the connections between the orders and their confraternities, including the mutual services (Chapter 5), and the religious aspects, the “value” of the confraternity from the point of view of the lay members (Chapter 6).

The conclusion focuses on three aspects. The first is the disciplined use of the confraternity as a religious institution. The hesitancy to issue blank charters contributed to the late medieval success of confraternities in Hungary, especially among nobles and aristocrats. Secondly, this group was particularly susceptible to this form of piety because of earlier monastic traditions (the high prestige of kindred monasteries) and the social demands of the elite. And thirdly, de Cevins again contextualizes the confraternity in the European framework, and she describes its place in the rich set of the forms of piety promoted or accepted by the mendicant orders.

It is rather unusual that a book by a non-Hungarian scholar is first published in Hungarian. In this case, given both the subject and the author it was auspicious that a Hungarian publisher undertook the task. However, a short remark has to be made about the translation. Obviously, one of the goals was to publish the volume as soon as possible, and the lack of time made it difficult to go through the translated text carefully. In some cases, this led only to annoying grammatical or orthographical mistakes, but unfortunately there are more serious problems. Certain phrases are hard to understand because of the unfortunate phrasing in Hungarian, and a few of them seem to mean just the opposite as the author’s intention simply because of a missing “not.” Hopefully, the French edition of the volume will also be published in the near future, and historians will at least have the opportunity to check the translation against the original text.

In summary, Marie-Madeleine de Cevins’s book yields new insights into the relationship between the mendicant orders and the surrounding society based on a neglected group of sources. She highlights the differences between the behaviors of the orders, as well as the differences within the orders in different regions. Finally, she discusses the subject in a larger European context, emphasizing that the exceptionality of the Hungarian case may be thrown into question if sources from other regions are analyzed, too. The book is the first but hopefully not the last comprehensive analysis of a subject that until now has suffered from neglect.

Beatrix F. Romhányi 

Károli Gáspár University, Budapest

A Német Lovagrend Poroszországban: A népesség és a településszerkezet változásai [The Teutonic Order in Prussia: Changes in population and settlement pattern]. By László Pósán. Máriabesenyő: Attraktor, 2015. 312 pp.

 

Works in Hungarian on the history of the Teutonic Order focus primarily on two issues: the events of the 1210–20s, when the Order held territories in Burzenland in southeastern Transylvania, and the diplomatic connections between Sigismund of Luxemburg and the Teutonic Knights. However, the events preceding the presence of the Knights in Hungary, as well as their lasting and significant rule in the Baltics beginning in the 1230s, have not captured the interests or attention of Hungarian scholars. László Pósán, associate professor at the University of Debrecen, has been trying to fill this gap for decades by publishing numerous articles concerning the history of the Order in Prussia and Hungary. This monograph provides a summary of Pósán’s research on this subject.

Pósán summarizes the relevant German, Polish, and English secondary literature and provides an excellent complement with a list of primary sources illustrating the major processes and changes that were at work in the region. His work is divided into four main parts, organized chronologically.

The first part offers a broad overview of the Prussian territories and the tribes that inhabited the region before the arrival of the Knights. Pósán provides a vivid description of the harsh and unhospitable conditions of the land, which has proved one of the biggest difficulties for the Teutonic Knights.

The second part presents the everyday life of the Prussian population and prevailing power relations up to the Treaty of Christburg (1249), which is often characterized as the conclusion of the First Prussian Uprising (1242–53), though the fighting did not actually cease until 1253. The treaty guaranteed liberties to all Prussians who converted to Christianity, but it did nothing to establish peace, as many Prussians did not wish to convert and the Knights swore to root out paganism. Pósán convincingly argues that the Christburg treaty brought consolidation to the lands belonging to the Teutonic Knights, as many members of the Prussian aristocracy were won over by the offer of various benefits. Nevertheless, Prussians who were dissatisfied with the rule of their new German lords or simply wanted to practice their old pagan religion undisturbed moved to the territories inhabited by the still independent tribes in East or North Prussia and Pomeralia. The chapter ends with a narrative of the Great Prussian Uprising (1260–74), a rebellion led by the Prussian aristocracy against the aggressive and drastic transformation of the whole power system in the region.

In the third chapter, Pósán discusses the transformation of the internal conditions in Prussia brought about by the Knights. This process included the reshaping the natural environment by deforestation and drainage, the organized colonization of Prussia with the help of locators, and finally the remodeling of property structures. The most significant merit of the chapter is the overview it offers of a pattern of a settler movement (which culminated between 1310 and 1370). The author also enumerates the locators, who were entrusted by the Order with colonizing vast but deserted or uninhabited territories. The key initiator (apart from bishops and landlords) was the supreme seigneur, the Teutonic Order itself, which gave locators lands in average between 10–100 Hufen (Hufe = peasant parcel) to found villages using settlers recruited from Germany and Poland. In the second half of the fourteenth century, the number of Polish settlers and locators who took part in the process of colonization increased significantly. Pósán draws his reader’s attention to the fact that the Order also tried to lure more settlers from Lithuania in the second half of the fifteenth century by offering far more favorable conditions. In the frontier zones, the Order favored donating properties burdened with military obligation to create a solid background for campaigns. Pósán points out that, thanks to the constant flow of settlers, the Great Plague did not break the backbone of the Orders’ economy. As a matter of fact, as was the case in other East European states, the epidemic had only a limited impact on the territories governed by the Ordensstaat. Around 1400, with about 480,000 people under their authority, the Teutonic Knights were at the zenith of their power and development. Nevertheless, if one compares other European countries with the state of the Teutonic Order, the latter was not among the most densely populated (8 people/km2 for a territory of some 58,000 km2). However, the number of inhabitants and the settlement density were highly unbalanced in different geographical areas. The valley of the Vistula River and especially the region of Kulmerland were more densely populated, even exceeding the averages in Poland and Silesia. 23 percent of the population lived in the 93 cities that had been founded mainly by hospites.

The fourth and last chapter deals with wars waged by the Teutonic Knights against Poland–Lithuania and later the Prussian Confederation (the Thirteen Years’ War, 1454–66). Both parties preferred or were forced to use mainly mercenaries, and this had serious financial consequences. Worse, the unpaid mercenaries plundered the countryside even if the settlements belonged to the party that had hired them. Thus, one could observe a catastrophic decline in terms of economy and demography (depopulation in all Prussia reached 40–50 percent) in territories most exposed to military movements: the southern border areas, Kulmerland, and along the Vistula River, areas which were known as the most developed and urbanized regions in the state of the Teutonic Knights. The cost of food grew rapidly, causing famines, epidemics, and riots. Numerous territories never recovered completely from the damages caused by the war. In the first decades of the sixteenth century there were properties which had been abandoned in 1410 and remained deserted. War did not spare livestock either. The tremendous loss of (war)horses offers an additional explanation as to why the Order was forced to use more and more mercenaries after 1410 instead of its reliable and efficient cavalry. These negative tendencies were only tempered by fugitives and peasants fleeing from Lithuania (8,000 people in the middle of the sixteenth century) and Poland. Polish kings always tried to reclaim this manpower on border courts (Richttag, iudicia), an institution founded to observe the Treaty of Brest (1435). However, quite understandably, since the Order was in need of manpower, it did not show any great willingness to force these people to leave their lands.

According to the Second Peace of Thorn, which put an end to the Thirteen Years War in 1466, the Order lost its most developed regions (Pomeralia, Kulmerland, the region of Marienburg, Elbing, and Ermland), which were ceded to the Polish Kingdom. In spite of being the vassal of the Polish king, the Teutonic Order did make huge and desperate efforts to regain its lost domains (Polish–Teutonic War, 1519–21), but it failed. In accordance with the treaty at Krakow, which was concluded between Grandmaster Albrecht von Brandenburg and King Sigismund in 1525, the Teutonic Order in Prussia was dissolved and Prussia turned into a secular Duchy under the suzerainty of the Polish crown.

Its title notwithstanding, Pósán’s book deals a lot with political and military history, especially in the last chapter. However, this does not affect the structure and narrative negatively. Rather, the information concerning political and military history completes and explains the author’s statements relating to economy, population, and settlement patterns. The list of primary sources cited constitutes one-third of the monograph. This illustrates Pósán’s extensive use of primary sources. These documents allow the reader to acquaint him or herself with contemporary names, measures, and customs of Prussia. Furthermore, the reader can observe the amalgamation of the languages, customs, and techniques of two different cultures: the Christian Germans and the Pagan Prussians. All in all, the book provides a great overview of Teutonic economy and colonization on the basis of diplomatic sources.

Benjámin Borbás

Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Religion, Politics, and Resolution. Edited by Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. 440 pp.

The factors informing religious and ethnic conflict and coexistence have been at the center of research by scholars in the social sciences and humanities for the better part of the twentieth century, and they remain high on the scholarly agenda today. One of the most complex elements within the dynamics of confessional and ethnic pluralism concerns the question of shared sacred spaces: why do certain holy places become politicized and turn into sites of inter-communal violence among different religious groups at a particular time, while others retain their status of apparently peaceful coexistence? What are the factors that determine the positions of these sites on the axis of conflict and concord, and who are the agents that bring about transformation in the meanings and functions of these places?

Critically engaging with the theory of “antagonistic tolerance” (AT) and moving beyond the “clash of civilizations” paradigm, Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites offers a unique exploration of the intricate politics of choreographies that emerge around sacred spaces, coupled with cautious scrutiny of the ways in which diverse religious and political motivations are activated and juxtaposed. It does so by focusing on the role of the state and its attitude towards various ethnic and religious groups in fashioning a context of “competitive sharing,” as well as on the reactions of these communities to these state-initiated actions. Because it examines the choreographies of daily life both in synchronic and diachronic perspectives, This book is crucial not only to the study of competitive sharing within contemporary societies, but also to new understandings of the issue of religious coexistence in general and shared sacred spaces in particular in different historical periods. As the editors note in their introduction, “historically and in contemporary cases the importance of sacred sites lays [sic!] both in the particular “‘choreography of daily life’ around the site and in the manner in which public authorities frame the context of relations between religious and ethnic groups” (p.2).

The relevance of the book lies not only in the methodology employed by the authors, but also in the particular cases on which they focus. What connects these shared sacred sites is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire: the places under discussion in the Balkans, Palestine/Israel, and Anatolia were all part of the same imperial formation. Thus, in addition to examining the forces and strategies that determined how the use of these spaces was accepted, negotiated, and contested, the examples given by the authors offer perspectives that go beyond the glass of “Eurocentrism,” since the territories analyzed within the framework of the volume usually do not fall within the purview of scholars dealing with religious coexistence in European societies. The authors focus on three main areas in their attempt to illustrate adequately how boundaries (physical or conceptual) around shared sacred sites were created, maintained, negotiated, and transgressed in the aforementioned territories. They tackle the issue of coexistence, which is the most fundamental category for an understanding of the daily mechanisms and arrangements around sacred sites, and they analyze the particular features of sacred sites, such as narratives, centrality, and indivisibility. They also explore the manners in which state-society relations articulate the division of sacred sites.

All of the articles in the volume merit separate praise, but given the limitations of space I single out a few that I consider particularly eye-opening in terms of their topic and methodology. Karen Barkey uses the example of the Ottoman Empire to demonstrate that one has to move away from previous theories of Ottoman tolerance, institutionalized in the millet system, and analyze the vast number of shared sacred sites (churches, shrines, and mausoleums) across the Empire in order to capture the day-to-day complexity of interreligious and interethnic relations. By using the example of a Marian sanctuary in Algeria, Dionigi Albera’s work analyzes the historical development of the political and religious context that articulated the “mixed attendance” at this shrine in order to illustrate how particular religious sites could become “reactivated” in different time periods. David Henig’s study on Muslim Bosnia attempts to prove that the politicization and/or nationalization of sacred sites through various state regulated mechanisms cannot be described simply as a top-to-bottom process. Rather, one has to look at the “grassroots activities of divergent social actors who intersubjectively construct and negotiate the more fluid meaning and practices involved in actually sharing sites from day to day” (pp.133–34). Wendy Pullan’s analysis of the conflictual nature of Al-Wad Street in Jerusalem illustrates how multiple layers of meaning can exist at a particular place, and how one ought to approach the sacred and the profane/secular not as a diametrically opposed phenomena, but as parts of a “continuous but differentiated structure” (p.169). This issue is further developed and corroborated in the closing article of the volume by Rabia Harmanşah, Tuğba Tanyeri-Erdemir, and Robert M. Hayden. By providing a comparative analysis of the Haci Bektaş and Mevlana museums in Turkey, the authors meticulously demonstrate the role of various state and communal actors in turning religioscapes into secularscapes and vice versa.

By illustrating the pliability of sacred spaces with mixed attendance and demonstrating that the choreography of a particular site results from the complex interplay between day-to-day interactions and political maneuverings, Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites will enhance our understanding of the peculiar dynamics around shared sacred places and open new research avenues in the study of confessional and ethnic coexistence in different historical time periods.

Emese Muntán

Central European University, Budapest

Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul. By E. Natalie Rothman. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012. xx + 323 pp.

 

This work had been a long awaited one, particularly by students of early modern Venetian, Ottoman, and Mediterranean history: the reasons for this excitement were Rothman’s widely circulated doctoral dissertation entitled “Between Venice and Istanbul: Trans-imperial Subjects and Cultural Mediation in the Early Modern Mediterranean” (2006) and some of her frequently cited early journal articles that drew on it. Despite its oft-mentioned shortcomings, namely that while turning her dissertation into a book Rothman omitted some of the best parts of that dissertation, and that the monograph falls short of the comparative perspective that its subtitle promises, Brokering Empire remains one of the most noteworthy and influential works of the past few years in Venetian historiography.

The focus of the book is groups and individuals crossing various—religious, political and linguistic—boundaries between Venice and the Ottoman Empire in the period from 1570 to 1670. In the introduction Rothman posits that colonial sojourners in the Serenissima and the converts, merchants, translator-interpreters (dragomans), and diplomats, whom she collectively terms “trans-imperial subjects,” operated in a political, geographic, cultural, and ethno-linguistic contact zone in which the now forgotten institutional overlaps between Venice and the Ottoman Empire are demonstrable. However, Rothman claims, trans-imperial subjects also played a central role in elaborating and naturalizing key categories of alterity (“Christendom” vs. “Islam,” “Europe” vs. “the Levant,” etc.) that continuously recreated the very boundaries across which they mediated. Rothman suggests an investigation of various aspects of trans-imperial subjects as intermediaries between Venice and Istanbul sheds light on the roles of these culture brokers in the process of the creation of “Europeanness” and its relation to Orientalism.

In the four parts and seven chapters that follow, Rothman offers support for these claims. In Part 1 (“Mediation”) she discusses trans-imperial subjects as merchants and commercial brokers in Venice. The Venetian state appointed brokers to mediate between foreign and local merchants, and it required them to be loyal Venetian citizens representing the interests of Venetian merchants and, consequently, those of the state. As successful mediation assumed excellent foreign communication skills on the broker’s part, former slaves, Christian émigrés from Ottoman domains, converts, and Jews made ideal brokers. Their appeals to be appointed as brokers reveal the strategies adopted by the petitioners in their attempts to prove to the authorities that they were trans-imperial subjects and prospectively useful “citizens” of metropolitan Venice. In Chapter 2 Rothman analyzes the mediating roles and duties of such brokers in Venice, claiming that while brokers were considered semi-official bureaucrats in Venice, as part of a prevailing practice, they also acted as merchants and were involved in the business transactions of their mercantile colonial relatives as unofficial brokers.

In Part 2 (“Conversion”), Chapter 3 Rothman argues that narratives by and about converts reveal different Venetian conceptions of conversion for Protestants and Ottoman Jews and Muslims. While Protestants were considered as having changed location as a consequence of a purposeful religious conversion, in the case of Ottoman subjects conversion was regarded as an unintended consequence of a transition from one spatially defined religious community to an other. Ottoman conversion to Catholicism was associated with changes in religious practices rather than with spiritual transformation, which sheds light on early modern Venice’s understanding of conversion in the Ottoman Empire: a religio-political shift defined by the sultan’s patronage of converts and devoid of spiritual commitment. Chapter 4 focuses on Venetian mechanisms in the management of the conversion of Muslims and Jews. Through conversion, these “prototypical others of the Venetian state were transformed into properly constituted Catholic subjects capable of filling the normative kinship and institutional roles in metropolitan Venetian society” (p.161). The Pia Casa dei Catecumeni, or House of Catechumens, played a key role in this transformation: administrating bequests, negotiating dowries, and arranging adoption and employment, the House integrated new converts into Venice’s horizontal and vertical networks of patronage and clientage.

Part 3 (“Translation”), or Chapter 5, discusses translation and Venetian interpreter-translators, the dragomans. Like the first chapter, this part discusses petitions and rhetorical strategies, this time with the focus on Venice’s public dragomans. In their petitions, dragomans frequently stressed their intimate familiarity with all matters Ottoman and their loyalty to the Serenisimma as citizens of Venice. In other words, they portrayed themselves as both local and foreign. In turn, due to their own life trajectories between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, as well as their access to the Venetian elite and the city state’s highest offices, they played an important role in defining what “foreign” and “foreigner” effectively meant in early modern Venice.

In Part 4 (“Articulation”) Rothman examines the interactions between the groups of trans-imperial subjects discussed in the previous chapters and communication between them and other foreigners. These interactions, which inescapably led to the categorization of trans-imperial subjects into groups defined by people’s linguistic competencies, played a key role in articulating boundaries in the Veneto–Ottoman borderlands. Chapter 6 deals with the ways in which such linguistic categorizations influenced decisions about which merchants coming to do business in metropolitan Venice were required by the authorities to reside in the Fondaco dei Turchi, or Turkish Exchange House. While the category of the “Turk” came to include subcategories like “Bosnians and Albanians” and “Asiatics,” “higher” ethno-linguistic categories were also (re-) defined in the process. Chapter 7 addresses the changes the meaning of the term “Levantine” underwent over time both in Venice and Western Europe. Rothman convincingly argues that in Venice the term came to be used to refer to Christian, Muslim and Jewish merchants from Ottoman and Safavid domains doing business in the city-state. Therefore, she suggests in the “Afterword,” it should be acknowledged that the early modern Venetian definition of “Levantine” and the ethnolinguistic taxonomies discussed throughout the book paved the way for eighteenth-century Orientalists, who categorized Mediterranean peoples on the basis of language, ritual, and custom, much like their trans-imperial forebears had done in their institutionalization of their specialized knowledge of things Ottoman.

In recent years, Brokering Empire has been one of the most significant contributions to the literature on early modern Veneto-Ottoman interactions. Despite the lack of discussions from the Ottoman perspective, four years after it was first published the book remains an indispensable reference point for historians of early modern Venice and an informative reading for students of Ottoman and Mediterranean history. As Christian and Muslim “confessionalization(s)” and early modern conversions of various sorts—and consequently the processes through which religio-political boundaries were defined and traversed—are currently in the forefront of early modern historical research on Venice, the Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean, etc., Brokering Empire will remain frequently cited and in circulation for years to come.

Tamás Kiss

Central European University, Budapest

Humanitarian Intervention in the Long Nineteenth Century: Setting the Precedent. By Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015. 253. pp.

 

One of the most fashionable trends in scholarship today is research on the effects and effectiveness of humanitarian intervention. The subject is particularly popular among political scientists, scholars of international law, and philosophers. They tend to focus on events since 1990, and they usually regard humanitarian intervention as a phenomenon that began to become significant in the post-Cold War era. They generally search for the roots of concepts and practices of humanitarian intervention in legal and philosophical antecedents in Western European history and political thought, and instances of humanitarian intervention from earlier times are mentioned only as illustrations. The book by Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla constitutes a significant contribution to these discussions, in part because it examines the emergence of humanitarian intervention as concept and practice in the early nineteenth century and offers analyses of several case studies.

The first monograph to call attention to the possibility that research on the practical and theoretical aspects of humanitarian intervention in the nineteenth century could enrich our understanding of the phenomenon of humanitarian intervention today with new perspectives and precedents was authored by Davide Rodogno (Against Massacre. Humanitarian Interventions in the Ottoman Empire, 1815–1914: The Emergence of a European Concept and International Practice [2012]). As Rodogno showed, post-Cold War instances of humanitarian intervention could be meaningfully compared with instances of humanitarian intervention that took place in the period between 1821 and 1918.

Heraclides and Dialla share many of Rodogno’s views, and their book represents a continuation of his work. The chapters authored by Heraclides, a political scientist and scholar of international law with a thorough knowledge of nineteenth-century history, present the relevant events not through the eyes of a twenty-first century academic, but rather from the perspective of someone who lived at the time the events in question took place. Heraclides offers a subtle and critical presentation of the relevant schools of political thought and the various debates and representatives of conflicting viewpoints, and he puts his discussion in the context of the events at the time. Dialla is first and foremost a scholar of nineteenth-century Russian history. In her chapters, which draw first and foremost on Russian historiography, she focuses closely on the relationship between legal theory, foreign policy, and public opinion.

According to Heraclides and Dialla, the few people who are aware that humanitarian interventions have a rich array of clearly documentable antecedents in the period between 1821 and 1918 are hesitant to consider these antecedents as precedents. Heraclides contends that they make mention of the long nineteenth century first and foremost when seeking justifications in the past for contemporary doctrines (p.IX). In contrast with the few works that touch on the nineteenth century, Heraclides and Dialla note as a critical observation that, while scholars dealing with the question have recognized that the study of Orientalism and relations between the Ottoman Empire and the European great powers is particularly important to our understanding of the history of humanitarian interventions, they do not consider relations between the empires of Central Europe and the East. And last but not least, Heraclides emphasizes that, in its study of nineteenth-century humanitarian intervention, the research on the subject has neglected concepts and doctrines from contemporary international law (pp.X–XI).

The primary goal of the book is to use comparative tools to present the theoretical and practical aspects of humanitarian intervention in the nineteenth century. The chapters on the theoretical side of the subject consider philosophical axioms and relevant phases of the development of European law. They then present the views represented by experts on international law who dealt with the question, divided up into periods on the basis of the emergence and evolution of humanitarian intervention. Heraclides and Dialla link the chapters that approach the subject from the perspective of practice with a periodization that they establish on the basis of the evolution of international law. The relationship between the two (international law and humanitarian intervention as practice) is significant, since the introduction of legal measures regulating humanitarian intervention is inseparable from the study of concrete cases of humanitarian intervention.

Heraclides offers a clear presentation of how international law grew in part out of the ad hoc international regulations concerning humanitarian intervention. What we refer to as international law was hardly unified or homogenous in the nineteenth century. Numerous contradictions arose from the way in which the ad hoc regulations were contrived, one after the other. One of the signs of this lack of homogeneity is the simple fact that the very term humanitarian intervention only came to be used in a consistent manner in the languages of the various great powers in the early twentieth century (p.12). Heraclides and Dialla also note that the concept of international law was used in two different ways in communications among the great powers of Western Europe and in their dealings with the world beyond Europe. The manner in which international law shaped relations between Christian states was very different from the manner in which it shaped relations between Christian and non-Christian states (including the Ottoman Empire, Iran, China, and Japan). This difference gave the practice of humanitarian intervention a distinctive legal background.

Heraclides and Dialla deserve praise for having included both Russia and the United States in their discussion, alongside the empires of Asia. It is also worth noting that in their five case studies from the nineteenth century (the Greek War of Independence in 1821–32, the French intervention in Lebanon and Syria in 1860–61, the Bulgarian atrocities in 1875–78, the Balkan crises of 1878, and the Cuban War of Independence in 1895–1898) they treat national histories with a critical eye and at times raise questions and offer interpretations from the perspectives of the Muslim world. The ideas with which the individual chapters conclude are based on a consistent set of perspectives, thus making the events which took place in Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Bulgaria, and Cuba understandable in a comparative context for a lay-reader.

One could make the critical observation that the book is not based on the nineteenth-century great power system. Fundamentally, the site of humanitarian interventions at the time was the Ottoman East. It is difficult to understand why the authors make virtually no mention of the Habsburg Empire when at the same time they offer detailed analyses of the Western European and American responses (from the perspectives of politics, public opinion, and international law). In the discussion of the Eastern Crisis (1875–78), for instance, they examine the reactions of the United States, but Austria-Hungary, which was one of the main players in the events, is given only passing mention. One has the impression that a double standard is being applied: the topic is being discussed almost exclusively from the perspective of the states that would later emerge as the great powers of the twenty-first century.

This is true of several legal phenomena as well. Since Western Europe in the nineteenth century did not consider capitulations to the Muslim world and the cult protectorates that were based on these capitulations part of international law, Heraclides and Dialla also do not consider them part of international law. However, both Russia and Austria-Hungary did, in large part because for them the Ottoman Empire was not a distant world somewhere beyond the seas, but rather a great power with which they had essentially shared a border for three centuries and a state with which they had had to find an everyday modus vivendi, much as they had had to do with the states of Western Europe.

Sadly, the book is of acute relevance today, at a time when, amidst the ruins of states that have crumbled, humanitarian crises have broken out the world over. The book will be of interest not only to scholars of Ottoman history and international relations in the nineteenth century, but also to politicians and experts dealing with humanitarian intervention as both a concept and practice.

Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Another Hungary: The Nineteenth-Century Provinces in Eight Lives. By Robert Nemes. (Stanford Studies on Central and Eastern Europe.) Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. 312 pp.

 

The Hungarian provinces in the nineteenth century are often associated with backwardness, poverty, and are characterized as places where time stands still. In standard accounts, whether academic, belletristic, or travelogue, provincial Hungary was defined by its lack of the blessings of modernity, or, more precisely, its transition to the modern age has been characterized as severely limited. Another Hungary by Robert Nemes challenges this portrait, and thus joins the growing literature that takes aim at the concept of Central and Eastern European backwardness. Through his examination of eight individuals from northeastern Hungary, Nemes sheds light on the “movers and shakers” (p.4) of provincial Hungarian society.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each of them telling the story of one individual. The oldest among them was Count József Gvadányi, a military officer who served in several wars during the eighteenth century, and who, after his retirement, engaged in literary activity and consequently gained considerable notoriety. Ráfáel Kästenbaum, a Galician-born Jewish merchant in Zemplén County, earned respect by designating a huge sum of money in his will for the establishment of a modern Jewish school in the small town of Sátoraljaújhely. The third protagonist, engineer Pál Vásárhelyi, is still regarded as the founder of modern river control in Hungary; in particular, he led work on the Lower Danube and drew up the plans to reengineer the Tisza river. Klára Lövei was a pioneer in women’s education and was among the first women to engage in journalism. The central character of Chapter 5, Iosif Vulcan, edited a popular Romanian weekly, and in addition to his Romanian nationalist activism, was a respected member of the middle class of Nagyvárad/Oradea. Ármin Schnitzer, a rabbi in Komárom/Komárno, was also an esteemed member of his community in the nineteenth century. He exemplifies the typical career and intellectual path Neolog Jews trod in the nineteenth century. A lesser-known figure, the tobacco specialist and journalist Vilmos Daróczi is featured in Chapter 7. Finally, the last chapter discusses Margit Kaffka, who is considered to be the first professional female writer in Hungarian literature.

These eight figures convincingly demonstrate the social complexity of provincial Hungarian society: Gvadányi and Kaffka were Catholic, Lövei was a Calvinist, Vásárhelyi a Lutheran, Vulcan a Greek Catholic, Kästenbaum, Schnitzer and Daróczi were Jewish. The former four were noblemen (Gvadányi was even a count), Vulcan had a mixed gentry and commoner background, while the three Jews were commoners. Some of the eight were (wo)men of letters, while Kästenbaum hardly could write. Yet, for all this diversity, these people had far more in common than it would appear at first glance. All of them were born in northeast Hungary, and while most of them left for shorter or longer periods, they all maintained their social contacts there, and their native province played a persistent role in shaping their mental maps. Furthermore, none of them was born wealthy, and they used innovative techniques to make their own way in society, in particular through their mobility, which was exceptional by the standards of the period.

Nemes’ selection of figures is both original and careful. While a few protagonists, such as Gvadányi, Vásárhelyi and Kaffka are vaguely remembered in Hungary, the others have been almost completely forgotten. For those readers who are not experts in Hungarian history, probably all of them are unfamiliar. The result of this selection is that Nemes is able to tell stories that move beyond the standard biographies of notable politicians and artists. He brings the social realities of provincial elites to the fore, draws the structure of their respective networks, and reconstructs their mental maps. He also points to the importance of intellectual achievement as a means for people without substantial wealth to secure a living—a remarkable feature of nineteenth-century modernity was, after all, the increasing demand for people whose minds were their most important resource.

Through these eight lives, Nemes shows that during the nineteenth century, the Hungarian provinces were not merely the passive recipients of modernity. Rather, they produced individuals with original agendas, who envisioned novel ways to forge a different, more modern Hungary—hence the title of the book. To what extent these attempts were successful is another matter. But one certainly can point to some immediate success stories such as the establishment of a modern, i.e. secular and Hungarian, Jewish school in Sátoraljaújhely, and the management of Hungary’s major rivers which enabled long-distance shipping and secured arable farming lands. (The fact that these river regulations changed the environment on a scale that would certainly be regarded as catastrophic by today’s standards is another matter.)

The micro-perspective of the book, which is its greatest advantage, however, poses some limits. A wider macro-perspective appears only as a means of contextualizing the individual trajectories. The absence of the more humble classes in the book is remarkable: all of the protagonists represent either the old provincial gentry or the advancing Jewish Bürgertum. Even Vulcan could claim partial gentry origins, in contrast to many Romanian intellectuals of the age. Nemes duly addresses the non-representativity of his subjects with regard to the broader provincial population (p.4). Yet, his selection indirectly suggests that the “movers and shakers” of provincial Hungary can be reduced to two groups: the gentry and (Neolog) Jews, which is, ironically, a profoundly traditional explanation. To what extent Gentile commoners contributed to the modernization of the provinces, is thus a question that the book does not address, and indeed cannot address due to the selection of the protagonists.

As innovative as some of the book’s may be, and as creative as this collective biography is, Nemes by no means challenges the conceptualization of Hungary, and in particular its northern and eastern territories, as poor and backward. Yet, by pointing out some of the self-made men and women of these lands, Nemes draws a more complex picture of provincial life in the nineteenth century. Given the deep commonalities between northeast Hungary and other peripheral regions of Central Europe, Another Hungary is a must read for anyone interested in the emergence of modernity beyond the well-known metropolitan contexts.

Bálint Varga

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Globalizing Southeastern Europe: Emigrants, America, and the State since the Late Nineteenth Century. By Ulf Brunnbauer. London: Lexington Books, 2016. 376 pp.

 

The history of migration has produced an uneven historiography; the history of immigration occupies the center stage, while the history of emigration barely receives any attention. Similarly, only seldom do studies follow migration patterns over multiple epochs. In Globalizing Southeastern Europe, Ulf Brunnbauer makes a significant contribution to the history of migration in both regards. In his analysis of “emigration regimes” in the Balkans from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s, Brunnbauer convincingly demonstrates the benefits of taking a longue durée perspective on migration processes. Appearing in the midst of the current heated discussions about migration policy in Europe, this highly original and innovative book is both important and timely.

Focusing on “the relationship between territory, human movement and political interventions” (p.4) in Southeastern Europe, Brunnbauer makes a strong case for the relevance of both the social fact and the topic of emigration in the creation of political communities in the region. Reaching back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, the tradition of seasonal migration of itinerant laborers from the mountain areas established a “habitual imprint” of migration in the region and prepared the ground for large-scale overseas migration at the end of the century. The transition between various forms of migration was a complex process, in which the building of the Suez Canal in the 1860s played a key role: “Emigration to Egypt was a kind of a preparation for going to America” (p.25). The characteristics of seasonal work-migration—maintaining close emotional and economic family ties and the expectation of return—continued to define both the contours of emigration from the region as migrants travelled increasingly long distances in search for employment, as well as the various political regimes’ understandings of the dynamics of emigration.

Weaving together the perspectives of individuals, organizations (emigrant associations, shipping companies, etc.) and states, Brunnbauer demonstrates that the social practice (and later the memory of emigration), as well as the discussion about the relationship between emigrants and the state, remained at the center of definitions of the political community through the succession of state forms and political regimes: in the multi-ethnic empires (Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire) as well as the independent nation-states (Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia), the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and later the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The first three chapters examine the period until the First World War: Chapters Two and Three look at emigration at both ends of the migration process from the perspective of emigrants and the organizations that facilitated their migration and shaped their experiences, while Chapter Four examines the “emigration regimes” of the states governing this region. Chapters Five and Six focus on the interwar period and the socialist era respectively to show the long-lasting legacy of the social reality of emigration even after the heyday of overseas emigration had long passed. Keeping his readers constantly mindful of the regional specificity of the experience of emigration, Brunnbauer argues for the continued significance of emigration for the self-understanding of states governing this region despite their diverging conceptions of the political community (as imperial, national, “trinational” or socialist). Claiming the emigrants in distant places as “their own”, these states engaged in what Brunnbauer fittingly calls “transterritorial nation building” (p.321).

One of the overarching themes of the book is the exploration of the dynamics of emigration. Brunnbauer shows how such singular and often contingent events like the spread of the Phylloxera, which disrupted wine production in the 1890s, influenced emigration patterns, and how quickly these effects solidified into self-reproducing patterns. Transnational networks on various levels of social organization (families, associations) turned emigration into a “persistent fact of social life in the emigration regions even when hardly any new emigrants left” (p.82). The social fact of emigration (“transnationalism from below”) generated a broad spectrum of state responses (“transnationalism from above”). The responses ranged from strict prohibitions mostly ignored by local officials (Ottoman Empire), to attempts at “ethnic engineering” by encouraging some ethnicities to migrate and others to return (Hungary), and open emigration policies which integrated emigrants into the nation-building project from the beginning (Greece and Montenegro). States displayed genuine concern for the well-being of emigrants, whom they still considered members of the body politic at home, albeit both economic considerations (states had to pay for the repatriation of their citizens) and the interests of the military (young men should not be able to evade military service) shaped state interventions. The extension of the consular service, a direct response to transnational emigrant networks, similarly combined the controlling and protectionist elements of state paternalism as consuls both assisted and monitored emigrants abroad. Although several states passed emigration laws (Hungary, 1903; Bulgaria, 1907), international shipping conglomerates successfully resisted state intervention and emigrants regularly circumvented passport or other administrative requirements.

The First World War changed the parameters of emigration from the Balkans to the United States on both ends of the migration process. Strict immigration laws in the United States severely limited the number of emigrants from the region, while the newly-founded Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918–29) (and subsequently the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) faced the challenges of creating a unified state apparatus covering diverse territories and of instilling the sense of a national community in the population. Brunnbauer shows continuities in the discourse on emigration; only those emigrants who fit into the understanding of the national community (e.g. the emigration of the non-Slavic population was supported as was the repatriation of Slavs) continued being considered members of the nation. The First Emigration Law (1921) underscored the significance of overseas emigration by defining emigrants as those who re-settled for work outside Europe (modified in 1927). Emigrant organizations, periodicals, and the establishment of emigrant museums in Yugoslavia further illustrate the role of emigrants in honing the identity of the new state. Emigrants came to literally embody Yugoslavia after its 1941 dissolution, “their double reality—as an ideological project and as a social fact—created a link not only between America and Yugoslavia, but also between the interwar and the postwar period” (p.248).

The Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia initially restricted emigration, before, uniquely among socialist countries, opening its borders for labor emigration. According to Brunnbauer these apparent ruptures occlude continuities and a “learning curve” of the Yugoslav state in matters relating to emigration (p.261). Yugoslavia encouraged repatriation as a “demonstration of the superiority of the socialist system” (p.263), but only selectively, and continued to use emigration laws as tools of “ethnic engineering,” encouraging some groups to return while discouraging others. Cultural organizations (Matica) kept in contact with emigrants and wrote them into the pre-history of the socialist state as victims of the destitute conditions that prevailed under monarchical rule. Organized on the level of the republics, the Matica had a nationalist character, which in some cases the socialist state considered suspicious (like in the Croatian case), while in others it encouraged them (Macedonia). In every case, however, they served as production sites and repositories of knowledge about emigrants. This knowledge and the continued positive experience with emigrants, whose remittances served as the main source of hard currency for Yugoslavia until the late 1950s, provided a solid foundation for the increasing normalization of work emigration. Illegal emigration flourished; thus “when the government allowed officially emigration for work reasons 1963–64 it was legalizing an already existing practice” (p.298). Opening the borders for labor migration also eased the pressure on the labor market, alleviated the housing shortage and generated revenue. These benefits outweighed the ideological reservations about citizens of a socialist state working in a capitalist system. The “conceptualization of emigrants and the politics of exit played a major role in the process, which ultimately made Yugoslavia the socialist country most tightly interwoven with the West and the world at large” (p.269).

The geographical focus of the analysis shifts across the chapters to follow the migration patterns as Brunnbauer presents an impressive array of case studies covering emigration not only to the United States but also to South America and Australia. The relationship between these various kinds of overseas migrations remains at times unclear, however. While the experiences of the first wave of emigrants to the United States clearly defined developing narratives about overseas emigration, were these narratives confirmed through emigration experiences elsewhere or were they automatically projected onto other places? Similarly, Brunnbauer makes a convincing case for the continued significance of overseas emigration for the emigration discourse even after the center of emigration shifted to Europe; in fact it is one of the most highly innovative aspects of his book in that it shows the persistence of perceptions about emigration despite changing practices. Yet, one wonders whether European migrations did not also generate their own, perhaps diverging but related narratives. Chronologically, the book ends as the Gastarbeiter movement (with West Germany as the primary destination for emigration) begins, so perhaps the European migration becomes relevant only later. However, there are earlier moments in the narrative as well—for example, the revision of the 1921 Emigration Law to include Europe as a destination for emigration—that raise such questions.

Overall, Brunnbauer succeeds in “firmly position[ing] the state as an important factor in the emigration story” (p.321). By highlighting the dynamics between the transnational networks of emigrants and the transnational practices of states and the interconnectedness of emigrant networks and nation building, Brunnbauer constructs a compelling histoire total, whose relevance reaches far beyond the history of Southeast Europe. Brunnbauer’s analysis of the dynamics of migration systems (one of the main red threads running through the book) and his reflections on the strengths and limitations of migration theories to explain actual migration processes make a significant contribution not only to migration studies but also carry highly relevant messages for the contemporary discussion about migration.

Heléna Tóth

University of Bamberg

Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging. By Tatjana Lichtenstein. Bloomington–Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2016. 473 pp.

 

To be a Zionist in interwar Czechoslovakia, writes Tatjana Lichtenstein in her recent book, was a way for Jews to energetically stake their collective claim to sustainable Jewish life in the Diaspora as a patriotic and reliable national minority. Zionism in that place and time meant real participation in the Czechoslovak state-building process as equal citizens. Through Zionism, Jews could “articulate their belonging in the places they already called home” (p.20). Lichtenstein’s study represents an important shift away from the usual forms of inquiry into the Zionist project predominantly based on analyses of Zionist congresses, party politics, ideological conflicts, and its manifestations in Palestine. She brings Zionism down to earth as a local workaday project of regular people committed to securing their well-being and dignity in dramatically altered geopolitical conditions. Zionism was, after all, an east central European nationalism—born and bred—and Jews were its stateless nation. Zionists in interwar Czechoslovakia, Lichtenstein argues, set about building their nation through everyday institutions, schools, and sports clubs, where Jewish nationality “came to life” (p.2). Lichtenstein’s work disrupts the conventional “here” (in the Diaspora) and “there” (in the land of Israel) examination espoused in modern Jewish national political histories, pointedly reminding us of the diversity of Zionist voices before 1945, and the current limitations of the Jewish political imagination.

Based on scrupulous Czech and German-language archival research conducted in seven archives in the Czech Republic and in Israel, Lichtenstein’s book makes a dynamic contribution to the recent historiography of the Jewish experience in twentieth century Czechoslovakia grounded in fundamental questions of Jewish–state relations at the intersection of modern Jewish and east central European history. The state itself takes pride of place in her overall argument as the focus and framework of Zionist activism. She keeps our attention drawn to the inescapable reality that in modern Jewish history the state is the arbiter in the continuous “question of Jews’ suitability for citizenship, for equal rights,” and that in the center of Europe, Jewish emancipation had been explicitly conditional upon states’ perception of Jews’ transformation into loyal, acculturated, and moral subjects (p.3). The link between the two became only more acute in the Habsburg Monarchy’s successor states through the cataclysm of the First World War and the new postwar criteria of belonging. The retrospective weight of the soon-coming atrocious revocation of Jewish emancipation hangs over each of the book’s seven chapters in their introductory or concluding materials, until the ax falls in the epilogue. Czechoslovak Zionist activists then found themselves in the rare position of having access to precious immigration certificates to Palestine, as they pondered whether to seek refuge elsewhere in Europe, in Palestine, Shanghai, or the Americas, or whether to remain (p.317). The Zionist activist and writer František Friedman, Lichtenstein’s protagonist, remained at home in Czechoslovakia, enabling him the opportunity to negotiate the “Czech transfer” of 2500 to 3000 Jews to Palestine in 1939. He died following a grave illness in May 1945 (p.322).

Lichtenstein’s book rightly focuses on the Bohemian Lands as the locus of centralized Zionist authority in interwar Czechoslovakia, yet she does not neglect the wider story of the diversity of the state’s Jewish population. She highlights the continuity between the leadership of the Zionist movement in Bohemia and Moravia in the last decades of the Habsburg Monarchy and in the interwar period, while showing how the shape of their project was determined by the commonalities and peculiarities of the Jewish experience across statewide linguistic (German, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Yiddish), religious (from Orthodox to Reform, traditional to non-practicing), and sociocultural fault lines. She weaves Ivan Olbracht’s tale “The Sorrowful Eyes of Hana Karajich” into an illuminating and appealing opener to her first chapter in order to strikingly demarcate attitudes toward Zionism from the west to the easternmost reaches of Subcarpathian Ruthenia where it was simply “heresy” (p.32). The Bohemian Zionist leadership unceasingly struggled to mobilize the Jews of the eastern regions of the republic, Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia, where the greatest proportion of Jews in Czechoslovakia lived, and where Jewish communities were predominately Orthodox, traditional, or Hasidic. Jews’ multilingualism was deemed a “national trait” and “nationally neutral” by the Zionist leadership, which also declared Jewish nationality and Jewish national politics in Czechoslovakia to be a neutral path that avoided national conflict. As Lichtenstein shows, these claims did not bear out, as Jewish nationalism functioned as a buttress for the state’s dominant Czech national group statistically and in its political culture.

The book’s chapters effectively develop this story of everyday Jewish nation-building practices through meticulous examination of early Zionist interactions with Czech leaders, their utilization of the state-wide census as a political and tactical tool, how they built revitalizing Jewish national cultural structures on the basis of existing communal institutions, the vital role of Jewish schools and sport in fashioning new Jews, and in a gripping tale of competing nationalist and socialist utopias. At the outset, Zionist leaders gained a pivotal strategic achievement in convincing Czech leaders that the fate of the Jews was important to the newly established state by cultivating concern for Czechoslovakia’s image abroad, though this approach revealed the Jews’ lack of other compelling arguments. Lichtenstein’s longest chapter by far (“Mapping Jews”) is a satisfyingly deep investigation of the Zionist turn to statistics “as an instrument for political assertion … [adapting] an important mode of governance and legitimization developed by the modern state” (p.91).

Though she underscores František Friedman’s argument that “the right conditions for a sustainable Jewish national future existed in Czechoslovakia” (p.135), Lichtenstein’s work is no rosy endorsement of the interwar republic’s fabled status “as a uniquely welcoming and tolerant place for the Jews in interwar Eastern Europe.” Nor does she present a cheery vision of a homeland in Palestine. Lichtenstein has no banners to wave. But she does offer the grudging assessment that “it is fair to say that conditions for the Jews were better [in Czechoslovakia] than in countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Romania” (p.327). Hers is an inspiring alternate view on one of the twentieth century’s most influential ideologies.

Rebekah A. Klein-Pejšová

Purdue University

The Invisible Jewish Budapest: Metropolitan Culture at the Fin-de-Siècle. By Mary Gluck. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016.

 

The Invisible Jewish Budapest is built upon a dark and sophisticated notion: namely, that the Budapest of the 1900s, a city that was nearly a quarter Jewish and that many of us celebrate for its vibrant modernism, was tainted by pervasive efforts to render invisible the decisive influence of Jews on its cultural life. Mary Gluck’s understanding of what it meant for Jews to be invisible refers to the stigmatization of a Jewish presence by the nationalistic Hungarian establishment, which, even if it did not render the Jewish presence technically invisible, at least kept it “symbolically unacknowledged.” In other words, Jews who participated in public life were expected to leave their distinctively Jewish markers at home, which, of course, was also one of the main tenets of assimilation among the Jewish establishment. Because much of the Jewish population in Budapest was engaged in the creation of a secular, metropolitan culture, their influence as Jews was both profound and invisible. It is here that Gluck’s recovery begins: by stepping into the vivid nightlife, entertainment industry, and bohemian cultural life of Hungary’s blossoming capital city, her aim is to rediscover the lost contours of this modern cultural world that was deeply shaped by the “Jewishness” of its creators, but was never named as such.

The irony is, of course, that Jews were never quite as invisible in the eyes of the antisemites, who were quick to identify everything that was wrong and “sinful” (bűnös) with the city as Jewish, even going as far as coining the term Judapest to refer to the presence of Jews in Hungarian culture. However, this was a calling out that was meant to erase, not emphasize, Jewish visibility in Budapest. For the historian of modern European history, this creates an uneasy moral quandary, because in order to make visible the presence of Jews as Jews prior to 1914, one has to turn, beside the elusive stirrings of popular culture, to the writings of antisemites. This observation, however troubling, actually corresponds to the everyday reality of the fin de siècle. Gluck’s protagonists—semibohemian journalists, humorists, music hall composers, and cabaret writers—lived side by side with the antisemitic vitriol of right-wing journals such as Függetlenség (Independence), the diatribes of Győző Istóczy and his antisemitic party in the Hungarian Parliament, and the virulence of local pamphleteers at the time of the infamous Tiszaeszlár blood libel of 1882–83. While passionate responses to anti-Jewish hatred were carefully avoided in the public realm, on the pages of satirical magazines such as Borsszem Jankó, or in the theatre, outrage and indignation could be transformed into humor, and humor created and sustained a sense of identity, community, and life. It is here that the antisemitic voices received a decisively Jewish response.

In fact, while the Jewish establishment was trapped by the successes of its own mythmaking, never doubting for a second the validity and endurance of their position as truly integrated Hungarian patriots, Gluck’s Jewish entertainers stepped away from this public and complacent self-representation. In elaborate caricatures and on the stage of the Budapest Orpheum they created ironic, urban Jewish identities that transcended the inevitable paradoxes of their social situation. Against the background of a strong push to nationalize the Hungarian past and anchor it in a pre-modern, feudal myth of origin that was desired and created not only by the country’s political elite but also by literary scholars such as for instance Zsolt Beöthy, Jews in Budapest came to see themselves as cultural insiders, fully in charge of the joyful, humorous, and subversive universe they both shaped and inhabited. In hindsight, their creation was destined to break, but at the time it was a source of strength and sustainability, a way to exist with all life’s complexities.

At the heart of Gluck’s book is her intricate portrayal of the first Jewish Member of Parliament, Mór Wahrmann, and her analysis of two “pivotal expressions of Budapest Jewish public culture,” the Judenwitz and the Jewish music hall. In highly engaging prose, Gluck brings to life the transformative power of the Jewish joke as a means to deflate and de-essentialize social and moral agendas, making it the subject not only of a vital aspect of Jewish identity formation, but of serious academic discussion. As Mór Wahrmann also realized, humor was a way to confront and at times triumph over ideology within the narrowly scripted political realm. His “Jewish ambassador joke” rescued him from many awkward encounters, but it also spoke of a deeper truth. In exchange for recognizing that Jews formed a separate ethnic identity—something that could not be admitted in liberal Hungary lest the loyalty of “Hungarians of the Jewish faith” be put in a bad light—with their own nation state, Wahrmann, as the future Jewish ambassador to Budapest in Palestine, earned the right to return home to Hungary. In everyday life, however, this ethnic distinctiveness could not be articulated, let alone lived. Only in the realm of popular culture, in caricatures and on the stage, could an ethnic Jewish particularity be performed and enacted without bringing into question Jewish loyalty to the state. The novelty of Gluck’s argument lies in the ways she shows how these seemingly opposite realms of laughter and law converged in the multifaceted and invisible presence of Jews in pre-World War I Hungarian society.

As the contours of Gluck’s Hungarian Jewish modernism are revealed, it becomes clear that in the world of the fin de siècle, expressions of Jewish difference could exist in the realm of popular culture, but had to be handled “with tact” in the sphere of public liberal politics. The latter demanded knowledge of extremely refined cultural codes, requiring Jews to perform a constant balancing act between silence and rebuttal. Fears of antisemitic violence, such as that which broke out at the Budapest universities in the 1890s, were “ever present under the surface of liberal society,” and Jews tread carefully to prevent the eruption of violence from below. What is striking here is how much Gluck’s analysis of late nineteenth-century Hungary has in common with what we know about Hungary’s post-World War I period. Both the political crisis of the early 1880s, with its accompanying anti-Jewish violence, and the influx of large numbers of Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in Russia caused the Jewish question to flare up, revealing the deep-seated unease of the liberal establishment. It is the paradox of Hungarian liberalism: it could not merge its own humanist vision with a lasting and peaceful interpretation of the Jewish question.

The Invisible Jewish Budapest has a truly bold vision that is expressed in subtle, poignant analyses of the many cultural layers of turn of the century Budapest. The six chapters are intricately linked, and, like a novel, the book presents a self-contained reality that impresses the reader with the depth and pervasiveness of its argument. Gluck does not pay lip service to the air of nostalgia that pervades the memory culture of Hungarian Jewish life under the Dual Monarchy (and of the fin de siècle in general). In fact, she has unearthed a vast array of sources that contradict such an optimistic narrative about this era. On the surface, it is hard to find a more patriotic group singing the praises of their homeland than Hungarian Jews during the Dualist period. But Gluck’s skepticism is not just a matter of historical hindsight; it is also there in the hearts and minds of her protagonists, who hailed from popular culture, not from the bourgeois or religious elite. Indeed, her semibohemians were all immersed in the gritty realities of everyday life in the city: they tasted the mud and scandal as well as the glamour of urban metropolitan existence; they talked to prostitutes as well as politicians. Mary Gluck’s retrieval, indeed, her illumination of this lost cultural world is so powerful exactly because it leaves room for its darker side. She has descended into the underbelly of the golden age of Hungarian Jewry, and emerged with a diamond.

Ilse Josepha Lazaroms

Center for Jewish History, New York

Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler. By Stefan Ihrig. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016. 460 pp.

 

Justifying Genocide explores German discourses on Armenians, the Armenian question, and the Armenian genocide from the era of Bismarck to the Third Reich. Stefan Ihrig suggests that the Nazi worldview had “incorporated the Armenian Genocide, its ‘lessons,’ tactics, and ‘benefits’” (p.349) into its own understandings on the new racial order that the Third Reich intended to establish. The book is of particular significance in part because denialism and even various justifications of the Armenian genocide have been gaining more and more grounds in modern nationalist discourses today, both in Turkey and elsewhere, as was the case in interwar Germany, where such justifications contributed to the fortification of genocidal ideologies.

Justificationalism, a term coined by Ihrig, is indeed a key concept of the book. It relates to “the ‘intellectual’ effort and coherent and sustained theoretical attempt to ‘justify’ genocide” (p.12). Ihrig provides a case study analyzing the discourse on the Armenian genocide in Germany in the interwar period, the great genocide debate, as he calls it, on the intended and organized nature of the Armenian genocide and Germany’s role in and responsibility for it. This was the first real genocide debate in Germany, and it included arguments for genocide that were then transferred into arguments for the “final solution” of the “Jewish question.” The approach introduced by Ihrig will further a broader understanding of the Holocaust, and it will be highly pertinent to genocide studies, given that similar developments took place in other states preceding World War II, particularly the states that allied themselves with the Axis Powers. The book examines a variety of primary sources, from manuscripts to photographs, with particular emphasis on press analysis.

The first part of the book, entitled “Armenian Blood Money”, exposes the prehistory of the German understanding of the Armenian question and the Armenian genocide. Germany’s position on its relations to the Ottoman Empire changed significantly in the last decades of the nineteenth century, with an increase in pro-Turkish sentiment. During the Egyptian and Bulgarian crises of the 1880s, the German–Ottoman alliance started to take shape. The Armenian topic was one of the key issues that brought Germany and the Ottoman Empire together and created a foundation for German anti-Armenianism and Armenian-related paranoia. During the Hamidian massacres of 1894–96, a full-blown debate developed on the “Armenian Horrors” in Germany, with emerging pro-Armenian and pro-Turkish fractions. The debate in fact saw the first usage of the German word for genocide (Völkermord) in a political debate in Germany, which was accompanied by a growing anti-Armenian and racialist backlash, whereby Armenians, often called the “Jews of the Orient,” were supposed to be ruthless merchants, usurers, thieves, fraudsters, and terrorists who had thus brought their own extermination upon themselves (as was argued in articles printed in the Kölnische Zeitung).

The next section, entitled “Under German Noses”, demolishes a common assertion in secondary literature on the myth of “forced silence” in Germany about the Armenian genocide and demonstrates that official and public Germany during and after World War I was very well informed about the ongoing genocide in the allied Ottoman Empire. A certain “jihadi euphoria” was witnessed in Germany over the Ottoman participation in the war, and Ottoman military propaganda was broadly echoed in the German press. In the meantime, the intended and organized annihilation of Armenians in the allied Ottoman Empire commenced. Official, governmental Germany knew practically everything about the events. German consuls in Anatolia “extensively chronicled the ongoing genocide and voiced their protest” (p.105). Although the government kept silent on these reports, the general public was well-informed. After October 1914, articles on events in the Ottoman Empire became prominent in the German press, as did articles touching or focusing on the Armenian question. From May 1915 onwards, the German press was practically flooded by news on the murders and dislocations of Armenians. Talât Pasha himself spoke about the subject in an interview conducted by the Berliner Tageblatt, in which he admitted that during their transfer, Armenians had been attacked by Kurds, and many of them had been killed. He also pointed out that there was no way to draw a distinction between guilty and innocent Armenians, since “[someone] who was still innocent today could be guilty tomorrow.” He emphasized that the deportations were a “national and historical necessity” (p.163). Moreover, another claim made in the press was that in fact Armenians themselves were mass murderers of Muslim Ottoman citizens. According to one article, which based its claims on “reliable reports”, some 1.5 million Turks had been killed by Armenians. This contention constitutes one of the first instances of justificationalism in Germany.

The third section of the book, entitled “Debating Genocide”, presents the history of the great genocide debate in Germany in the 1920s. As the author explains, after the war three main charges were hurdled at Germany: the Belgian atrocities, submarine warfare, and the German guilt in the massacres of Armenians (for which now we use the term genocide). In 1918, official and non-official Germany began to combat allegations of the role German played in the massacres and deportations of Armenians. The genocidal (intended and organized) nature of the campaign against the Armenians and the German guilt in this campaign swiftly became a central topic of public discourse. Two key figures of the debate on the pro-Armenian side were Johannes Lepsius and Armin T. Wegner. They held public lectures and published extensively on the “systematic annihilation” and “mass murder” of Armenians, and also on the plights of refugees—in other words, the genocide and its aftermath.

The emerging war crimes question also included the question of German guilt in the Armenian genocide. For example, Liman von Sanders, top military adviser to the Ottoman Empire, was accused of having given orders to murder Armenians. Official Germany responded to the accusations by calling upon Johannes Lepsius to publish a collection of diplomatic documents and an overview of German–Armenian relations. His allegedly “open access” to Foreign Office documents resulted in his 1919 publication Germany and Armenia, which sought to disprove German involvement in the Armenian massacres and whitewash German guilt. After its publication, for a year or so, the debate on genocide became a central topic in the German press and public discussions. Prominent periodicals, such as Vorwärts, the Berliner Tageblatt, Braunschweiger Landeszeitung, Vossische Zeitung and Frankfurter Zeitung, published numerous articles on the matter, including the writings of one of the main architects of the Armenian genocide, Djemal Pasha. By late 1919, various German papers often charged the Ottomans with “genocide,” the intentional murder of an entire people, however, as Ihrig points out, the pro-Ottoman fractions of denialists and justificationalists still remained in the majority, presenting the massacres as acts of military or “racial” self-defense.

The debate gained even more ground after the assassination of Talât Pasha, one of the three main masterminds behind the Armenian genocide, by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin in March 1921. The case “resonated all across Germany, even in the smallest village” (p.227). Talât would come to be regarded as a martyr of the Turkish nation or, on the contrary, as the “butcher of the Armenians.” Tehlirian’s trial was covered by the media even more intensively as one of the most spectacular trials of the twentieth century until then. Vorwärts saw the true meaning of the trial not in the charge of murder. According to the periodical, the true charge wasthe ghastly Armenian Horrors, not his [Talât’s] execution by one of the few victims left alive” (p.235). The trial was indeed more about the genocide than the charge of murder. Most of the experts and witnesses, and Tehlirian himself too, talked for the most part about the massacres and deportations as motives for the murder. Although state prosecutor Gollnick justified the “dislocation” of Armenians by emphasizing that the Armenians “conspired with the Entente and were determined […] to stab the Turks in the back” (pp.255–56), defense attorneys developed a notion of “self-defense,” contending that Talât had intended to follow Enver Pasha to Russia to continue the Armenian horrors there in the close future. Tehlirian was eventually found not guilty and set free on account of “temporary insanity.”

“What changed in the immediate aftermath of the Talât Pasha trial was that many more papers became committed to a pre-Lemkin definition of genocide […] the terminology became equivalent to that which we would commonly describe with the term genocide,” Ihrig maintains (p.271). However, recognition of the genocidal nature of the annihilation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire did not result in opposition to the policy of mass violence; on a large scale, former denialists now turned to justification, characterized by a growing sense of anti-Armenianism, its core argumentation lying in the claim that Armenians stabbed the Turks in the back. Later, the Armenian topic was connected to the so-called “foreigner question,” equating Armenians with “Berlin West,” “Eastern Jews,” and “criminal foreigners” under the umbrella of “Semitic cousins.”

The final part of the book, “The Nazis and the Armenian Genocide”, explores racialist and National Socialist understandings of the Armenian “race” and its annihilation as a policy of “national interest.” As Ihrig maintains, “modern Central European anti-Semitism [was] … the lens through which the Armenians and the Armenian question were perceived by a large portion of politicians, journalists, and commentators in Germany” (p.301). The idea of an (imagined) racial group called “Armenoid” circulated in racial anthropology and racialist literature (both German and international) as “the source of all the racially negative traits that the racist and anti-Semitic discourse identified in the Jews” (p.303.), including Armenians, Jews and Greeks. In racialist literature, Armenians were predominantly described as a “lower race” (Unterrasse), with racial characteristics that were either similar to the racial characteristics of the Jews or even “worse,” or they were simply characterized as “über-Jews.” Hitler himself expressed similar views.

Although there can be no doubt that the Armenian Genocide held a crucial position in the broader Nazi worldview, it can be witnessed only indirectly through an analysis of Nazi discourse on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s “New Turkey.” Opposing generally acknowledged premises found in the secondary literature (e.g. Ernst Nolte’s statement that Mustafa Kemal’s “national defense-dictatorship” should only be observed “on the horizon of the examination of fascism”, see Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche: die Action française, der italienische Faschismus, der Nationalsozialismus [1963], p.37), Ihrig demonstrates that “Kemalism” or, rather, its interpretations played a crucial role in shaping National Socialism and genocidal ideologies in Germany. An appraisal of a “postgenocide” country can be observed, which maintained that the modern, “völkisch” state of Turkey, struggling against the “Turkish Versailles” (the Treaty of Sèvres) and protecting its integrity and national character, had “solved” its minority question on a grand scale and in a “final” manner. In the Nazi worldview, terror and “national purification” were crucial steps of this policy of “modernization”, the establishment of a new Turkey and, also, a new (Third) German Empire. Mustafa Kemal’s “New Turkey” was often proclaimed as a role model for Nazi Germany. Characteristically, Nazi biographies of Hitler, Atatürk, and other historic “Führers” often identified Atatürk as the perfect Führer, and Hitler himself called Mustafa Kemal his “shining star” in the “darkness” of the 1920s.

Ihrig’s findings are significant for international scholars of genocide and the Holocaust, and perhaps in particular for historians of Hungary, since xenophobic and genocidal ideas were to a large extent derived from German sources regarding both anti-Semitism and anti-Armenianism in pre-1945 Hungary. Also, Hungarian appraisals of Mustafa Kemal’s “New Turkey” significantly contributed to the prevailing nationalist ideologies of the times.

 

Péter Pál Kránitz

Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Piliscsaba

Szálasi Ferenc: Politikai életrajz [Ferenc Szálasi: A political biography]. By László Karsai. Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2016. 524 pp.

 

Historian László Karsai’s political biography of Ferenc Szálasi, one of the most controversial historical personalities in twentieth-century Hungarian history, was published seventy years after the fall of Szálasi’s Arrow Cross regime and his subsequent execution for his war crimes. Karsai claims in his introduction that he has been dealing with Szálasi’s biography for nearly three decades, and after many previous publications and several professional discussions this book ought to be seen as the culmination of his work. The book, which comes to 524 pages, is divided into thirteen chapters, which introduce Szálasi’s life in chronological order, discussing his origins, family circumstances, birth, and childhood, concluding with his arrest in 1945. Moreover, the last chapter provides a detailed description of his conduct at the court of law and his eventual conviction. The main body of the text is complemented with a brief appendix: a chronology, sources, an annotated bibliography of secondary literature, and a list of explanations of terms which Szálasi invented, such as “life-community” (“életközösség”) or “blood-home” (“vérhaza”). The index of names also contains profiles of people who were closely associated with Szálasi.

The contested question related to Szálasi’s role in history is not whether he played a positive or a negative role; it was rather easy to recognize that his state ideology was in contradiction with the values of European civilization, and Karsai`s work offers eloquent proof of this. The real value of this book rather lies, in addition to the many details it provides, in the questions Karsai raises and the answers he offers concerning Szálasi’s popularity and his manner of attaining power. At one time, historians argued that Szálasi’s national socialist party became popular in Hungary towards the end of the 1930s because it received financial support from Nazi Germany. In more recent years, historians have refuted this contention and have shown that Germans had practically no connection to Szalasi’s party until the spring of 1944. Szálasi neither asked nor received any financial help from Germany. His popularity was much rather closely connected to the Arrow Cross Party’s social mission and policy. Karsai and his colleagues have analyzed a source which had not been investigated previously: the Arrow Cross’s official personal certificates concerning 27,500 of its members, or almost ten percent of all registered members. Earlier, a stereotype had gained widespread acceptance according to which there were many criminal elements, deadbeats, and deviants among the members of the party, while others were recruited from the less educated strata. According to Karsai, this is a historical misconception: there might have been a slight overrepresentation of lower class people among party members, but alongside the blue-collar workers there were also white-collar workers, and the party clearly had its share of office holders and public servants.

Karsai provides clear descriptions of Szálasi’s character and reflects on his serious neurotic disorder, which found manifestation, above all, in his paranoia and sense of mission. This neurotic disorder was the source of two serious symptoms: his fanaticism and his loss of a sense of reality. Karsai offers several examples of Szálasi’s madness: beginning in the early 1940s, Szálasi’s close contacts thought their leader suffered from insanity and needed to be examined by a doctor. However, these symptoms did not mean that he never was or never appeared to be rational. They might even have helped his political cause because his followers thought that behind Szálasi’s addle-brained deeds and speeches lay something magical, a form of superior leadership, which they therefore simply could not fully comprehend. For all that, not unlike other fascist leaders, in his private life Szálasi was able to present himself as an agreeable person. Otherwise, however, he was neither an eminent political leader nor a particularly charismatic man. He won popularity and a position as a leader not due to his personal abilities, but much rather because of the historical and political circumstances. The main reasons were the economical crisis and the difficulties of the wartime situation.

Karsai analyses in detail Szálasi’s pronouncements on the “Jewish question,” which did not contain any plans of physical annihilation. In his first programmatic pronouncements from 1933–35, he did not formulate any Jewish policy. His public anti-Semitism was noticeable from 1936 onward, and by 1938 this topic appeared to be of utmost importance to him. Szálasi did not call his brand of racism anti-Semitism, but rather preferred the term A-semitism. Karsai maintains that Szálasi adopted the expression from the Jesuit Béla Bangha’s 1920 publication Magyarország újjáépítése és a kereszténység [Hungary’s Reconstruction and Christianity], but the expression is not actually used in the book. According to Szálasi’s own explanation, the term expressed the idea that Hungary needed to be released from the influence of Jews. In his opinion, anti-Semitism only referred to “the little or common Jews,” but never to those in the background. In contrast, A-semitism indicated that Hungary was to be purified of the alleged Jewish influence, but not in a physical way, because Jews would have to be given a chance to create a new world for themselves. At the same time, Szálasi and his party’s leaders never articulated any detailed plans of deportation from Hungary. Accordingly, Karsai emphasizes that the ghettoization and deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz was not committed under Szálasi’s rule, but took place under the Sztójay government (which was in power between March 22 and August 29, 1944). In other words, the Sztójay government fulfilled German expectations in matters related to the Holocaust, whereas Szálasi contradicted them in some cases.

Szálasi strongly connected the Jewish issue to his economic platform, and he propagated the idea that all properties belonging to Jews be handed over to Christians. He wanted to create a workers’ state and a workers’ society in which the nationalization of assets would be part of a system in which workers would be paid according to their levels of efficiency. The economic programs presented by Szálasi and his experts contain many demagogical phrases (such as “avoiding economic bankruptcy” and “fixing the prices and the wages”), and they hardly ever explain the actual mechanisms with which they would be implemented.

Szálasi considered Hungarian and German National Socialism coequals. He refused the theory of racism, and he maintained that German Nazism was almost like “Jewish ideology,” since both aimed at world domination. The result was that, in contrast to other politicians in Hungary, he did not want to subordinate Hungary to Germany’s demands. Szálasi thought that the national socialist powers of Europe needed to establish regional dominance and cooperate with one another. Germany had taken control of Austria and the Czech lands, and Hungary should possess its own region too, including some parts of Yugoslavia and their ally Poland. According to him, the Hungarians were the sole state-founding nation in the Carpathian basin, and the new political structure should be shaped by this fact.

Until as late as April 1945, Ferenc Szálasi believed that the national socialist powers would win the war. He simply considered it impossible that the “Jewish-liberal states” could defeat them. He firmly believed in the superiority of states based on the nationality principle, much as his belief in his own “nation-saving” abilities was unfaltering. László Karsai’s political biography thus clarifies that Szálasi suffered from a kind of personality disorder. His career was that of a fanatical political leader who thought of himself as the savior, believed exclusively in his own views, and had no understanding of the values of a democratic state or human rights.

Zoltán Paksy

Zala County Archives of the Hungarian National Archives

The State, Antisemitism, and Collaboration in the Holocaust: The Borderlands of Romania and the Soviet Union. By Diana Dumitru. New York: Cambridge University Press; published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016. XVIII+268 pp.

 

The book is an extended version of the article Diana Dumitru coauthored with Carter Johnson that received the American Political Science Association’s Mary Parker Follett Award for the best article or essay published in 2010–11. Its main argument can be summarized as follows: during World War II, the local gentile population in the two borderland areas—Bessarabia and Transnistria—exhibited strikingly different attitudes: more hostile in Bessarabia and more compassionate in Transnistria. The popular violence against Jews in Bessarabia began before the arrival of the German and Romanian troops and reached its peak in the first days and weeks of Romanian rule. This violence took different forms—from beating, plunder of property and expulsion from homes to providing assistance for the troops and gendarmes as they massacred and/or interned Jews in concentration camps. Dumitru sees little evidence that this violence was confined to particular social or age groups of males, and she suggests that perpetrators were statistically representative of the local male population as a whole (esp. pp.155–57). In contrast, there were virtually no cases of “spontaneous” popular violence against Jews in Transnistria. In the great majority of cases, when locals participated in the murder of Jews, they did so on the express orders of the occupiers and as members of an occupier-created police force. Dumitru also draws on the enormous amount of postwar testimony of Jewish survivors to argue that they encountered much more sympathy and willingness to help in Transnistria than in Bessarabia, where the rare cases of assistance were almost exclusively confined to the narrow circle of personal and family friends (esp. p.207).

These observations do not provoke any disagreement. Indeed, it has been known for quite some time that the western borderlands of the Soviet Union, in particular areas annexed in 1939–41, were the sites of the most widespread, deadly, and systematic popular violence against Jews at the beginning of World War II and that the more one moved to the east, the less violently anti-Semitic local gentiles tended to be (see, for example, Yitzhak Arad, “The Local Population in the German-Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union and Its Attitude toward the Murder of the Jews,” in David Bankier and Israel Gutman, eds., Nazi Europe and the Final Solution [Jerusalem: International Institute for Holocaust Research, 2003], discussed on pp.186–87). For Dumitru, however, these findings are the starting point for her search for the factor(s) that might explain these differences. As Dumitru ascertains, the levels of anti-Semitism and proclivitires for anti-Jewish violence were approximately the same in both Bessarabia and Transnistria before the Great War, so references to long-term anti-Semitism in the region cannot explain the differences in the provinces’ records during World War II. She also discusses various theoretical models of interethnic violence that downgrade the importance of ideology and discards all of them as inapplicable to these cases. Instead, she insists, it was the policies of the Soviet state during the interwar period that substantially weakened (if not completely eradicated) popular anti-Semitism in Transnistria and instilled the values of the equality of all ethnicities and the sense that they all belonged to the Soviet community. Dumitru enumerates persistent Soviet efforts to fight popular anti-Semitic prejudices by means of propaganda; the promotion of positive images of Jews in popular cultural artifacts such as movies, songs, posters, and school education; and the judicial prosecution of expressions of anti-Semitism as counter-revolutionary crimes. These efforts bore fruits during World War II.

In contrast to the Soviet Union, Dumitru’s argument goes, Greater Romania was a nationalizing state in which ethnic nationalism served as a national ideology, while xenophobia and anti-Semitism were widespread. She marshals an impressive array of evidence to prove that anti-Semitic prejudices in Bessarabia were persistently propagated by political actors, priests, and teachers, who routinely presented anti-Semitic convictions as a sine-qua-non attribute of a “good Romanian.” Thus, at a time when anti-Semitism was weakened in Transnistria, it took stronger hold of the popular mind in Bessarabia.

Nothing of this is wrong and little is new. Nevertheless, Dumitru’s major thesis must be considerably modified for it to be plausible. First and foremost, her insistence that the Soviets’ efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism combined with the accelerated intermixing of various ethnic groups in the period of forced industrialization and collectivization of agriculture prompted gentiles to become more accepting of and less hostile to the Jews ascribes to “the state” an unpersuasively strong power to reshape the popular imagination in a relatively short period of time. In the debate between historians such as Jochen Hellbeck, who describes the “productive” capacity of the Soviet regime to form, with the participation of their subjects, “illiberal subjectivities” of the latter, and scholars who, like Sheila Fitzpatrick, reveal the widespread use of the practices of “wearing masks” and “speaking Bolshevik” by the Soviet citizens, who remained largely impervious to the Soviet ideology, Dumitru takes the side of the former (pp.10–11). The problem with this assumption is that the experiences of war and occupation revealed the superficiality and fragility of the supposed “Sovietness” of many a Soviet citizen.

The rejection of basic Soviet ideological premises signified the regime’s failure to reshape its subjects’ mentalities to conform to its set of values. This rejection manifested itself through joyous welcome of German and German-allied troops in many Soviet locales (not only western ones); the mass surrender of Red Army men, especially in the early stages of the war; the enormous number of Soviet subjects who joined various military formations to fight against the Soviet power; the occupiers’ quick destruction, with the enthusiastic cooperation of locals, of the guerilla groups that the party, the army, and the NKVD had left behind to fight in the enemy’s rear; mass collaboration with the enemy in various forms, from innocuous to criminal; popular clamor for the unimpeded exercise of religious practices, the dismemberment of kolkhozes, and for free trade and other forms of private enterprise, to list only a few. Even the return of Stalin and the party leadership to traditional Russian nationalism to bolster its legitimacy during the war, their partial reconciliation with the Orthodox Church, and their use of unprecedentedly brutal measures to sustain the combat abilities of their troops testify to the weak influence communist ideology had exerted on the popular imagination and popular strategies of identity creation and maintenance. In view of these facts, which are all now well-documented, how could the regime succeed in eradicating anti-Semitism when it failed in every other aspect of the project of “forming a new man”? Unfortunately, Dumitru ignores this question.

She is on even shakier ground when she extrapolates from the supposed Soviet success the ability of a generic “state’s” potential to fight popular prejudices successfully and improve interethnic relations (p.9). What is missing here is sufficient awareness of the profound differences between various states, including the structures of their institutions, practices, and ideologies and the variations of their influence on societal forces. The Soviet state was unlike the others. Effectively, it was ruled by a small minority committed to the reconstruction of Russian society and, ultimately, of humanity as a whole. As such, this state confronted what it believed were backward and “reactionary” prejudices and practices headlong, without regard for public opinion. It also prescribed a particular type of education in schools all over the country, censored the press and other mass media, promoted publications that taught its ideology, and spread entertainment materials that suited its aims while forbidding materials that might have thwarted them. It could and did use unprecedented violence against ideological deviants. Most states do not have such powers, and rarely do they aspire to acquire them.

The latter was true of Greater Romania, also a fact of which Dumitru seems at times to be oblivious.Most of the anti-Semitic propaganda in Bessarabia was conducted not by “the state,” but by autonomous societal actors whom the governments could not control. Even if a part of government’s bureaucracy, police force, and army did display sympathy with and even supported anti-Semitic movements, the governments themselves usually took a more reserved and even hostile attitude toward anti-Semitic movements, subjecting them to administrative pressure and police repression. Anti-Semitic ideology was propagated and sustained by opposition forces much more than by “the state” itself. The forcefulness of anti-Semitic ideology and the density of networks of Judeophobic activists in Bessarabia were the result not so much of an intentional policy as of the inefficiency and restraint of the Romanian state. Romanian governments failed to curb the tide of popular anti-Semitism, sustained by the efforts of numerous public intellectuals, journalists, priests, demagogues, half-educated exalted youngsters, and resentful opportunists of all sorts. They did not promote it.

In the interwar period, Greater Romania was, of course, not an exception but a norm among the countries of East Central Europe, in which official nationalism, economic hardship, and the inefficiency of state institutions combined to facilitate the spread of extremist xenophobic and anti-Semitic movements. The real exception was the Soviet Union, not so much because of the Soviets’ efforts to fight interethnic prejudices and teach equality and collaboration as because of the simple fact that the regime did not tolerate any autonomous social or political activity. The combination of twenty-two years of unprecedented repression, close surveillance, never-ending harassment, social upheavals, and material privations demobilized Soviet society, disabused Soviet citizens of any notion of independent initiative, and broke virtually all networks of friendship and trust among them. This, however, did not make Soviet citizens committed communists or progressive internationalists.

Indeed, against this background it is not at all surprising that Transnistria did not witness spontaneous outbursts of anti-Jewish violence, for the simple reason that no spontaneous activity following the takeover was registered, except perhaps expressions of loyalty to the new regime and willingness to collaborate with it. However, expulsion of Jews from their dwellings, their incarceration, and their mass murder did not encounter open opposition, apart from isolated cases when women in some Ukrainian villages shamed soldiers and policemen for their inhumanity. Romanian sources are unanimous in assessing the locals’ reaction to the persecution of Jews as exceedingly positive, even celebratory. Their appropriation of the property of murdered Jews is well documented, as is the participation of local policemen in organizing and carrying out executions of Jewish internees.

It would be unhelpful to deny that certain parts of Transnistria’s gentile population did exhibit some greater influence of Soviet education and propaganda on their behavior, including their willingness or inclination to help Jews. Younger people demonstrated stronger pro-Soviet inclinations, and the efforts made by some of them to help rescue Jews are well documented. However, Ukrainian peasant women—another demographic that is prominent in the accounts of attempts to provide assistance—and local Orthodox priests—who, unlike priests from Romania, were noted for their willingness to baptize Jews in spite of the authorities’ strict ban on such acts, which were meant to offer Jews a cover against persecution—were likely moved by motives other than Soviet-type internationalism.

Explanations that rely on a single cause rarely work in the study of history, and Dumitru’s book, despite its many strengths (which include a wide source base and substantial historiographical knowledge, theoretical awareness, and clarity of exposition), ultimately confirms this truism. The correct answer to the central question of the book would inevitably be multifaceted and knotty. However, by forcefully making her case, Dumitru’s book is certain to provoke further research and debate, which is, in itself, a serious achievement.

Vladimir Solonari

University of Central Florida

Die große Angst: Polen 1944–1947. Leben im Ausnahmezustand. By Marcin Zaremba. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2016. 629 pp.

 

Die große Angst (the Polish title is Wielka trwoga, which in English means Great Fear), published originally in Polish in 2012 and appearing in German translation in 2016, is a highly important contribution to the field of Polish postwar historiography as it represents one of the very first studies on the history of emotions in Poland. The book highlights the constitutive role of fear and anxiety in shaping Polish postwar society. The key concept of the book, trwoga, is rather difficult to translate into English or German; it basically refers to the emotions and social tensions that emerged as a consequence of the dramatic wartime events, prevailing uncertainty, and the material threats of the postwar months, as well as the radical processes of social change and the brutal transition of power.

One of the virtues of the book is that Zaremba does not provide any simple answers, presenting rather a complex survey of diverse phenomena. He also avoids the pitfalls of the Polish martyrological tradition. With some of his remarks, Zaremba takes a rather moderate position in the relentless debates on the controversial arguments of Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, who just a few years ago published a book about Polish anti-Semitism after Auschwitz entitled Fear.

In twelve chapters, Zaremba analyses different fields of social activity and many possible reasons for the widespread traumas in the years between 1944 and 1947. He begins with some remarks about the phenomenon of generally pervasive fear in the Polish culture of the first half of the century, which often found expression in a mental act blurring or erasing the conceptual borders between Bolshevism and Judaism. Second, he takes a look at the situation in Poland immediately after the end of the war, where he finds a combination of relief, joy, and anxiety within Polish society. The conflicts between different actors, the prolonged chaos and, especially, the behavior of the invading Red Army had a very strong negative influence on the common mood.

The book describes different uprooted social groups in a lively manner: deserters, beggars, speculators, and policemen. The juxtaposition of several centers of power and the fight for “the survival of the fittest” manifested itself in a wave of plunder and common banditry. Nothing seemed to be forever; a feeling of temporality was omnipresent. Hunger, high prices, and diseases made the life of the common Pole almost unbearable. Zaremba shows that in the middle of this period of lawlessness and hopelessness there was enough room for the resurgence of pre-war stereotypes and the bashing of even weaker social and, especially, national groups. The search for culprits for the crisis, or, more simply, for defenseless victims, engulfed wide segments of the population, including people who had survived the war with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

One of the most impressive features of the book is the regional range of Zaremba’s research and the richness of historical detail. Because of the author’s extensive archival work, he can offer a panorama of the entire country, not only select regions. Zaremba has trudged through huge numbers of printed and unprinted sources. Letters which are cited in the text at great length offer especially valuable insights into the postwar everyday life of members of all of the social classes. However, this strength of Zaremba’s narrative could also be called its biggest weakness. The letters can rarely be properly contextualized, and their authors usually remain anonymous. Beyond this, from a German perspective of the early twenty-first century, it is quite unusual to read so many drastic descriptions of Soviet cruelty to Poles. There is not always a sound reason to dwell on people’s misfortunes. One might recognize in that practice some—far from praiseworthy—parallels with the (politically motivated) publication of the Documentation on Crimes Perpetrated against Germans in Connection with Their Expulsion in West Germany since the late 1950s.

If Soviet influences are one of the main topics of Die große Angst, another is the role of rumors and anti-Semitism. In times of insecurity and in the context of a missing base for reliable communication, rumors and their spread acquire great importance. This applies in particular to the remaining members of the national minorities. Here, Zaremba chooses as a central topic the behavior towards the surviving Jews. By doing so, he explicitly takes part in the international debate, for instance by adopting a position with regards to the controversial texts of Jan T. Gross. Zaremba focuses not so much on economic motives for the killing of Jews, but rather stresses the subliminal continuing effects of old ritual murder legends as a cause for pogroms. One could doubtlessly discuss further whether Zaremba’s argumentation plays down material and racist motivations. In any case, in the larger context of discussions among historians, the author adopts a rather centrist position.

The passages in which Zaremba discusses eschatological fears and religious fundamentalism are of special interest too. Here, he clearly antagonizes other scholars, who place unilateral emphasis on the material background of fears. Zaremba argues, in contrast, that irrationalism and so-called superstitions merged with the traditional mindset of the Roman Catholic Church to form an unholy alliance against supposed strangers.

To be sure, one could assess the structure of the book rather critically. Apart from the ubiquitous discussions of fear, the main line of argument is not always clearly indicated. As a whole, however, the book still reads very well and is never uninteresting. It is also a book free of ideological grimness and regimentation, which makes it all the more pleasant to read. For instance, it is highly stimulating to read Zaremba’s criticism of the myth of the “cursed soldiers” (żołnierze wyklęci), who tend to be depicted as historical heroes by the current national-populist government of Poland, even though many of them were ordinary criminals.

A study about pervasive fear, which examines emotions and their role in processes of social transformation, almost inevitably tends to underestimate other causes of the crisis of the postwar and civil war years. However, an author always has the right to make his choices. It was obviously not Zaremba’s intention to consider international comparisons in a sustained way either. One could argue that, had he done so, this would have allowed him to grasp much more clearly that fear actually constituted a pan-European phenomenon. For a long time, German angst remained the sole topic of discussion, and only recently has Pierre-Frédéric Weber shown how the fear of Germany determined European politics after World War II (Timor Teutonorum: Angst vor Deutschland seit 1945: eine europäische Emotion im Wandel [2015]). Such emotions were not only felt in Poland with regards to military considerations (where it took the various forms of fear of a new war, the military dominance of the Soviet Union, and the possible return of the Germans). A comparison with Great Britain or Greece, and their efforts to deal with hunger after 1945, might well have shown that Poland simply did not constitute an exceptional case in history, though Zaremba continuously makes and relies on this questionable line of argument throughout his book.

The basis of this review is the 2016 German edition of the book, which, on the whole, it of high quality, although the translator, Sandra Ewers, sometimes uses expressions at odds with accepted historical terminology and—especially—geography. The translator was not always able to decode the place names which have been used in the genitive in the Polish text. To provide only one example, the Polish word Pomorze should definitely not be translated with the German Pommern; Pommerellen would have been the correct choice.

Apart from some publications on the history of World War II, and in particular on the fate of the Jews and the behavior of Poles towards them, there have not been many internationally successful books by Polish historians in recent years. Marcin Zaremba’s book on fear and anxiety as constitutive and decisive parts of Polish postwar society might represent an exception, as it offers, despite its weaknesses, profound insights into early postwar Polish society.

Markus Krzoska

University of Gießen

 

pdfVolume 4 Issue 4 CONTENTS

FEATURED REVIEW

Felvilágosult vallás és modern katasztrófa között: magyar zsidó gondolkodás a Horthy-korban [Between Enlightened Religion and Modern Catastrophe: Hungarian Jewish Thinking in the Horthy Era]. By Ferenc Laczó. Budapest: Osiris, 2014. 299 pp.

 

What is a (Neolog) Jew? Ferenc Laczó’s monograph, adapted from his PhD thesis, is an attempt to answer this apparently simple but actually highly complex question. His approach is idiosyncratic in several respects. Firstly, as the author notes several times, the shadow of the Holocaust lurks behind the entire investigation, although he does not subject thoughts expressed prior to 1944 to the teleological reading that genocide was their inevitable outcome, but traces a more complex causality. He asks how much contemporaries knew of Auschwitz, whether they were aware of its significance and, if so, how they behaved and reacted. It is this aspect of Hungarian Jewish thinking between the wars that comes in for his analysis. He also shows that the historians, literary historians, etc. who have treated this period have mainly been interested in – to use the words of Isaac Deutscher – “non-Jewish Jews,” people whose work was very important from the individual point of view, but whose activities do not and cannot characterize the official Jewish forums, associations, weekly and monthly periodicals, cultural journals, etc.

The author has focused his research on the question of what it meant to be Jewish for the authors of the yearbook of the Hungarian Jewish Literary Society (Izraelita Magyar Irodalmi Társulat, IMIT; yearbook revived in 1929 and survived until 1943), the journal Libanon (1936–1943) and the yearbook Ararát (1939–1944). While keeping the Neolog aspect in view, the author consistently maintains that this was not some kind of homogeneous discourse, but involved highly diverse values, organizing principles and goals, making it extremely difficult to reconstruct what was Jewish and what it meant to be a Jew in this period. A lucid expression of this dilemma is Béla Zsolt’s novel Kilenc koffer [Nine Suitcases], about the diversity and even moral divergence of people crammed together into the ghetto of Nagyvárad (now Oradea, Romania) and legally regarded as all of a kind. “Then there emerged a different kind of finickiness: the progressive, European-looking Jews did not want the payot-wearers to mix with them. There were murmurs of, ‘There’s always trouble with that lot.’” 1

The moral imperatives of the Holocaust have caused us ex post facto to regard the Jews of the time as homogeneous, but the historical reality was different. It was not simply a matter of denominational divisions (Orthodox, Neolog, and status quo ante) and the distancing arising from the associated externals, but the very meaning – in a society that was becoming “modern” – of the Jewish religion and the culture intimately bonded to it. This is the implicit social-theory message of Laczó’s book. Although eleven chapters are devoted to analysing the discourse of the yearbooks and journals, it is not, in terms of its approach, a work of media history. The distinction arises from the thematic rather than descriptive nature of the analysis. The thematic criteria have been chosen to bring the academic discourse on Hungarian Jewish thinking into line with international studies. This is an essential condition for the critical treatment of international academic work on Hungarian Jews and the adaptation of the associated methodology, concepts and comparative approach. The author consciously distances himself from the metaphors and half-truths that abound in the Hungarian public discourse and journalism; he requires a discourse that looks at the Hungarian Jewish past from the outside. Significantly, a large proportion of the 69 footnotes in the introductory historiographical chapter are foreign-language references.

The first chapter takes as its context the creation of Jewish religious institutions and examines attempts to harmonize thinking based on religious tradition with the modern professional academic ideal that had been emerging since the nineteenth century. Following Michael Brenner, Laczó demonstrates the dual character of the Wissenschaft des Judentums, an endeavour that transcended national borders and national problems, although it was also propagated in the Hungarian language. It both promoted the emancipation of the Jews among non-Jewish majority society and pushed for internal reform and modernization of Jewish communities. One of the most important stations in attempts to harmonize the Jewish religion and modern academia was the foundation of the Budapest Rabbinical School in 1877 and the opposition it provoked among Orthodox Jews. Of similar significance was the setting up of IMIT in 1894. IMIT adopted a broad profile which embraced the translation of the Jewish religious, literary and historical tradition into Hungarian and support for the Jewish Museum. It published yearbooks regularly from 1895 onwards. The process was interrupted at the end of World War I, but IMIT relaunched the series in the period under study, so that IMIT yearbooks appeared between 1929 and 1943. The reason for mentioning this set of sources at such length is that they form much of the base for Laczó’s book, and he analyses them in chapters 1–7.

Chapter two examines the Neolog movement and the issues of fitting religion into modern society and conveying to the non-Jewish majority the “essence of Jewishness” in a secular framework – other than through history, music and the arts. Particularly interesting is the ambivalent assessment of the role of Moses Mendelssohn, in which Ármin Kecskeméti went as far as to state that re-evaluating and appreciating culture at the expense of religion was upsetting what he saw as a traditional balance. He did value Mendelssohn, however, for having the two-pronged objectives of bringing culture to the Jewish community and bringing Jewishness into “cultural Jewishness,” which meant convincing the increasingly irreligious Jews of the central role of tradition in faith. Laczó considers as a unique feature of the Neolog movement the discussions in the IMIT yearbooks surrounding how Jewishness relates to morality, and truth to mentality.

One of the most absorbing intellectual exchanges concerning the Neolog interrelationship between “religious Jew” and “polgár” [member of the mainstream middle class] was the issue of incompatibility. The debate surrounded how Jews who tried to take their places in secular life but wanted social assimilation without acculturation could identify themselves in modern Hungarian society. Since this involved a dual identity arising from equal love of homeland and religion, the key question is how to define or discover the essence of Jewish self-consciousness (from which, logically, a constitutive element of identity arises). Here Laczó distinguishes seven types, differing from each other only in nuance. The first four are: denominational identity; joint or mixed Hungarian-Jewish (assimilating but remaining) identity; the subtly different progressive, “forward looking” identity that upholds retention of Jewishness; and the idea of the “Jewish people,” whose members are also Hungarian Jews. The author admits that these are subtle distinctions, difficult to formalize, and are all characterized by a wish for consensus and harmonization.

Chapter four deals with a discourse that always offers a legitimating force to minorities, the question of “contribution.” What did the Jews contribute to Hungarian scholarship, culture, economy and everything else that, in its time, was regarded and appreciated as an accomplishment? Laczó takes a critical approach to this question, perceiving that its underlying assumption of a need for self-justification affords it the status of an apologia. In addition, it creates the false impression of being a kind of group-forming force, while actually regarding the minority to be an integral, inseparable part of majority society (or to be no more than formally distinct). Chapter five discusses the Hungarian Jews’ connections to Erec, which was centrally concerned at the time with the question of political Zionism. About twenty years ago, Gábor Schweitzer convincingly demonstrated why Hungarian Jews, some of whose most prominent figures had dressed up in the Hungarian ceremonial military and civil attire during the Millennium celebrations, people like Berthold Weiss, Sándor Deutsch of Hatvan, Lajos Krausz of Megyer and Zsigmond Kornfeld, had no need for political Zionism.2 The causes, or rather stereotypes, mentioned right at the beginning include being “unpatriotic” or “irreligious.” These concerns were clearly in direct opposition to what we have seen were the aspirations of the Neologs. Indeed, through all the disputes and confrontations among the three divisions of Hungarian Jewish society (Neolog, Orthodox and status quo ante), aversion to Zionism almost uniquely constituted a common thread. Nonetheless, the author’s analysis of the IMIT yearbooks has convinced him that despite the paucity of writing on the themes of Zionism and Erec in general, certainly compared with the attention paid to Hungarian Jewish identity, Zionist voices were still present in the Neolog milieu between the world wars, as were reports about Palestine, and these unavoidably contained talk of the Jewish people.

While the preceding chapters partly attempt to adapt the problems inherited from the nineteenth century to the new context within the territory of post-Trianon Hungary, chapters 6–10 concentrate on reactions to the steadily worsening situation and attempt to characterize them. The central concept here is crisis. What did contemporaries know about the discrimination of the time and the passage of laws that scorned basic legal principles, and how did they perceive these developments? Did any kind of crisis consciousness emerge in response? From his analysis of the IMIT yearbooks, Laczó concludes that until the passage of the First Jewish Law in 1938, the Neolog discourse predominantly followed what Bourdieu and Boltanski called a “compliance strategy”, and reproduced the prevailing political discourse almost without criticism.3

Despite the rising volume of critical voices in the IMIT yearbooks following the Nazi takeover of 1933 and – even more so – after the passage of the Jewish Law of 1938, and despite the pronouncement of “end of the liberal era” and the emergence of crisis consciousness in response to European (German) and Hungarian events, the internally-constructed identity policies, however sophisticated, lost ground. As Laczó points out, reports by Fülöp Grünvald made clear at least a year before the deportations started exactly what was meant by the Endlösung, and “when the crime of the century was being committed, (…) Hungary’s Jewish intellectuals could have been the force to shake the slumbering conscience of people living within the Axis Powers” (p.172), but the published revelations remained a cry in the wilderness. Amid the internal constructions and debates over identity, the authors of the IMIT yearbooks seem to have overlooked the change in the external political – and increasingly the legal – context of their debates, so that the self-understanding of the (Neolog) Jews and their positioning among Hungarian citizens were no longer the issue. In this changed discourse, the definition of “Jew” came from outside the communities, because the closed ideological system, by virtue of its closedness, was uncompromisingly defining the political language in which the world was to be conceived.

The unbinding of the analysis unbinds from its sources – the IMIT yearbooks and the periodicals Libanon and Ararát – presumably aims to fulfil the objective promised in the subtitle of discussing general and thus not exclusively Neolog “Hungarian Jewish thinking”. In fact, to dispense with the interpretative adjective “Neolog” would imply an objective for the book which is almost unattainable, because even the other periodicals coming out during that period, Egyenlőség, Múlt és Jövő, and even Századunk (carrying on the spirit of Huszadik Század) kept this issue on the agenda. The left-wing journals Szocializmus and Korunk also addressed this problem, and the list goes on. The contents of the bibliography make clear that Laczó is aware of this, and so the critic is somewhat at a loss to understand why the subtitle, which usually narrows down the subject, remains so wide (even if it does not bear the definite article). Since the book sketches out the background and context of each journal, its virtue would have been to place the analyses in a conceptual field and not talk about “the” Jews in the interwar period. If he was bent on broadening the base of his sources, he could have extended his discussion to the Jewish Museum, which he does mention several times (e.g. p.46); its role and function at that time is being steadily revealed through the research of Zsuzsanna Toronyi.4

One not entirely fortunately formulated sentence and a slightly imprecise subtitle should not distract us from the many virtues of this short monograph. By integrating the problem into international historiographical and methodological developments and providing minute analysis of hitherto largely neglected sources, Felvilágosult vallás és modern katasztrófa között does great service to the better understanding of the history of ideas among the Jewish community of the time.

Zsolt K. Horváth

1 Béla Zsolt, Kilenc koffer [Nine Suitcases] (Budapest: Magvető, 1980), 58, 59, 60. The expression “progressive” meant what we now call the Neolog movement. Zsolt was born into such a family in Komárom in 1895.

2 Gábor Schweitzer, “Miért nem kellett Herzl a magyar zsidóknak? A politikai cionizmus kezdetei és a magyarországi zsidó közvélemény” [Why did the Hungarian Jews Have No Time for Herzl? The Beginnings of Political Zionism and Public Opinion among Hungarian Jews], Budapesti Negyed, 2 (1994): 42–55.

3 Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Boltanski, “La production de l’idéologie dominante,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 2–3 (1976): 3–74.

4 See Zsuzsanna Toronyi, “A magyar zsidó múzeum épületéről” [On the Building of the Hungarian Jewish Museum], in Kép–keret. Az identitás konstrukciói [Picture-Frame. Constructions of Identity], ed. Gantner B. Eszter et al. (Budapest: Nyitott Könyvműhely 2010), 269–80, and Zsuzsanna Toronyi, “Egy budapesti kert történetei” [Stories of a Budapest Garden], Korall, 41 (2010): 97–112.

pdfVolume 4 Issue 4 CONTENTS

BOOK REVIEWS

On the Road: The History and Archaeology of Medieval Communication Networks in East-Central Europe. By Magdolna Szilágyi. Budapest: Archaeolingua, 2014. 250 pp.

 

There is very little secondary literature in Hungarian historiography on the subject of the history of roads, or Altstrassenforschung. A few works by József Holub (1917), Endre Tóth (1970/2008), and in particular Lajos Glaser (1930/33) are indeed the only bits of scholarship on the topic in Hungary. This makes the stimulating and innovative inquiry under review here even more important and, indeed, pioneering.

Szilágyi’s study of the history of roads and routes of travel in East Central Europe is based on archival research. She examines an immense quantity of written sources and engages in additional selective fieldwork. With regards to the Hungarian secondary literature, her work represents the first profound and comprehensive study in the field of the historical and archaeological study of medieval road systems, their different functions, and the hidden remnants of tracks in the landscapes. This extract of a dissertation, Árpád Period Communication Networks: Road Systems in Western Transdanubia (defended at Central European University, Budapest, 2012), is a pioneering work in the study of East Central Europe that constitutes a significant contribution to the growing body of scholarly literature on the study of old roads in the European context.

The selected area of study is within Vas County in Western Transdanubia. However, given the approach and geographical framework of the inquiry, in which Szilágyi raises several general research questions, it constitutes much more than a mere case study of a given area. The regional focus in this case—and this is essential—helps establish the precise limits of the investigation, which is not merely a traditional historical-geographical reconstruction of the topography of a regional road network based on maps and fieldwork. The period in focus is the Árpád Era, i.e. the period from 1001 to 1301.

In her monograph, Szilágyi uses written sources and map collections held in the Hungarian National Archives, the National Széchényi Library, the Archaeological Archives of the Savaria Museum and the Archive of Vas County, as well as a considerable number of printed sources. Selected field observations complement the traditional sources, and Szilágyi offers penetrating evaluations of recent findings of archaeological investigations, not going beyond the limits of individual excavations as such. She is thoroughly familiar with the necessary complementary analytical methods, which she uses in her reconstruction of medieval road systems on the basis of the historical terminology, archaeological evidence, historical and topographical documentation, and personal identification of features in the field.

A 44 page-long bibliography demonstrates wide-ranging insight into recent regional research in Hungary. It includes translations of the Hungarian titles into English, which is very useful in a work intended for an international readership. The many footnotes (566 in total), which primarily provide citations of the wide spectrum of hodonyms (names of streets or roads) in their original contexts, indicate that the inquiry is predominantly a historical–etymological study based on written sources. The written sources, which are indispensable in the study of medieval roads in Hungary, consist primarily of documents—in particular regarding perambulations—drawn up for legal purposes (property boundaries). Related sketches and maps come up later. Most of the terms are in Latin, which is hardly surprising given the subject and the period of history in question, though there are some in German and Hungarian. More recent road maps (from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) were used to locate medieval tracks. The maps of the Cadastral survey that was carried out in the nineteenth century were of special importance in identifying toponyms (field names), which were often related to old roads in their function as boundaries.

After a brief but concise presentation of the historiography and the sources, the main problems discussed in the related chapters are: the possible constancy of Roman roads in the medieval road system (Chapter 2) and the terminology of medieval roads (hodonyms), hierarchies within the road network, legal differentiations (rights, obligations), functional aspects, modes of travel and transportation, topography, road construction (especially urban archaeology) and river crossings (fords, bridges) (Chapter 3). Within the context of the European scholarship on medieval roads, this investigation adopts a distinctive approach, creating a framework of eight “categories” (relevant characteristics), which are treated in individual subchapters. These chapters, which are grouped under the headline “Terminology and characterization of medieval roads,” form the main section of the study. They inspire further individual and comparative studies in each field and in other regions.

One of the specific and, in research on the former Roman provinces, essential research questions concerns the influence (continuity) of the Roman road network on the development of a new and different settlement pattern and related road networks in medieval times. This question is often a subject of debate. The medieval documents—specifically the ones from or pertaining to Western Transdanubia—mention “ötteveny” or “kövesút,” terms which refer to the wide strips of gravel that remained from ancient Roman road constructions. Roman alignments survived in urban street patterns (especially in Savaria, where the city of Szombathely stands today, and to some extent Scarbantia, today the city of Sopron). However, due to later transformations of settlement locations, many sections of Roman roads fell into disuse and decay. The remnants of the ramparts were even avoided and alternative medieval routes evolved.

A comprehensive chapter is devoted to a functional differentiation of the medieval road network based on considerations related to production, transport and travel, drawing primarily on analyses of documented terms. Certainly, most of the tracks did not serve one specific function, but this approach opens up a broader view on the economic history of traffic and communication based in part on the complexity of the road network. It is important to note that the focus of the study is thus not only main routes of long-distance travel and transport, but also the connections between places of production and consumption (regional transport systems), including for instance salt roads, wine roads, market roads, livestock roads, drift roads, mill roads, etc., and also between private and public demands (for instance, pilgrims routes, military roads, and church roads).

The subchapter on salt roads (3.3.3.1.) in the section on functional aspects is particularly interesting. The terms referring to these roads point to a well-organized transport system in the hands of the king from sites of production (mines in Transylvania) to centers of trade (Szeged, Szalacs) and from these centers to a regional distribution network. Here “sajtosút” (road of the salt carriers) is mentioned as a specific term that was in use in Transylvania. Salt roads have been a distinct field of research in Germany and Austria for quite some time now. The long-distance cattle drove roads constituted another specific network connected with distinctive infrastructure. The monograph thus touches on an additional field of research by incorporating discussion of the relevant sources.

This historical-archaeological study, which adopts an ambitious and theoretically nuanced approach and aspires to offer more than a mere reconstruction of a regional historic road network, opens up new directions in the investigation of medieval and Early Modern road systems for travel and transport in East Central Europe, drawing on the long-standing and also recent intensive research activities in this field, especially in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Szilágyi’s challenging and substantial study, in which she adopts a historical and philological approach, is a welcome contribution to the various initiatives concerning the study of the history and development of communication, travel and transport networks in a European context. This noteworthy book should stimulate further investigations in Hungary and East Central Europe.

Dietrich Denecke

 

A pozsonyi prépost és a káptalan viszálya (1421–1425). A szentszéki bíráskodás Magyarországon – a pozsonyi káptalan szervezete és működése a XV. század elején [Conflict between the Provost and the Chapter of Pressburg (1421–1425). Jurisdiction of the Holy See in Hungary – Organization and Operation of the Pressburg Chapter in the Early Fifteenth Century]. By Norbert C. Tóth, Bálint Lakatos, and Gábor Mikó. (Subsidia ad Historiam medii aevi Hungariae inquirendam 3.) Budapest: MTA TKI, 2014. 464 pp.

 

One of the increasingly prominent topics of research in recent Hungarian medieval historiography is ecclesiastical history and, more precisely, the investigation of the middle class in the medieval clergy, i.e. members and the operation of chapters. In 1971, Elemér Mályusz issued his fundamental monograph (composed mainly in the 1930s) on Hungarian ecclesiastical society before the battle of Mohács. In the monograph he drew attention to the fact that the middle and lower layers of the medieval Hungarian clergy had not been examined. Only a decade later, József Köblös, embarking down the path blazed by Mályusz, published the first archontology of four chapters (Buda, Székesfehérvár, Győr and Pressburg). Some years later, he published a comparative sociographic analysis of the prebendaries in these four institutions. Inspired by these works, over the course of the last fifteen years several researchers have made significant contributions to the study of this topic. (Cf. Tamás Fedeles, “Die ungarische Dom- und Kollegiatkapitel und ihre Mitglieder im Mittelalter. Forschungsstand, Aufgaben, Initiativen,” in Kapituly v zemích koruny české a v uhrách ve středověku [The Chapters in the Czech and Hungarian Kingdoms in the Middle Ages], ed. Václav Ledvinka and Jiři Pešek. Documenta Pragensia Supplementa II [2011], 161–96.)

Tóth, Lakatos, and Mikó’s book is itself based on a charter and its copies from January 1425, which the three authors came across as the following twelfth part of the Zsigmondkori Oklevéltár was being compiled. (Norbert C. Tóth and Bálint Lakatos, Zsigmondkori oklevéltár [Sigismundian Cartulary], vol 12 (1425) [2013].) A thorough examination revealed that there are altogether fifteen (!) copies of the charter, which all together contain a composite legal procedure between the chapter of Pressburg (Hungarian Pozsony, today Bratislava) and its provost, László Sóvári Sós. The research group, having finished the aforementioned volume of the sourcebook, managed to examine the legal case in detail, which resulted in this book.

The work of the three medievalists consists of four separate units. The first part includes six separate studies that mostly concern the functioning of the courts of the Holy See in the Middle Ages, the structure of the chapter of Pressburg, and a detailed analysis of the court case between the provost and the chapter. The second main part provides data on three members of the collegiate chapter of Pressburg who were important with regard to the court case, followed by a prosopographic database and survey of the estates of the chapter. The third main part contains the Latin documents that are connected to the legal case, regardless of whether they are later transcriptions or full-text publications of authentic originals. The edited documents are complemented by an explanation of some legal terms and short summaries of the individual documents. The fourth part is the obligatory detailed index of place and personal names discussed in the book.

By tackling the exhausting textual and genealogical problems of the charter, the authors ended up raising questions, the answers to which demanded separate analyses. The first study covers the historiography of Hungarian ecclesiastical jurisdiction and presents the operation of the Esztergom Holy See during the vicariate of Vicedomini Máté (Matheus de Vicedomini de Placentia) and his delegate substitutes. The authors conclude that the legal actions of the Esztergom Holy See, compared to the practice of European and other Hungarian Holy Sees, consisted mostly of affairs concerning marriage and inheritance, whereas cases in which members of the clergy formed both parties are less in number but were more significant. The second study is a penetrating examination of the personal relationships within the chapter itself. As discussed by the authors, the collegiate chapter of Pressburg lacked both the lector and cantor, and consisted of 14 members. It was the custos and the provost who determined the life of the chapter, and royal nomination dominated the selection and promotion of members within the body. The following chapter is an overview of the course and sections of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In addition to a valuable overview of the existing literature (both Hungarian and in other languages), it provides new data concerning legal terms in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. The analysis of sessional data led to the conclusion that, apart from major feast days (i.e. Christmas and Easter) and the period around the harvest, ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the operation of the Holy Sees was continuous, as was true in the case of secular courts.

The fourth paper investigates the suit of the chapter against its own provost concerning the prebendaries’ action and the provost’s counter-action, commissioning the case to delegated judges in Pressburg, the investigation and judiciary stage in the city, and the provost’s appeal to King Sigismund himself, who ordered György Pálóci, archbishop of Esztergom, to review the case. The chapter as a body accused Sóvári with altogether 34 different articles, including liturgical defaults, offences against the prebendaries and economic misdeeds. The provost was compelled to compensate the chapter financially (306 florins and the cost of the proceedings), but the most humiliating detail for him was that he was obliged to make apologies to the body. As a result of Sóvári’s appeal, one fee was waived, deadlines for liquidation were disburdened, and the obligation that he apologize was abrogated.

The fifth and sixth studies deal with the rights and obligations of the chapter. The right to the quarter or, in some villages, to the whole tithe (which, according to the suit, had been violated by the provost) was financially crucial to the prebendaries, as three-fourths of their whole income might have originated from ecclesiastical earnings, and manorial income was only the remaining one-fourth.

Among the expenditures of the church, an unmarked tax is analyzed in the last study, namely the 63rd article of the acts issued by King Sigismund in 1397. This stipulated that every ecclesiastical figure should spend half of his income for military purposes. The paper comes to the conclusion that the middle class members of the clergy actually paid this tax, though less than the prescribed half, whereas prelates supplied their banderia, mounted forces. Calculations suggest that middle class members of the clergy contributed with an annual 11,000 florins to national military expenditures, and prelates did so with more than 60,000 florins, which meant a significant portion of the royal budget for defense.

In summary, the book provides a complex approach towards both the history of the Pressburg chapter in a relatively narrow scope and an overview of medieval ecclesiastical legal proceedings in Hungary at the same time. It calls attention to the fact that records of legal cases (even if copies) might contain significant data concerning ecclesiastical bodies and the individuals they involved, and charters of this kind should be analyzed with similarly thorough methods. (For a similar case between the Veszprém chapter and its provost, Pál Emődi, see the recent Monumenta Ecclesiae Vesprimiensis 1437–1464, edited by Gábor Dreska and Balázs Karlinszky and published in 2014 by the Veszprém Diocese.) The book provides a summary of its findings in German and Slovak, as well as a detailed bibliography, which will be useful to further investigations of the topic.

Balázs Karlinszky

 

Cities and their Spaces. Concepts and their Use in Europe. Edited by Michel Pauly and Martin Scheutz. Cologne–Weimar–Vienna: Böhlau, 2014. 324 pp.

 

Urban settlement has always had a strong and complex spatial dimension. According to some definitions, one of the main distinctive criteria between towns and villages is precisely the more sophisticated topography of the former. Every town or city develops its unique structure and built form, which undergoes changes over time, providing ample food for thought for many branches of historical research. One might think that the spatial turn in history writing, which has been acknowledged now for a long time, would have been particularly welcome among urban historians. Indeed, as noted in the introduction to the present volume (which was written by its two editors), the localization of various features in urban space has always been on the agenda of scholars of a city’s past. The identification of particular buildings or neighborhoods and the ties they had to families or social groups have been familiar themes in praises of towns, city chronicles, and academic works alike. From the perspective of methodology, however, urban history can strongly benefit from the sociologically and theoretically inspired new wave of modern and post-modern spatial studies, which are presented in the volume in Keith Lilley’s essay on “Conceptualizing the City.” After having been engaged for centuries with the questions of “who, what and where,” urban historians have now been prompted by these new impulses to engage more systematically with the issue of “how?” and—no less important—“why?”.

The book reviewed here does a great service by extending the scope of up-to-date spatial inquiries, or at least providing good raw material for them, concerning cities in regions that are often neglected in this context or studied within the boundaries of national paradigms (and languages). The reason for this greater openness is that the present collection of 19 articles (14 in English, 4 in German, and an introduction in both—one gratefully acknowledges the efforts of the editors to have the articles translated) is based on two conferences of the International Commission for the History of Towns (ICHT) organized in Sibiu (Hermannstadt) and Prague, both of which welcomed a good number of local speakers and participants. These two cities at the same time are home to institutions that have been active in editing and publishing the Historic Towns Atlas series of their respective countries. Knowledge of primary sources and recent research on the spatial development of a good number of towns is therefore readily available.

It follows logically from these premises that the great flagship enterprise of the ICHT, the towns’ atlases, are utilized as reference works in many of the articles here. Ferdinand Opll, the editor-in-chief of the already completed Austrian atlas series, shows new ways of using the toponyms on the maps and in the topographical gazetteers (mainly in the Irish atlas series) for comparative research. Regarding the example of the names of gates and suburbs that lay beyond them, he offers a typology of naming patterns as reflections of spatial thinking and awareness of the hinterland and its main contact points. His study demonstrates that it is well worth pursuing comparisons in the cases of other kinds of urban toponyms on a European scale.

The four studies connected to the territory of modern-day Romania also draw on many examples from towns that have been included in the atlas series. Paul Niedermaier, the initiator of the Romanian atlas project and author of multiple volumes on urban development in Transylvania, follows his own hypothetical-deductive method, suggesting previous phases of development by studying the plot-patterns on cadastral maps. While one may express some skepticism concerning the accuracy of the reconstructions and their dating, the processes of the “genesis of closed spaces” and market infill that he describes with reference to the example of Sebeş (Szászsebes, Mühlbach), Sibiu, Sighişoara (Segesvár, Schäßburg) and other settlements have parallels in many towns of Europe. His disciple, Maria Crîngaci Ţiplic, examines the relationship between trade privileges and the evolution of urban space in the same three towns. It is indeed worthwhile looking at these two phenomena in parallel, but it is difficult to distinguish cause and effect, especially knowing that the pace at which the kings “followed up” on the development of commercial contacts with administrative measures depended a great deal on royal policy. It is also important to distinguish which kinds of privileges actually had local impact. Liberation from paying customs at faraway places could have at best indirect consequences, whereas, for instance, staple right resulting in increased need for storage could indeed influence the structure of the merchants’ houses and the use of public space, as has also been demonstrated in the case of Hanseatic towns.

Urban development in the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia is discussed in the articles by Laurenţiu Rădvan, the author of a comprehensive monograph on the subject, and Dan Dumitru Iacob. Rădvan’s well-balanced analysis follows long-term processes in the shaping of streets and plot structure and the roles of monasteries between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. He clearly distinguishes between the first period, when the influx of German and Hungarian settlers via Poland and Transylvania brought along a “systematic topographical outline of inhabited space,” whereas from the sixteenth century onwards colonists arriving from the Balkans and the Levant spread other models of organizing space, such as the wide areas of bazaars and the encroachment of orthodox monasteries, which in the long run contributed to reductions in urban autonomy. Iacob’s study takes up the story from this point and describes the modernization of the markets of Iaşi in the nineteenth century. He considers commercial streets and zones both in the center and the suburbs and explains how the carefully crafted projects of creating civic or parade squares were carried out by local authorities.

Similar sets of questions concerning the centers and central marketplaces are taken up by Roman Czaja in his discussion of cities in the territory of modern-day Poland, taking Elbląg (Elbing) as the central example. Czaja observes a strong conservative tendency in retaining the medieval main square as a commercial and community center and even keeping the fortifications intact. It was partly due to major town fires or to the unavoidable need for modernization in the nineteenth century that the medieval inner city lost its exclusive role as the most important urban space, although it still retained its role as a platform for public rituals and a social meeting place. The phenomenon of incremental growth is demonstrated by the maps of Görlitz, Auma (in Thuringia), Bruneck (in Tirol) and Ljubljana in Karlheinz Blaschke’s contribution. The German historian has dedicated the work of a lifetime and several monographs to plot the churches dedicated to St. Nicholas and the adjoining merchants’ settlements as catalysts of “spontaneous development” of urban spatial structure.

Abandoning the order of the volume, I complete my look at the range of contributions on Central Europe with two studies on medieval and Early Modern Bohemia. Martin Musílek’s investigation of property transactions in the Old Town of Prague in a relatively short period between 1351 and 1367 seems to imply a micro-historical approach, but as the author points out, these seventeen years capture an important moment of transformation of the urban elite from an old stock of merchants to a new, more craftsmen-dominated group of house-owners and council members. One may wonder if the Black Death of 1347–49 had any impact on this shift, although there is no reference to this in the article. However, the similarity of this process to the changes in Buda’s leading elite a few decades later makes it seem likely that such a change would have taken place in any case. In Robert Šimůnek’s study on towns as “theatres” of sacral representation Prague plays rather a supporting role, while the center stage is taken by Český Krumlov, from where an exceptionally detailed fourteenth-century description of the local Corpus Christi procession has survived. The author explains the importance of such an exercise in the visualization of social hierarchies and also touches on some of the changes at the turn of the fifteenth century.

On the western periphery of Europe, Ireland has set a new trend in topographical research with its high quality town atlases, which include detailed and informative gazetteers. This series is the basis for the articles by Anngret Simms and Howard B. Clarke, two of the great movers and shakers of the atlas project on a European scale. Simms provides a masterly example of the comparative use of three atlases, those of Tuam, Armagh and Limerick, highlighting the impact of the Reformation on the uses of urban space. She points out that due to the political circumstances, i.e. the close association of Reformation and colonization in Ireland, resisting the new movement and reestablishing the Catholic Church in particular quarters of the towns in question can be considered a form of ethnic survival. Her study can be instructive for scholars investigating the topographical impact of the dissolution of monasteries in any other part of Europe, too. Clarke’s insightful analysis of the hinterlands of medieval Dublin offers an overview of the main directions of contacts and their changes over time in five periods from the eighth century to 1500. His study also points out the importance of assembling the evidence from the broadest possible spectrum of sources for periods when no administrative records are available, from place-names to church dedications or the distribution of church prebends or special types of pottery produced in Dublin.

Remaining with the topic of hinterlands, Jean-Pierre Poussou discusses this issue in the case of the four largest French port cities, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rouen/Le Havre and Marseille. He examines whether there was a relationship of dominance or relative interdependence between the big ports that were (with the exception of Marseille) by estuaries of rivers 50-120 kilometers away from the open sea, the smaller outer harbors and the settlements along the same rivers or beyond, on the mainland. He also examines the change caused by the increasing volume of colonial trade, especially with the West Indies in the eighteenth century, which reinforced “the primacy of the large ports.” Hinterlands are also the subject of inquiry in Caroline Le Mao’s contribution on the provisioning of French maritime arsenals with the most essential raw materials, particularly wood, in the late seventeenth century. Although these large military-industrial complexes were established and run not by towns but by the absolutist state, according to Le Mao, “a town and its arsenal were inextricably linked,” thus their well-researched system of transport infrastructure has relevance for the civilian aspects of urban life as well. The fourth article concerning hinterlands, by Máximo Diago Hernando, offers a broad overview of the territorial politics of Spanish towns from the eleventh to the nineteenth centuries. His concept of hinterland is more legal than economic, unlike the two French contributions presented above. He shows that towns in the kingdoms of Léon-Castile and Aragon received by royal decree large territories to control in order to foster the colonization of areas reconquered from Muslim rule. Later, the controlled estates were often reduced due to the crown’s actions to donate or sell some villages, while the towns, especially in Aragon, managed to purchase more land for their lordships. In any case, strong royal supervision remained the defining factor.

Rosemary Sweet’s analysis stands out because of her decision to focus on the “conceptualization and cultural production of historic urban space rather than its purely physical manifestation,” connecting closely to the postmodern agenda outlined by Keith Lilley’s introductory essay. She eloquently demonstrates how, through the combined effect of a growing body of knowledge on the architectural heritage of cities and towns and the increasing modernization in a time of rapid urban change (“uncovering Roman sewers while digging their own”), views and value judgments on urban space have changed. Her examples refer to Rome and Britain, but similar inquiries can and should be profitably extended to other parts of the continent, including the Kingdom of Hungary in the nineteenth century.

Finally, two articles discuss urban space in modern and post-modern times. Lars Nilsson describes processes in Stockholm between 1860 and 2010 to show changes in the town planning strategies in certain neighborhoods of the inner and the outer city. Two of the most instructive questions raised here are the recovery and restructuring of the Inner City in the face of deindustrialization and the impact of spatial transformations on social inequalities and segregation. Peter Clark traces the emergence and typology of green spaces in cities, from promenades and parks to recreation grounds, allotment gardens and private gardens. His focus, however, is more social than spatial, looking for agents of change and the interest groups benefitting from them.

The essays in this volume, which were written by prominent urban historians from all over Europe, clearly demonstrate that the study of cities and their spaces is rewarding. As Anngret Simms emphasizes, cities and settlements “reflect historical processes” and long-term changes over time. She adds that “large-scale topographical maps … communicate cultural meaning and as such, we should learn how to read these maps as the expression of cultural shifts.” The validity of her statement goes beyond Irish towns and should be a helpful reminder to all readers, and some of the authors too. Many of the articles use maps skillfully to demonstrate their point, while others unfortunately are not supported with visual materials, although their authors definitely used them in their research. Another minor shortcoming is the lack of mention of historic place names and the failure to provide a proper gazetteer of these names, especially in the case of Transylvania. In sum, the main value of the book lies, in addition to the practical information in contains, in the relevant and thought-provoking questions that may be, mutatis mutandis, posed across regions and over time, questions that will increase our understanding not only of urban space, but also of those who created, inhabited and perceived them.

Katalin Szende

 

Dzsámik és mecsetek a hódolt Magyarországon [Mosques in the Territories of Hungary under Ottoman Occupation]. By Balázs Sudár. (Magyar Történelmi Emlékek. Adattárak.) Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Történettudományi Intézet, 2014. 650 pp.

 

The Ottoman occupation of Hungary, which lasted roughly a century and a half, fundamentally changed the fates of the peoples living in the Carpathian Basin. Yet soon after the expulsion of the Ottoman forces from the region, very few traces of their presence remained. Within a short period of time, the majority of the works of Islamic architecture had been partly dismantled or rebuilt to serve other functions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why romantic historians in the nineteenth century, distanced from the period of occupation by two centuries, wrote ever more positively about the era. The question of the balance of salutary and regrettable consequences of the Ottoman occupation remains a subject of debate today. Thus, one of the tasks for historians was to determine the extent to which the Ottomans came to inhabit the occupied territories of the Hungarian kingdom and the extent to which they transformed the settlements to better fit their culture and lifestyles. Balázs Sudár has undertaken this task. He has gathered all of the data on the mosques that were built in the Carpathian Basin and published them in this thick book.

The book, which was published by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is divided into three long chapters. The first part is essentially a preliminary study in which the author summarizes the relevant data and information already known to the community of scholars and presents the sources. At the beginning of the chapter, which has been further divided into ten subchapters, he provides a detailed presentation of the Islamic and Christian written sources and image sources, including archeological findings. This is followed by a brief history of the scholarship and a short though all the more important explanation of the terminology, which contains precise definitions of the terms “occupation” and “Turk.” Sudár then offers a summary of Islam belief and practice on the basis of the current Turkish and international secondary literature. This summary is important in part because, lamentably, to this day European publics still have little more than a superficial knowledge of Islam and the role it plays in the lives of Muslims.

The chapter dealing with the number of places of worship for Muslims in the territory under occupation is an important part of the book. As Sudár notes, in the 1660s, when Evliya Çelebi was writing his famous travelogue, there were roughly 400 places of prayer in the parts of Hungary that had fallen under Ottoman rule. If one considers the size of the Balkan peninsula, this might seem a comparatively small number. If we recall that at the beginning of the sixteenth century, there were roughly 9,000 Christian edifices in the Carpathian Basin, 400 seems trifling. There were minarets only in some 50 cities, and they were lost in the surrounding forests of Hungarian villages. This shows that the influence of Islamic culture was limited at most. The Hungarian population was not responsive to the new faith. However, if we closely follow the process of the construction of mosques, we see that over the course of the seventeenth century the occupying forces came to settle in the lands more and more, and thus in the long run there was a perfectly good chance that the areas of Hungary that had fallen under Ottoman occupation might have shared the same fate as Bosnia or Albania.

The last subchapter of the introductory essay deals with the people who founded the places of prayer and the people who maintained them, as well as the distinctive features of the buildings themselves. The reader gains a thorough understanding of the construction and functions of the mosques and the roles they played during the period of occupation.

The reference section comprises the longest part of the book, consisting of some 450 pages with information about the individual mosques. The text, which has been arranged in alphabetical order on the basis of the names of the settlements, contains everything we can know about the various edifices. Alongside citations from the sources, one also finds a chronology, biographies of the people who founded the mosques, and a list of the works available in the existing secondary literature. One of the great strengths of the book is the inclusion of a wide array of relevant images and visual sources. For instance, one finds many prints, maps, and archeological ground-plans that help one understand details of the text. Thus, the book contains a great deal of new information for local historians, so hopefully knowledge of these kinds of details will soon reach the wider reading public. The book also contains innumerable interesting tidbits, for instance mention of the distinctive windows and two mihrabs of the Suleiman mosque in Szigetvár, no similar versions of which have yet been found anywhere in the Balkan peninsula.

With this work of scholarship, Balázs Sudár has done a great deal to fill a lacuna in the secondary literature on the subject of the traces of Ottoman religious culture in the territories that were once under occupation, and his book contains a wealth of information that will be of interest both to Hungarian historians of the era and people curious about Islamic culture and local history. Given the value of this book, it would be important to have it translated into English well and as soon as possible, since it would constitute an indispensable resource for the international community of scholars with an interest in Ottoman history.

Szabolcs Varga

 

A Divided Hungary in Europe: Exchanges, Networks and Representations, 1541–1699. Vol. 1–3. Edited by Gábor Almási, Szymon Brzezinski, Ildikó Horn, Kees Teszelszky, and Áron Zarnóczki. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. 738 pp.

 

This three-volume publication is the product of a four-year research program entitled “Hungary in early modern Europe,” which was headed by the late Ágnes R. Várkonyi. The purpose of this Hungarian Scientific Research Fund-funded program was to study Hungary’s presence and place in Europe and its role on the “European stage” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The 29 case studies arranged in three volumes put the cultural, religious, intellectual and political relationships between Hungary and the rest of Europe in focus. They examine questions of cultural transfer and exchange, thus seeking to situate Hungary in the European context. They are the result of an international cooperative endeavor. Although most of the contributors are prominent Hungarian historians, one also finds Slovak, Polish, American, Croatian and Dutch scholars among them.

The first volume (Study Tours and Intellectual-Religious Relationships) investigates how cultural exchange between Hungary and Europe affected intellectual life in Hungary. The essays in this volume deal with two major subjects, academic study tours and intellectual-religious exchange. For instance, Gizella Keserű examines the study tours of Unitarians from Transylvania. András Péter Szabó investigates those of the Lutherans from Upper-Hungary to Prussia. Gábor Almási compares the peregrination tours of Hungarian students with the study tours of students from other East-Central European countries. Ildikó Horn investigates the peregrination of the Transylvanian elite, providing an explanation for the decline of such ventures in the seventeenth century. In regard to intellectual-religious relationships, three studies examine international Catholic intellectual life and scientific exchange. Farkas Gábor Kiss studies the possibilities and severe limitations of the exchange of scientific knowledge between Hungary and the rest of Europe based on the case of Athanasius Kircher. Ildikó Sz. Kristóf examines descriptions of peoples and lands of other continents in the calendars published by the University of Nagyszombat (Trnava). Another Jesuit, Martinus Cseles, and his discovery of the account of Brother Julianus are the subject of an essay by Paul Shore. Two other essays approach the question of cultural transfer from a different perspective. István Monok compares the publishing activity of three major cities (Paris, Basel, Venice) from the point of view of books on Hungary and Hungarians, and Péter Király studies the role of foreign musicians in Hungary.

The intention of the second volume (Diplomacy, Information Flow and Cultural Exchange) is to investigate the history of cultural transfer in the areas of international relations and diplomacy. For instance, Dóra Kerekes studies the interpreters, an important group of cultural mediators in seventeenth-century Istanbul. A topic closely related to the exchange of culture and knowledge is the research on information flows in politics, which is the subject of several of the essays. These chapters study the details concerning information gathering networks, both the networks of the Transylvanian Principality as a whole (Gábor Kármán) and those of individuals (e. g. Ferenc Nádasdy by Noémi Viskolcz). The crucial role of the individual actors in these information-gathering and diplomatic networks is emphasized. Mónika F. Molnár examines the activities of a famous “information agent” and scientist, Luigi Marsigli, and his activities at the Habsburg-Ottoman borderline. The Transylvanian István Kakas and the broadly international contexts of his mission to Persia are investigated by Pál Ács, and the Hungarian contexts of the assassination of Antonio Rincón and Cesare Fergoso are studied by Megan Williams. Péter Tusor examines the unexpected appointment of Péter Pázmány to the position of Archbishop of Esztergom and the responses and repercussions in Vienna and Rome.

The third volume (The Making and Uses of the Image of Hungary and Transylvania) deals with the image of Hungary and the Hungarians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the various local uses to which it was put in the political communication across Europe. Two essays focus on the Holy Roman Empire. Nóra G. Etényi studies the news pamphlets and publications on the military and political developments in Hungary which appeared in the Empire in the second half of the seventeenth century. Orsolya Lénárt analyzes changes in the image of Hungary based on Eberhard Werner Happel’s novel. Two studies deal with the Low Countries as well (the essays by Kees Teszelszky and Orsolya Réthelyi). Another two essays examine the images of Hungary in Early Modern Croatian (Iva Kurelac) and Moldavian and Wallachian (Klára Jakó) historiography. Tamás Kruppa and Szymon Brzezinski investigate the perception of Hungary and Hungarians and related topoi in Italy and in Poland-Lithuania.

The authors of the volumes focus on the questions of cultural transfer and exchange and by this approach they seek to place Hungary in a European context. They approach the aspects of diplomacy and politics too in terms of cultural exchange, and consider the image of Hungary as a product of this exchange of knowledge and information as well. Besides they concentrate on the intellectual and diplomatic networks and the important role individual historical actors played in these networks. These approaches have already gained significant international attention (cf. primarily the fundamental work Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe, vols. 1–4, ed. R. Muchembled and W. Monter) but have just recently started to be applied in Hungarian scholarship on the country’s period under Ottoman rule.

The importance of the publication therefore lies not simply in the fact that the authors used a wide array and large quantity of new sources, thanks to their extensive archival research (the essays are based on archival sources from more than 25 cities across Europe), but primarily in the use of these new research methods and approaches. The research areas and themes represented here (such as church history and the history of communication) likewise constitute topics and fields that have undergone considerable development over the course of the past few decades in Hungarian historiography. Thus, these volumes seek to give insights into current Hungarian historical scholarship as well.

The references and footnotes are thorough and shed light on the most recent historiography of Early Modern Hungary, and they were composed with an international readership in mind. All of the essays in this compelling three-volume publication provide ample material for the study of the connections of Hungarian elite circles to the contemporary European cultural trends in the Early Modern period. Much as the Hungarians of the period in question kept up with trends at the time, the authors of these essays have remained abreast of international scholarly trends and tendencies today, and indeed they have “provided us with a state-of the art knowledge of early modern Hungary” (Vol. 1, p.ix).

Krisztina Péter

 

 

Pálos missziók Magyarországon a 17–18. században [The Pauline Order’s Missions in Hungary in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries]. By †Ferenc Galla. Edited by István Fazekas. (Collectanea Vaticana Hungariae – Classis 1, vol. 11.) Budapest–Rome: MTA-PPKE ‘Lendület’ Egyháztörténeti Kutatócsoport–Gondolat, 2015. 536 pp.

 

Ferenc Galla (1888–1977), a Catholic priest and historian and at one time a professor of church history (Royal Hungarian Péter Pázmány University of Budapest, Faculty of Theology), was one of the greatest researchers of sources on the Early Modern history of the Hungarian Catholic Church in Rome, mainly in the Archives of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide). As he spent almost the last three decades of his long life living under a communist regime in Hungary, he was not allowed to publish much of the data he had collected. He spent these decades of forced silence supplementing the Roman material with sources from the National Archives of Hungary (Archives of the Hungarian Treasury and the Hungarian Chancellery). He wrote several important monographs and essays on these sources, which remained unpublished at the time, but which are now held in the National Archives of Hungary (Archives of Families, Corporations and Institutions), together with his huge bequest of manuscripts. These manuscripts were discovered by the narrow community of professional historians in the early 1990s, and they have since served as sources of inspiration for various scholars, but were still waiting to be published.

For more than 10 years now, the series Collectanea Vaticana Hungariae has published monographs, essays, source materials, repertories and bibliographies concerning Hungarian historical research in the Vatican. Thus, Galla’s legacy found the perfect caretaker in its editorial committee, which is under the leadership of Péter Tusor. The volume under review is the third one published as part of the series, following Ferences misszionáriusok Magyarországon: a Királyságban és Erdélyben a 17–18. században [Franciscan Missionaries in Hungary: In the Kingdom and in Transylvania in the 17th and 18th Centuries], which was issued in 2005 (Classis 1, vol. 2), and Pápai kinevezések, megbízások és felhatalmazások Erdély, a Magyar Királyság és a Hódoltság területére (1550–1711) [Pontifical Provisions, Faculties and Commissions in Transylvania, Habsburg and Ottoman Hungary (1550–1771)], which was published in 2010 (Classis 2, vol. 3). The editing and redacting of the present text, as in the case of the aforementioned volume issued in 2005, was done by István Fazekas and is ample testimony to his competence and attentiveness.

The volume consists of three parts, which are arranged chronologically. The first deals with the history of the Pauline Order from its general reform in the 1630s to the late 1670s. The chapter is structured around the biography of János Vanoviczy (c. 1612–1678), Pauline missionary and head of the apostolic prefecture maintained by the order, but this part also deals with the monasteries that had been in continuous operation since the Middle Ages, as well as the ones that were founded in the period under discussion. Focus, however, is on the beginning of the evangelistic activities of the Paulines and the establishment of the apostolic prefecture in 1667. The second part is dedicated to the development of Pauline missions during the wartime period of 1671–1711, namely the anti-Habsburg uprisings, Kuruc Wars, the Great Turkish War and Ferenc Rákóczi II’s war of liberation. This chapter, however, uses a regional division. After an introductory section on the Pauline missions of the era in general and the old and new monasteries (again), it contains four sections concerning four different territories affected by the missions of the order, namely Szepes (Spiš) and Árva (Orava) Counties, Transdanubia and the regions recaptured from the Ottoman Empire (in this case, only the Diocese of Pécs, the city of Nagyvárad (Oradea)and Transylvania). Finally, the third part, which is considerably shorter than the previous two, summarizes the characteristics of the Pauline missions in the eighteenth century and evaluates the work of the order in this area. The last seventy pages of the volume consist of a list of sources and a bibliography, a particularly extensive index of people and places, and a detailed English abstract (some 10 pages long) including a map of the Pauline missions in the seventeenth century.

Although the published manuscript represents the most complete surviving version of the monograph, it is still an unfinished variant, as the work was probably never totally finalized by Galla. Thus there are significant differences between the three parts of the volume. First, as already mentioned, the third part is only one-third as long as the first two. Second, only the annotations of the first part survived or were made up by the author. Accordingly, there were differences in the editorial work on the text. The first part needed only the revision of the originally ponderous style of the author to make it more flowing and the division of the enormously long notes into shorter ones. However, the annotations in the first part still remain long, and as every single note relates to several paragraphs, sometimes even pages, they contain many repetitions of the main text when specifying the exact topic to which they pertain. In the other two parts, the annotations were compiled by the editor, partially on the basis of the original notes of the author from a former version of the manuscript. Fazekas also cited recent historical literature in order to refresh the study, which is more than half a century old.

As is the case in other works by Galla, his positivist method of accumulating data is often supplemented by explanations of the histories of families and places, general national and church history, and biographies of individuals, mainly members of the Pauline Order and Hungarian aristocrats. More importantly, he summarizes certain sections in general terms either before or after the given details, and in these sections he has ventured several ascertainments that have not been discredited since. These are the features that make Galla’s recently published volume really notable, not to mention his treatment of a huge amount of data, so far unknown, from Rome as well as from Budapest, the importance of which can hardly be overestimated.

Dániel Siptár

 

Conflicting Values of Inquiry. Ideologies of Epistemology in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Tamás Demeter, Kathryn Murphy, and Claus Zittel. Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2015. 410 pp.

 

The fact that a collection of essays that will in all likelihood find its place on library shelves reserved for philosophical studies is being reviewed in a historical journal by a sociologist should be taken as a good sign. The editorial intention, beyond doubt, was to deliver a bouquet of studies primarily philosophical in their subject matter and to show that, in addition to a revisionist approach to primarily classical chapters in the history of philosophy, a wider, social scientific questioning and treatment of their subjects can also yield essays interesting and relevant for a broad interdisciplinary academic readership.

The volume, however, seeks to achieve further goals, or, if you will, even higher purposes. As Tamás Demeter, one of the editors, highlights in his introductory essay (“Values, Norms and Ideologies in Early Modern Inquiry”), studies aimed at exposing underlying political, religious or ideological commitments in scientific debates have been in vogue since Shapin and Schaffer came out with Leviathan and the Air-Pump in 1985 (Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life [1985]), and while such aspirations have not yet become part of the mainstream, they are familiar enough now to venture beyond or away from the territories that they have uncovered. Hence, “the present volume suggests that with an awareness of this context, it is now worth turning back to questions of the epistemic content itself” (p.2).

In the first essay, which also serves as an introduction to or an overview of the aspirations of the articles that follow, Peter Dear, a renowned historian of science, gives a short account and evaluation of Leviathan and the Air-Pump, the milestone work that this volume now goes beyond, at least if the contributors have met their aim. “Going beyond,” Professor Dear assures his reader, does not mean turning against, and his overview serves to avoid throwing out “the baby with the bathwater when attempting to elaborate other sorts of accounts” (p.11). The so-called Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, or SSK exemplified by the Leviathan and the Air-Pump called for an account of scientific ideas in terms of the acts and actions that they facilitate (p.12), a kind of a contextual analysis that rejects the internal logic of the history of science, refutes the notion that scientific knowledge can be accounted for solely on the basis of prior forms of scientific knowledge, and argues that these systems of knowledge are not purely built upon and consequences of one another. This contextual analysis, also known as the “Strong Program,” advocates an elaboration (explanation or understanding) of all scientific knowledge, whether held to be true or false by contemporaries or present-day representatives of the field, with reference to the historical, political, ideological etc. context within which they are expressed. As Peter Dear puts it, it calls for an interpretation of knowledge-production in terms of an understanding of the stakes that scientific discourses and debates carried for the participants. This approach, as he points out, equates the answers yielded by “instrumental” questions with “understanding.” It is precisely here that the present volume most sharply diverges from the SSK program, for it draws a categorical distinction between the two. Dear considers this a “fundamental incommensurability” between the questions posed by an intellectualist history of science and philosophy and those addressed by SSK.

That there is such a sharp difference or even incommensurability between the emphasis on the instrumental use of ideas and, as is the aim of this volume, their account with reference to “values” (understood in a broad sense) is not entirely clear. Neither Peter Dear nor the other authors seem entirely convinced, in their presentation of their arguments, that this is the case. The distance, however, that Conflicting Values manages to put between the SSK and its own endeavor is less significant than the vast and up-to-date knowledge and the novel questions and interpretations that the authors of the volume offer in their supposedly “post-SSK” scholarly essays on early modern European science.

As is evident from many features of the book (from the perspective of form the similar structure and length of the chapters and from the perspective of content the effort to revise traditional readings of well-known episodes of the history of science and philosophy), the editors had a clear vision which they managed to sustain. The authors, says Tamás Demeter, were asked not to write traditional chapters in the history of philosophy but instead “to explore how certain non-epistemic values had been turned into epistemic ones, how they had an effect on epistemic content, and eventually how they became ideologies of knowledge” (p.2) In fact, as indicated in a short acknowledgment, the collection was based on two preceding workshops in the course of which the ideas were discussed at length and common grounds were established. Hence, this volume, authored by a rather impressive group of historians and philosophers of science, succeeds in avoiding the trap into which many such collections fall. Rather than merely presenting some writings that are at best interesting in themselves, this book grows into an organic whole the parts of which not only function together but also enhance one another.

The unifying idea behind the essays puts the volume at a crossroads of history, philosophy and sociology: “the volume as a whole drives towards the study of those values, norms, and standards that unify knowledge-making practices, which otherwise, from the perspective of different disciplinary canons, may easily seem to be entirely disjointed” (pp.8–9). This junction has been marked by certain territorial battles. As John Henry, himself a highly acclaimed associate of the Edinburgh School of Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, contends in his essay (“Testimony and Empiricism: John Sergeant, John Locke, and the Social History of Truth”), while philosophers in the modern tradition have been “blind to social epistemology until very recently” (p.121), the sociology of knowledge entered territory hitherto occupied by philosophy and history, and so, as an even more recent development, sociologically inclined interpretations are more abound in philosophy, suggesting an attempt to recover lost ground. However, the volume shows—and this is one of its greatest merits—that peaceful learning and inter(trans)disciplinary cooperation can flourish in the place of conflict, bringing a deeper understanding of how philosophical and scientific knowledge has been (and is being) produced. For as John Henry contends, “the fact is, our epistemologies, our theories as to what counts as knowledge, and therefore our ideas about what is true, as much as those developed in the early modern period, depend upon our social and political starting points; and if they change, they do so because those broader circumstances have also changed” (p.121).

The general topic of the essays, as is marked in the subtitle of the volume, is Early Modern European philosophy and science. The subject matter of the chapters ranges from very well-known figures of the history of philosophy (such as Kant or Hume) to less familiar characters, such as the controversial Catholic thinker John Sergeant or the hydraulic engineer Giovan Battista Aleotti. Nonetheless, the choice of the topic is not the innovative aspect of the studies. Whether they concern well-known or forgotten chapters in the history of European thought, they all aspire to frame their subject in a novel way, and they all propose new interpretations of their topics.

Thus, in the first thematic block (“Devices and Epistemic Values”) we learn about the important but rarely acknowledged role that sixteenth-century engineers, through the processes of codification of their practical knowledge, played in the emergence of theoretical knowledge and empiricism as a scientific practice (Matteo Valleriani). Or, as an example of reclaiming and reinterpreting classic topics, Dániel Schmal’s essay examines the famous metaphor of the camera obscura. Schmal argues against the traditional view, claiming that the simile does not suggest a concept of the enclosed nature of the mind but can more plausibly be interpreted as illuminating an active mind, a cognitive machinery that comes into contact with reality through rather complex processes.

The second part of the book focuses on a topic now fashionable in science studies: the epistemic status of testimony. John Henry gives a reevaluation of John Sergeant’s thought. As far as testimony is concerned, Henry claims that it is a crucial feature of Catholicism, which is at the core of Sergeant’s thinking, and that it is purely based on testimonial and consensual (communal) knowledge, whereas in Protestantism, knowledge is based more on the individual mind. This difference, argues Henry, necessarily led Sergeant to an epistemology also inherently different from that of Locke, and it inevitably deemed Sergeant to obscurity. In the next chapter, Falk Wunderlich closely scrutinizes Hume’s theory on the testimonial evidence of miracles. Since Hume rejected the possibility of miracles, this starting point led him to a more refined notion of the epistemic status of testimonies than is generally held, argues Wunderlich.

The third thematic block of the volume revolves around the role religious embeddedness at times plays in scientific inquiry. Giora Hon questions the widespread notion that it was Copernicus whose work marked the transformation of science, and attributes such significance instead to Kepler’s Astronomia nova. Her core argument is that Kepler’s natural philosophy is essentially theological, and it is the theological context of his work that should be acknowledged in order to reconcile the conflicting views in historiography that prevented him from being elevated to the status of the astronomer who revolutionized science. Tamás Demeter’s chapter invites us to look at Hume again. He shows how Hume regarded natural theology, a theologically guided inspection of natural phenomena and the dominant scientific approach at the time (and up until the second half of the nineteenth century, one might add), as something akin to superstition. As Demeter points out, the notion that, as an organized body of knowledge, religion needed to be judged by the same epistemological standards as other bodies of knowledge (such as natural and moral philosophy) contributed to the emergence of a secular ideology of natural inquiry. The next chapter ventures far afield from the British Isles, to eighteenth century Hungary. János Tanács examines the history of mathematics. As is a common denominator in the volume, he challenges a widely held notion in the history of science. He claims that the so-called Problem of Parallels—and Bolyai’s revolutionary problem-solving, which marked the emergence of non-Euclidian mathematics—was not simply motivated by Kant’s ideas (as has been discussed in detail), but was also deeply influenced by the Protestant intellectual milieu. His essay explores the “confessional embeddedness” of this mathematical question in late eighteenth-century Hungary.

The next thematic unit consists of two essays that analyze cases of strategic communication in situations of conflict or controversy. Gábor Áron Zemplén describes how Newton’s “strategic maneuvering,” found in passages on rainbow colors, helped him circumvent objections and accumulate social credit for his new theory, which conflicted with contemporary geometrical optics. Thus, the reader can learn how, even in the case of a seemingly “pure” scientific argument, strategic communication and rhetoric played a role not to be ignored or underestimated. Zemplén’s conclusion describes Newton as more of a great rhetor than a rigorous scientist of physical phenomena: “[i]n theology, Newton believed that God revealed the truth through prophecies, ‘to try men, and convert the best’. And that is exactly what his first article tried, and, with time, achieved” (pp.242–43). In the second essay of the block, Axel Gelfert takes a look at Hobbes’s natural philosophy (his writings on science and geometry), seeking again to expose a strategy, a kind of a hidden agenda, behind the scholarly thoughts. In this case, the conclusion is not all that surprising, since, according to Gelfert, it is Hobbes’s attempt to contribute to peace and provide ways of managing conflicts and disagreement (which poisoned his society and caused him considerable concern) that lies underneath his scientific argument.

Following the essays on scientific devices, testimony, religious context and strategic communication, two writings are paired in a block on the “science of man.” Thomas Sturm explores attempts to develop theories of the mind based on Newton’s methods of analysis and synthesis and concludes that none of them were “good enough” (i.e. they were overshadowed by Newton’s optics) to grow into an early form of psychology. Eric Schliesser’s essay takes us back to Hume, providing a thorough analysis of three passages from various texts to reconstruct distinct intellectual traditions (and the differences between them) to which Hume claimed to belong at various times in his career. These intellectual traditions also framed a system of sciences and placed the “science of man” within it.

The last thematic unit (“Ethics in Epistemology”), with its moral philosophical focus, contains what could perhaps be considered the most “traditional” studies in the book. And yet, even in these three writings, a clearly discernible aspiration to untangle underlying values or personal agenda and to demonstrate how such factors are thickly woven into the threads of philosophical and scientific thinking leads to arguments no less novel or provocative than the ones presented in the previous chapters.

Sorana Corneanu’s approach to Francis Bacon’s concept of the charitable, beneficial character of legitimate knowledge is historical par excellence. She traces the historical context of the concept of charity in order to arrive at a nuanced interpretation of Bacon’s notion of the benefits of knowledge. She shows how Bacon’s concept was embedded in different traditions but at the same time new in some aspects of his understanding. Not surprisingly, Corneanu’s interpretation also serves to refute the nineteenth-century utilitarian reading of Bacon that still exerts an influence on receptions of his writings today.

Even Spinoza is not spared thorough scrutiny that unveils his personal attachments to certain ideals which, apparently, gave way to some logical flaws and a whole conceptual edifice constructed from top to bottom. Ruth Lorand looks at Spinoza’s theories of the ideal life and shows that, despite the seemingly strict logical structure of Spinoza’s argument, the conclusion (the description of the “free man” and the valuable life) preceded the theorizing. According to Lorand, Spinoza basically molded his metaphysics with the final conclusion already in mind. However, Spinoza is not the only great emblem of ethical thinking whose prejudices are challenged: in her conclusion, in line with Hume (and Max Weber), Lorand intimates (without, however, providing any further support) that Spinoza can be taken as a paradigm for the inevitable problems encountered in the course of any attempt to base metaphysics on values, for “the effort to validate a normative theory is self-defeating” (p.368).

From the point of view of disciplinary boundaries and boxing, the last philosophical study of the collection is perhaps the least ambiguous. Catherine Wilson paints a portrait of Kant that is considerably less flattering than the usual accounts, revealing the significant extent to which his epistemological interests were subservient to his normative ones, as he sought to reject the views of his contemporaries. In other words, he is exposed to have had a “deeply personal and not altogether appealing agenda” (p.405).

As is probably obvious from this short overview, the book offers essays that cover a wide range of topics from the volume’s main thematic realm. Some are more philosophical in their focus or emphasis, others perhaps more sociological or historical in their considerations or methodology, but each one of them presents strong and thought-provoking arguments in support of novel (sometimes even provocative) interpretations of familiar topics. They shed new light on fairly well-known themes and figures while, in accordance with the editorial conception, persuasively arguing in support of the conclusion that, in order to understand ourselves better, it is worth looking at how issues of personal, religious and political preferences and similar factors affect or are inherent parts of the ways in which we construct theories. These scholarly essays demonstrate the main theme of the volume and illuminate ways in which non-epistemic values not only play a role in the process of the construction of great scientific theories, but themselves become epistemic values, assumptions about what counts as “true” and what does not: ideologies of knowledge. Put blatantly, whether we approach the question of knowledge as historians, philosophers or sociologists (or other representatives of the sciences), it would be prudent to keep in mind that we are (only) human.

Eszter Pál

 

Császárválasztás 1745 [Imperial Election of 1745]. By Márta Vajnági. Budapest: ELTE BTK Középkori és Kora Újkori Egyetemes Történeti Tanszék, 2014. 186 pp.

 

Márta Vajnági’s monograph, Császárválasztás 1745, investigates the circumstances of the propaganda war that received more publicity than any other in the history of the Holy Roman Empire. After the death of Emperor Charles VI, the War of Austrian Succession was fought not only on the battlefields, but also with pamphlets and an array of press products in the political publicity. In 1745, after the death of the Bavarian Emperor, given the military and political situation, the Habsburgs seemed to have a good chance at a run for the throne of the “king of kings.”

The book is the paperback edition of Vajnági’s doctoral dissertation, which she defended in 2011. Primarily, Vajnági follows the approach used in works on the history of propaganda and in the study of diplomacy and representation. She does not merely examine the context of the imperial election on the basis of available archival sources (Elias Fromm, Die Kaiserwahl Franz I., ein Beitrag zur deutschen Reichsgeschichte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts [1883]; Josef Posch, Die Kaiserwahl Franz I. 1745 [1949]), but rather offers a comparative analysis of the pamphlets that were published in large numbers during a period marked by upheavals in press technology. The main subject of the volume is the ways in which the campaign for the election of the emperor in 1745 appeared in the contemporary political media and political sphere.

Beginning in the 1990s, the problems of propaganda and the public sphere in the Early Modern era began to be given more and more attention in Hungarian and international historical scholarship. The history of the Holy Roman Empire, in which there were extensive reading networks and numerous active presses, has proven a particularly engaging field for research. For instance, Francis Stephen of Lorraine, whom the eighteenth-century historiography left in the shadow of Maria Theresa, emerges as a very exciting figure. Although Hans Leo Mikoletzky wrote articles about Francis I in the 1960s and called attention to his indisputable role in and talent for addressing economic issues, Renate Zedinger’s monograph, published in 2008, was the first and so far the only comprehensive contribution to the scientific biography of Francis I that attempted to assemble a less fragmentary picture of the Emperor. (Hans Leo Mikoletzky, “Franz Stefan von Lothringen als Wirtschaftspolitiker,“ Mittelungen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs 13 (1961): 231–57; Renate Zedinger, Franz Stephan von Lothringen (1708–1765). Monarch, Manager, Mäzen [2008].) One finds a similar example in the Hungarian scholarship dealing with Francis of Lorraine, who tends to be mentioned only with reference to his Hungarian governorship (1732–1741). (Bernadett Bakács, “Franz Stephan von Lothringen als Ungarns Statthalter 1732–1741,“ Jahrbuch für österreichische Kulturgeschichte 10 (1984): 27–36.) From this point of view, the importance of the Vajnági’s monograph can hardly be thrown into question.

Vajnági discusses the historiographical antecedents and the sources, and she defines the applied conceptual categories very precisely. She then offers an introduction to the extensive diplomatic context of the imperial pre-election, the very sensitive and constantly shifting systems of alliances and the military and fiscal background of the hostile powers. It is also important to observe that the author not only analyzes the so-called Reichspublizistik sources, but also takes into account the Dresden and Hanoverian diplomatic records of the well-known diary writer, Johann Joseph Fürst von Khevenhüller (1706–1776), who served as Grand Marshal (Obersthofmarschall) and, from 1745, Grand Chamberlain (Oberstkämmerer).

In the middle parts of the book, Vajnági examines both the German and the French arguments of the pro-Habsburg and anti-Habsburg pamphlets and considers the tractates of 1745 from a comparative approach. Hence, the reader is given clear insights into the debates in which the two sides used anonymous publicists to underpin their own political legitimation and power representation. These analyses exemplify the richness of contemporary political culture in their complexity regarding interpretations of the most prominent historical and legal arguments, which were often used in supportive propaganda materials and in attacks. On the one hand, the three hundred-year imperial continuity of the Habsburg dynasty seemed to guarantee the permanent security and sway of the empire. On the other, the long rule of the Habsburgs provided obvious arguments against development and in favor of suppressing the orders of the Empire. The topoi, rhetorical formulas and ideas that were used for the defense of Francis of Lorrain (such the depiction of Maria Theresa as a German heroine who embodied all the virtues of her Habsburg ancestors) were completely accommodated to the image-building policy of the Habsburg(-Lorraine) dynasty in the eighteenth century. The conclusions of the chapter will be useful for other fields of research, such as interpretations of funeral speeches, imperial laudations, and different sorts of gala speeches and poems.

In the final thematic part of the book, the ceremonies of the imperial election come to the fore. Vajnági not only describes the coronation, but also examines the historical-legal traditions and regulations. In these chapters, she admittedly tries to adapt the approach to the study of rituals and representations initiated by Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger to her subject, and she discerns symbolical meanings behind the spectacular ceremonies. (Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, Des Kaisers alte Kleider. Verfassungsgeschichte und Symbolsprache des Alten Reiches [2008].) In Vajnági’s interpretations of the ritual acts, the reader recognizes not only the ceremonial Ordo, but also the participants and the insignia of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which represented symbolic unity in an age of internal warfare and disintegration.

In conclusion, the well-edited monograph presents a clear, perspicuous, but also complex picture of the imperial election of 1745, the working mechanisms of the Holy Roman Empire, and the diplomatic, political and ritual historical dimensions. Although the book was written in Hungarian, Vajnági has also published more articles in English in which she presents her conclusions. (Márta Vajnági, “Britain-Hanover and the Imperial Election of 1745,” Hungarian Journal of English and American studies 14, no. 1 (2008): 1, 51–64; Márta Vajnági, ”The Habsburgs and the Impeial Crown in the Eighteenth Century,” Das Achtzehnte Jahrhundert und Österreich 26 (2012): 92–102.) The appendix includes two highly important German and French pamphlets, which exemplify the predominant attitudes of the debates. The book will prove interesting and valuable for scholars who have an interest in the German political and media culture of the eighteenth century.

Zsolt Kökényesi

 

The Charmed Circle. Joseph II and the “Five Princesses,” 1765–1790. By Rebecca Gates-Coon. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2015. 380 pp.

 

For a decade, research on the Imperial and Royal Residenz has called for a new understanding of the circle of the five princesses that dominated aristocratic social life during the coregency and reign of Joseph II (1765–1790). So far, studies on Vienna have systematically referred to the seminal work of Adam Wolf (Fürstin Eleonore Liechtenstein, 1745–1812 nach Briefen und Memoiren ihrer Zeit [1875]), which examines the correspondence of Eleonore Ötting, princess of Liechtenstein. Wolf’s insights remain profound and valuable today, and the challenge of outdoing his penetrating analyses is both daunting and alluring. Rebecca Gates-Coon seems to aim to do just this. She ventures the contention according to which the société played a significant role in the reforms implemented by Joseph II. It was, she suggests, a kind of Imperial shadow cabinet that generated confusion between the court and the government.

After the first chapter, which provides the information necessary to understand the close ties between the families (Hohenzollern-Hechingen, Sternberg, Öttingen-Spielberg, Clary, Kinsky, Lichtenstein, and Kaunitz), Gate-Coon examines the five Dames in the context of the history of European aristocracy, which she defines as a “social class,” regardless of the differences in national status and economic, social, political and cultural circumstances across the continent and even within Austria. However, the debate on the domestication of the nobility, which is based on a discussion of Norbert Elias’s paradigm of societé de cour, is limited to two paragraphs, in spite of the fact that it represents one of the most complex and thoroughly studied trends in European history of the eighteenth century. Gates-Coon’s position is clear. She sticks to the Austrian historiographical mainstream and pays little if any attention to the counter-models recently developed by Jeroen Duindam and Éric Hassler, which she regards as little more than samples of academic erudition. The latter’s work (La Cour de Vienne, 1680–1740: service de l’empereur et stratégies spatiales de l’élite nobiliaire dans la monarchie des Habsbourg [2013]) actually provides a very accurate analysis of Viennese aristocratic society between 1680 and 1740, which was not organized around the Emperor or the Imperial family at all. Thus, the “société des cinq princesses” would have constituted a new form of socialization for the members of the Imperial family, an insight that Rebecca Gates-Coon seems to have missed. However, she does provide a narrative of the social activities and distractions of the Viennese court over the course of the second half of the eighteenth century, drawing heavily on primary sources, which is one of the great strengths of the book.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 examine the circle itself. The society was established during the coregency (1765–1780), when the Emperor was associated with the government of the Austrian Lands. Gates-Coon contextualizes the rise of the circle in the milieu of the profound and sometimes controversial reforms of the monarchy. She also emphasizes the organization of the circle and the central position hold by Eleonore Liechtenstein, writing that “the Emperor’s friendships with the other four Dames developed naturally in the course of his association with Eleonore Lichtenstein” (p.127). However, Gates-Coon’s decision to base her inquiry almost exclusively on Eleonore Liechtenstein’s correspondence indicates a bias that is never questioned.

Gates-Coon emphasizes the influence of the princesses on the Emperor. To understand this influence, it would have been interesting to compare it with the one of the other circles with which Joseph II socialized, for instance the one of Count Windischgraetz. Philipp Cobenzl’s Memoiren gives valuable information concerning this circle (briefly mentioned on p.35), which brought together men and women of less important aristocratic rank to discuss the sciences, philosophy and politics. Cobenzl clearly acknowledged that this société functioned until women lived, and he felt that women were the vital element of this sociability. Cobenzl also helps his reader grasp a fact that Derek Beales has already noted, namely that Joseph II acceded to the circle of the five princesses through the mediation of Cobenzl and the Windischgraetz society. While the Grand Chamberlain Rosenberg was an active member of the five princesses’ circle, the people that Joseph promoted politically were the men of the Windischgraetz’s entourage.

In fact, the circle of the five princesses had more influence on the court than it did on the government, an important detail that Gates-Coon seems to acknowledge when she writes, “she [Eleonore] would prefer, she said, that he (Joseph II) have less regard (bontés) for her and greater consideration for her husband Charles” (p.120). Joseph was clearly aware of this, saying “please be just, I beg you, to the emperor, who can do nothing about the constitution of his Empire, and to Joseph, who can do nothing about the fact that he is emperor” (p.140). Other contemporary sources, like Count Fekete de Galántha’s Esquisse d’un tableau mouvant de Vienne in 1787, which Rebecca Gates-Coon fails to mention, throw into question the notion that such a coterie could have exerted any significant political influence. As a radical Josephinist, Fekete hardly censured this aristocratic society or its habits, which Rebecca Gates-Coon very precisely describes. Finally, it would have been interesting to look at this société as a conservative group of interests, superficially concerned about their position at court and how reforms and wars would affect their incomes, more than as a sign of a fashionable female Austrian Aufklärung, a fact that the book, its initial claim to the contrary, ultimately acknowledges.

David Do Paço

 

“A Sanguine Bunch.“ Regional Identification in Habsburg Bukovina 1774–1919. By Jeroen van Drunen. (Pegasus Oost-Europese Studies 24.) Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Pegasus, 2015. 653 pp.

 

The mythos of Bukovina as an allegedly successful regional “realization” of the Habsburg vision of the supranational state seemed interesting enough to contemporaries before 1914 to be the subject of feuilletons, reports, and similar kinds of publications. After 1918 and in particular during the Cold War, another facet of the mythos was added that owed its existence to a romanticization of the past (with a look back on the fate of Europe since) and that affectionately cultivated an image of the vanished world of Bukovina as an Austrian crownland and at the same time a charmed “Europe in miniature.” With the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc, people set out in search of this fabled crownland in memoirs, travelogues, and collected impressions of places. Admittedly, the not infrequently miserable everyday realities of the region (which is now divided between Romania and Ukraine) brought observers back to their senses or, quite the opposite, prompted them to sink deep into the mythos of the past. From the outset, nationalist perspectives on the history of Bukovina represent an opposing standpoint. The focus from the national perspective is always on one’s “own.” The other “foreign nations” existed only on the margin, as a kind of foil. Van Drunen pays particular attention to this in his introductory overview of the secondary literature. Even when, at first glance, this introduction seems a bit inconsistent, it contains a decisive benefit in comparison with other works on Bukovina. Beginning with newer monographs on the history of Bukovina (after 1918) and covering historical narratives (before 1918), including contemporary descriptions of the late eighteenth century that in this context may well have been better used as sources, van Drunen covers a long arc to strongly nationalistic (German, Romanian, and Ukrainian/Soviet) studies. He discusses detailed individual, central works (such as writings by Ion Nistor, Rudolf Wagner, Vasyl Botushanskij) and their selective perspectives, which to a large extent in turn influenced the (national) secondary literature on this one-time Austrian crownland since World War II and particularly since the fall of communism in Central Europe. On the whole, it is up to the more recent literature on Bukovina (and in particular the work under review) to take the whole question and subject it to critical scrutiny and not simply to address selected moments and events.

In his dissertation, which he submitted to the University of Amsterdam, van Drunen offers a persuasive investigation of the subtleties of the question of the identity of Bukovina: “The central question remains to which extent a regional identification was experienced and debated during the crownland’s existance” (p.4). In the discussion, which is divided into four blocks (I - Introduction and theoretical framework; II – Bukovinians; III – Elements of Regional Identification; IV – Summary and Conclusion), van Drunen attempts to cast light on the complex situation from various perspectives. He emphasizes from the outset the meaning of the multiple identities of a space (region) and its population, which in the pre-Modern era was largely organized around agriculture and therefore had a settlement structure in which the cities resembled islands. In his discussion of the secondary literature, van Drunen finds fault with the widespread reliance of historians on sources the origins of which lie in one of the given national discourses and/or were predominantly urban in nature and therefore have only limited relevance in a discussion of the majority of the people, who lived in rural settlements (one finds pertinent remarks on this on pages 43, 113, and 161). Even in the varied development of nationally active elites there were people with distinctive and sometimes ambivalent backgrounds (for instance Silvestru Morariu Andrievici, p.168). A clear categorization is therefore often only possible with regards to a concrete occasion. Even the national parties—and this is one of the important conclusions of the inquiry—saw themselves as essentially Austrian. The functioning constitutional state gave them the necessary form and sphere for their activity (p.394). The current search for structures of identity among the rural population—and van Drunen must concede this point—can therefore only be carried out in an indirect manner, and it remains, whether we like it or not, focused or even restricted to the urban elites (p.180).

Van Drunen draws attention in his inquiry to numerous salient elements of the foundations of regional identities, which also opens the door to the themes he has chosen. Here lies one of the great merits of the monograph for the scholarship on Bukovina and, naturally, the history of the Habsburg Monarchy. The central institutions include the diet and the university (Part III), but also the Church (characterized as “the quintessential Bukovinian institution” (p.581), which van Drunen analyses in another context (Part II). There is another institution that van Drunen also could have made use of from this perspective as a meaningful source with a wide scope: the Bukovina (German-language) press. Recently, many important studies have been published that place particular emphasis on this aspect (for instance Ion Lihaciu, Czernowitz 1848–1918. Das kulturelle Leben einer Provinzmetropole [2012]; Corbea-Hoişie et al., Prolegomene la un dictionar al presei de limba germana din Bucovina istorica (1848–1940) [2012]; Zeitungsstadt Czernowitz: Studien zur Geschichte der deutschsprachigen Presse der Bukowina (1848–1940) [2014]). First and foremost, the Czernowitzer Allgemeine Zeitung, which was edited and published by Philipp Menczel, provided a public forum which was consistently as aware as it was critical of the supranational idea of the Austrian state and therefore became a primary basis for regional (if predominantly urban) identity creation (p.612). Van Drunen has a critical view of the oft-mentioned National Compromise of 1910. The significance of the Compromise is often interpreted retrospectively, though actually it really gave rise to a kind of adjacent existence at the time, and much less a shared existence or coexistence (p.371). Nonetheless, one should note that in comparison with the other crownlands of Cisleithania this attempt alone and the agreement that was reached (even if there was never really enough time to begin to implement this agreement before the outbreak of war in 1914) were both signs of a certain awareness of identity, based on the will (which found manifestation in the agreement itself) at least to search for a way of getting along with one another. Thus, here two of the analytical levels of the study overlap. It is quite correct that the Compromise was not an expression of a kind of tolerance that was widespread throughout the region, but rather more an idea cherished by the urban (primarily the Czernowitz) elites. Tolerance among the rural people of Bukovina was based, in contrast, on a pre-modern form of loyalty and a sense of belonging (the embodiment of which was the Kaiser), and not on any kind of reaction founded on anti-national sentiment. The elites, in contrast, were navigating stormy seas of national feeling. For them and for the Austrian administration, the Compromise was a momentous achievement, an affirmation of the lowest common denominator that could be reached at the time. It was a formidable step, in spite of everything, even if it only managed to take the wind out of the sails of the increasingly radical nationalist demands for a short period of time (p.372).

Van Drunen examines in minute detail various examples of efforts that were intended to foster a sense of identity or at least could be seen as having had this as their goal, but he presents them in all of their contemporary ambivalence. In doing so, he identifies the danger that each of these institutions could at the same time become a platform for intolerant nationalism. Ironically, the shared feature of the national movements lay in the fact they were among the phenomena that essentially had been imported and were largely based in urban communities. They were therefore often dependent on diametrically opposed figures who were characterized as foreigners or aliens (see pp.232, 603). At least—and van Duren puts considerable emphasis on this in his inquiry—national aspirations came from the rural (majority) population, even if the elites targeted these groups and also drew on them for their efforts to assert their legitimacy.

Finally, the Austrian administration saw, in cautious maneuvering between the parties and their largely nonpartisan conduct, one of their most important tasks (p.599). The reader might perhaps have the—incorrect—impression, while reading the monograph, of a failure that was foreseeable from the outset. Yet Bukovina society functioned until 1914, in spite of the pervasive quarrels, and it portrayed itself positively, without of course meaning, in saying this, to intone a hymn to the mythos I mentioned at the beginning of this review. If one were looking to find fault with van Drunen’s superb contribution to the secondary literature, I would mention his failure to discuss a fundamental facet that must always be taken into consideration in an assessment of Bukovina: namely the context, i.e. the relationship of the crownland at the time to the rest of the Habsburg Monarchy, but also to its international neighbors, the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Romania. Not that mention of this would have cast any less critical light on the direly flawed political attempts (such as the diet, the liberal alliance, or the National Compromise), as van Drunen quite accurately observes, but rather because a flavor of reality at the time allows us to see the distinctive features of this crownland and the (missed) chances it had in an entirely different light. The social, political, and economic problems are discernible in other peripheral areas of the empire. Van Drunen demonstrates in his presentation the complexity of this crownland by the example of the question of identity. And yet Bukovina itself was not so unusual. Rather, it was the context in which it existed that was unusual.

Kurt Scharr

 

Die Donauschwaben 1868–1948. Ihre Rolle im rumänischen und serbischen Banat [The Danube Swabians: Their Role in the Romanian and Serbian Banat]. By Mariana Hausleitner. (Schriftenreihe des Instituts für donauschwäbische Geschichte und Landeskunde, Band 18 – Quellen und Forschungen, Band 2.) Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014. 417 pp.

 

Mariana Hausleitner’s monograph on Danube Swabians in the Romanian and Serbian Banat between 1868 and 1948 is a well-written and balanced study that aims to explain the reasons behind the different treatment of Swabians in the two countries at the end and in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In Yugoslavia, a process of ethnic cleansing took place that involved mass killings and expulsions, whereas in Romania anti-German provisions included expropriations and deportation for forced labor to the Soviet Union. The latter measures were nevertheless smaller in scope in comparison with what happened to Germans in Yugoslavia.

Hausleitner’s comparative approach is welcome, considering that academic research on German “expellees” tends to be country-focused. Furthermore, Die Donauschwaben also has the merit of presenting and comparing the developments related to Banat Swabians in Romania and Yugoslavia in a wider context. It emphasizes, for example, the links between what happened to Swabians and what happened to other ethnic groups in the two countries.

The study is divided into seven chapters. The first one presents the rationale underlying the comparative approach. The point of departure is the question “why so many Danube Swabians in the Yugoslav part of the Banat were killed after 1944 and why the survivors were expelled” (p.9, my translation - C.C.). This question grew into a comparative investigation of the reasons for the differing fates of Swabians in Romania and Yugoslavia. The second chapter explores the pre-1918 history of the Swabians of the region in its broader multi-ethnic context. Thus, it sets the stage for the core of Hausleitner’s research, which unfolds in the following four chapters. The third chapter gives particular attention to the workers’ movement in Banat and its stance on the minority issues in the interwar period. The fourth one looks at the “nationally-oriented” Danube Swabians in the two countries and their relationships with their neighbors. The fifth chapter analyzes the period 1938–1944 in the Romanian and Serbian Banat, marked by National Socialist radicalization. The sixth chapter examines the anti-German measures in the two countries in the aftermath of World War II. Finally, the seventh and last chapter sums up the similarities and differences between the historical developments related to Swabians in the Romanian and Serbian parts of the Banat.

Hausleitner’s answer to the question as to why the treatment of Swabians was so different in the two parts of the Banat at the end of World War II is the conclusion of a rich and complex line of argumentation. One of the main points she raises has to do with the significantly different experiences of the war and of Swabian participation in the war in the two countries. Romania was, until August 23, 1944, an ally of Hitler’s Germany, whereas Serbia was placed under military occupation by the Nazis. Swabians were in effect directly involved in the administration and plundering of the communities of Western Banat. The gruesome deeds of the SS division Prinz Eugen (which targeted both partisans and civilians), the population resettlements, and the property confiscations, all of them processes in which a significant number of Swabians played important roles, contributed to the growth of anti-German feeling, which may offer some explanation for the massacres that took place at the end of the war. In the Romanian Banat, Swabians became a privileged ethnic group, enjoying the open support of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, this led to different developments, as Romanian authorities also aimed to put a cap on these privileges. For example, they directly and successfully opposed attempts of Swabians to get hold of confiscated Jewish property, in order to prevent Romanian Germans from acquiring too much power.

Furthermore, there was some opposition to National Socialism in Eastern Banat, albeit frail, from within the German community. It came on the one hand from conservative Catholic circles and on the other from organized left-wing workers in industrial centers, such as Reşiţa (Reschitz). There was no such opposition in Western Banat. Thus, at the end of the war, as Hausleitner shows, there were still voices who could claim to speak on behalf of Germans in Romania, which was not the case in Yugoslavia. This observation leads me to another great merit of Hausleitner’s study, namely the attention she devotes to the left-wing movement in Banat. She shows, for example, how before 1918, in a context in which bourgeois Swabians were prone to adopt Hungarian culture and learn and use Hungarian, Social Democrats and workers’ associations promoted the German language and German culture in their milieus, but without embracing nationalism. In this context, it is worth noting that the German-language left-wing tradition in Eastern Banat is usually ignored in Swabian historiography, as it does not tie in well with the conservative, völkisch, right-wing outlook of the latter. Consequently, Hausleitner’s final observations on the postwar West German career of former Swabian National-Socialists, who bore significant responsibility for the tragic fate of the community, are also relevant. Hausleitner shows how the West German associations that purported to represent Swabians from Romania or from Yugoslavia were from the very start heavily influenced by the presence of former Nazis who managed to stylize themselves as protectors of the community.

Die Donauschwaben is undoubtedly a study valuable in both its empirical and methodological dimensions. Yet in addition to pointing out small factual errors which do not change in any way the overall value of the author’s arguments (e.g. Ante Pavelić died in Madrid, not in Argentina, as footnote 63 on page 305 suggests), I would also raise a point of more substantial criticism. Hausleitner depends to a large extent on archival sources in Romania, whereas her discussions of the Yugoslav case are based mainly on secondary sources. It is true that the existing scholarship on Western Banat is richer than the scholarship on Eastern Banat, and Hausleitner emphasizes this very early in the book (p.10). Nevertheless, this difference between the use of primary and secondary sources in the two cases gives at times the impression that the arguments on Eastern Banat are better grounded than the ones on Western Banat. However, this is perhaps merely a semi-important asymmetry in an otherwise solid piece of scholarship.

Cristian Cercel

 

Enemies for a Day: Antisemitism and Anti-Jewish Violence in Lithuania under the Tsars. By Darius Staliūnas. Budapest: CEU Press, 2015. 284 pp.

 

It is by now a commonplace in the secondary literature that before 1905, at least, no pogroms occurred in the “Northwest provinces” of the Russian Empire (today’s Lithuania and Belarus), but only in the southwest (Ukraine) and Polish gubernii. John D. Klier’s magisterial Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881–1882, to name just one important work, argues along these lines. Darius Staliūnas does not directly contradict this thesis. He also concludes that the “Storms in the South” did not significantly spill into neighboring provinces to the north. His purpose in the book is a more subtle one: to show how anti-Jewish sentiment, based on religious, social, and economic factors, developed and led to clashes between Jews and Christians in the decades before World War I. This book is a significant contribution to our understanding of the region’s history, Jewish history, and the dynamics of interethnic tension and violence.

Staliūnas focuses geographically on the “Lithuanian” provinces of the Russian Empire, i.e. Vilnius (Vil’na), Kaunas (Kovno), and Suvalki provinces and chronologically on the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, i.e. the period after the 1881 pogroms. His title suggests a loose (though entirely appropriate) understanding of “anti-Jewish violence”: most of the incidents he investigates involved a rise in tension and violence, followed by an ebbing of antagonisms within a few days. At the same time, Staliūnas provides us with an excellent picture of the background to this violence: the general mistrust that existed between Jews and their Christian neighbors, the prevalence of the belief that Jews (at least some Jews) used Christian blood for certain ceremonies, and a frequent conviction among Christian peasants that a certain, limited amount of violence toward Jews was sanctioned by the authorities. This careful and sophisticated examination of the background of anti-Jewish violence is, to my mind, every bit as important as the well-researched “case studies” of pogroms.

The first trigger of anti-Jewish violence that Staliūnas considers is the blood libel. A number of case studies (the earliest from 1801) from the archives are examined and a general pattern is established: a child disappears, Jews arouse suspicion by (for example) not allowing peasants to enter a house or tavern, a mob attacks Jewish residents and businesses, the violence is over in a few hours. Interestingly, in some of these cases, when appealing to the Russian authorities local Jews used anti-Polish (and anti-Catholic) tropes prevalent among Russian officialdom, especially from the 1860s. Not all accusations of ritual murder, however, led to violence. The author concludes that the Russian authorities’ general antipathy to the Jews and their unwillingness (or inability) to respond swiftly and effectively to anti-Jewish violence reinforced the peasant belief that this violence was simply a way of “achieving justice” by punishing (alleged) Jewish malefactors.

Staliūnas devotes an interesting chapter to the crucial years 1881 and 1882, concluding that while major pogroms did not take place in the Lithuanian provinces, tensions did exist, and certain Lithuanian-language flyers and songs from those years can be interpreted as calling for violence against Jews. Still, other texts specifically called on Lithuanians to refrain from violence, and, a few small squabbles aside, major incidents were avoided.

Violence against Jews gained steadily in frequency and intensity after the turn of the century. The Kishinev pogrom (1903) is probably the best known of these episodes, but the Białystok pogrom three years later was much more devastating. As Staliūnas documents, significant violence against Jews occurred in the Lithuanian provinces already in 1900. The author explains these attacks as the outcome of “insulted religious feelings” among Lithuanian Catholics. It should be noted that in the Lithuanian incidents, unlike in Kishinev and Białystok, violence rarely escalated to murder and the most significant consequence was property damage. Still, the background of “righteous indignation” against Jewish lack of respect for Christian dogmas and rituals cannot be dismissed when investigating later, more violent pogrom waves during the 1905 Revolution and World War I (especially 1915). The book concludes with a comparative analysis of anti-Jewish violence in the Lithuanian and neighboring Belarusian provinces.

Enemies for a Day significantly deepens our knowledge of the dynamics of anti-Jewish violence in the Lithuanian provinces before 1914. In this way, this book makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the roots of Lithuanian antisemitism. Enemies for a Day is recommended for anyone interested in the history of Jews in Eastern Europe and the study of ethnic relations and violence.

Theodore R. Weeks

 

 

Les guerres balkaniques (1912–1913): Conflits, enjeux, mémoires. Edited by Catherine Horel. (Enjeux internationaux 31.) Bruxelles–Bern–Berlin–Oxford: P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2014. 348 pp.

 

This volume, edited by Catherine Horel and containing essays in English and French, is the second book in part of a larger international project. The first volume, also edited by Horel and published in 2011, deals with the reception and the consequences of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1908 (Catherine Horel, ed., 1908, l’annexion de la Bosnie-Herzégovine, cent ans après [2011]). Obviously, any scholar dealing with the Balkan Peninsula would have great expectations regarding a book that contains essays by a group of internationally renowned experts on the history of the area, particularly, focuses on the Balkan wars of 1912/13, which shook the very foundations of the peninsula, even if it is clear from the outset that an assortment of essays addressing a wide array of themes will never be entirely cohesive. At the same time, the volume includes essays by several authorities on the subject, offering readers samplings and insights into the latest theoretical findings and approaches. However, one should not expect the articles, which discuss the various questions from different angles and according to frequently contradictory national or global narratives, to offer a more nuanced understanding of the conflict or the authors to reflect on one another’s contentions, nor does any dialogue or conversation emerge regarding the conflict, which can be regarded as the direct precursor to World War I (at least in the sense that it clearly demonstrated that the concert of Great Powers was no longer an effective assurance against instability). The volume provides insights into individual issues, but the bulk of the essays either seem to lack the knowledge required to address these questions in depth or, conversely, address overly specialized or specific problems as the subjects of their inquiry. Not even the leading scholars attempt to synthesize the existing scholarship on the subject, let alone provide a comprehensive interpretation of the conflict within the framework of recent theoretical developments, since the volume is first and foremost a collection of case studies. The essays are not only uneven, they are also often one-sided (the conflict is approached almost exclusively from the point of view of the Entente countries and their allies). They do not offer a nuanced overview of the conflict.

The articles have been divided into three thematic groups. The essays in the first section provide a historical analysis of the conflicts. In this group, both in terms of its subject matter and its approach, the most remarkable study is Dimitar Tasić’s interpretation of the role and the social basis of the irregular armed forces on the basis of a comparative analysis of the acts and functions of various paramilitary groups. Tasić argues that the irregular armed forces were by and large heterogeneous regarding their aims and methods, as well as the nationalities of their members and the social backgrounds and origins of their leaders. For instance, many of the soldiers serving under Major Vojislav Tankosić, who was in charge of the Prokuplje Operating Base, were Bosnian Muslims and Albanians, who—although they were fighting to further Serbian aims—were primarily occupied with taking revenge for personal grievances (which were not necessarily of a nationalistic nature). The detachments under the command of Major Branko Vukosavjlević were disciplined, orderly and tolerant, and they followed the orders issued by the higher levels of command.

One of the most outstanding essays is Patrick Louvier’s thought-provoking study on the slow decline that can be observed in the number of the Cretan Muslim inhabitants in the period beginning with the Greco–Turkish War of 1897 (the autonomous Cretan State was established in 1898) and ending in 1913. Louvier’s analysis breaks away from the long-established approach, according to which most of the Turkish people in Crete were town-dwellers, and it offers an examination of the percentage of immigrants and renegades among them. Using several primary sources and consular reports, Louvier also attempts to reconstruct the change in the number of inhabitants during the years.

An insightful essay by Emanuele Constantini deals with the Jewish community of Thessaloniki. More specifically, it provides an analysis of the diplomatic negotiations conducted by the members of this community on the city’s status. Their primary concern was continuity in the commerce of the city. As Constantini’s study shows, the Jewish community not only had large-scale representation in Thessaloniki (with members from diverse social groups, such as factory workers and industrialists), it also used connections with the Jewry of the Great Powers and various international organizations to exert an influence on policy makers.

Bernard Lory analyses the historiographical reception of the Albanian and Macedo-Bulgarian insurrection of 1913 and provides an attempt to reconstruct the events of the rebellion as well. Lory relies primarily on Bulgarian secondary literature in his study, making use also of the memoirs of Hristo Matov, one of the leaders. However, he does not use excerpts from the diary of one of Matov’s rivals, Petar Chaulev, which has also been published. Thus, significant holes remain in his reconstruction of the internal structure of the insurrection.

An essay by Vojislav Pavlović adds little to our understanding of the conflicts, as it provides barely more than an overview of the ideas of the Serbian national historiography in French. Much better is the study by Traian Sandu on the Romanian stance regarding the political situation in the Balkans. His inquiry is impartial and free of political overtones concerning the versatility of the Romanian aspirations and the principles on which they rested. Similarly, Gabriel Leanca’s essay on the Romanian acquisition of Southern Dobruja and the French-Russian alliance is a highly useful work that draws on sources in Romanian, Bulgarian and French.

The second half of the volume deals with the various ways in which other countries intervened in the conflict, but most of the essays offer little more than overviews. The essay by Fabrice Jesné and Mathieu Jestin, which offers an analysis of the roles played by the Great Power consuls during the war, give the collection a refreshing dash of color. It addresses the acts and functions of the consuls with due consideration of their humanitarian, diplomatic, and economic interests. Nadine Akhund’s essay on the scholarly and political work of the Carnegie Commission, which was established in the wake of the war with the task of inquiring into its causes, is similarly useful. Akhund provides a detailed account of the goals of the people who organized the commission, the manner in which the people who participated in the writing of the report were selected (the leader of the commission asked personal acquaintances and confidantes to serve, most of whom, however, arranged to have someone else represent them), their networks of relationships, and their attitudes towards one another. Of the six people who put together the report, two never even made it to the actual site of the conflict, or rather left the group early. The sentimental attachments of Pavel Miliukov, an expert on Macedonia, and Englishman Henry Brailsford to the Bulgarian national cause are palpable in the report (which was also published as a book). Miliukov and Brailsford knew each other well, and given their biases, the report, on which they exerted a significant influence, can hardly be considered objective. But it was the first account prepared by civilians of the costs of the war and the atrocities that had been committed. Odile Moreau analyses the accounts of the fighting by Stephane Lauzanne, a reporter for the French newspaper Matin. The essay is significant in part because there were relatively few Western journalists active on the Turkish side, and it provides a systematic analysis of the chaotic political situation in the Ottoman Empire. It is thoroughly footnoted and draws on recently published Turkish sources on the war.

The third section contains studies of reports, memoirs, and historiographical analyses dealing with the conflict. The essay by Daniel Cain merits particular mention. A main street is rarely named after a journalist. James Bourchier, at one point a reporter for the Times, earned this distinction, as a busy street in Sofia bears his name. Bourchier worked hard to build up the Balkan League and eventually came to serve as a self-appointed diplomat. As an Irishman, he was perhaps particularly sensitive to the plights of “oppressed peoples.” Claudiu Topor examined the role of national rhetoric in the Romanian press during the Second Balkan War, an interesting question in the case of a war in which Romania could hardly appeal to the ethnic principle.

In contrast with some earlier volumes, this collection contains no contributions by nationalist historians representing extremist views, and this is one of its indisputable merits. It is surprising, however, that one finds hardly any Austrian, Hungarian, or Russian authors among the contributors (not to mention the works cited), in spite of the fact that these countries were dramatically affected by the events (Anglo-Saxon authors are only found in the footnotes). As the volume contains essays based on presentations of a conference held in Paris, it is perhaps not surprising that most of the authors are French or Italian, but fortunately representatives of smaller states have also been included. The international network of French historiography is quite palpable. One can sense an attempt to maintain a safe distance from the events (Bulgarian politics are analyzed by a Romanian contributor, the Albanian-Macedonian uprising of 1913 is examined by a French author). While the essays may well have been carefully selected and make use of recent secondary literature (one can reconstruct, on the basis of the works cited, the network of relationships), one notices a kind of circular process of citation, which itself demonstrates how a scholarly community can be constructed. One also notes that Romanian historiography remains well-connected on the international scene. The volume is perhaps interesting reading for specialists familiar with the wide-ranging historiography on the conflicts. The dozen or so well-conceived and thoroughly documented essays offer some compensation for the dozen or so weak essays, the generally uneven standards, and the regrettable typos.

Gábor Demeter

 

A régi Magyarország utolsó háborúja 1914–1918 [The Last War of Old Hungary 1914–1918]. By Tibor Hajdu and Ferenc Pollmann. Budapest: Osiris, 2014. 416 pp.

 

This volume, authored by two doyens of Hungarian military historiography, fits well into the series of publications aiming to meet public demand on Hungarian history during the Great War. In contrast with earlier attempts, this book aspires to provide a complex and holistic summary of Hungary’s role in World War I. It is divided into six main chapters, out of which the first presents the international and domestic preludes to the war, followed by a balanced analysis in five consecutive sections of every year of the war. In these chronological chapters, the authors focus mostly on the political and military aspects of the Hungarian participation, but they occasionally also discuss the economic consequences of the conflict and the cultural history of the era.

The first part examines the international context leading up to the war with consideration of the main political aims of the great powers. The authors contend that the war was not inevitable, but the unwise behavior of the European political and military elite, together with rising nationalism in Eastern Europe, led to the outbreak of conflict. Although—in accordance with trends in contemporary scholarship—the book emphasizes the responsibility of actors other than Germany during the July crises, it unfortunately fails to engage with the most current “Sleepwalkers” debates (Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 [2013]).

The second chapter focuses on the problematic nature of mobilization and the strategic dilemmas of the Austro-Hungarian military leadership in the summer of 1914. It discusses the first military encounters, particularly the background and the conduct of the ill-fated Potoriek offensives on the Serbian front, and explains why the Austro-Hungarian mobilization plans failed to function during the first month of the war.

The third part not only focuses on the political and military developments of 1915 (including the successful Gorlice-Tarnów offensive), but also provides insights into other aspects of the new industrial warfare. The authors analyze the economic consequences of the war for Hungarian agriculture and industry, explaining these phenomena in an imperial framework. They also present the ways in which the most important technological developments, for example the use of gas weapons, made an impact on warfare both on the Western and Eastern Fronts.

Alongside the operational history of 1916, the fourth chapter gives an overview of the experiences of civilians and the changing mood on the home front during the war. Here Hajdu and Pollmann discuss both the intellectual responses and the popular reactions to the conflict, using mostly already published first-hand accounts.

In the chapter on 1917, the focus shifts to diplomatic history. The authors attempt to make a contribution to the long-lasting debate on how the Hungarian elite could have avoided the great territorial losses of the country after the war. Besides presenting the operational history of this year, the authors also argue that the vast majority of Hungarian politicians were too blind to assess the consequences of an alliance with Germany that had become too close, and this led to the very weak position of Hungary after the inevitable defeat in 1918.

In the final part the authors analyze the last desperate attempts of the military and political leadership to change the course of war. They discuss Emperor Charles’ relationship with the civil-military leadership of the empire and they also present how wishful thinking and strategic miscalculations led to the disastrous offensives on the Piave River. In this chapter the authors are generally very critical of the last vague efforts of the Austro-Hungarian political elite to negotiate peace and transform the Empire into a federal state.

A régi Magyarország utolsó háborúja is undoubtedly a well-written analysis of Hungary’s participation in the Great War. It provides in many respects a far better overview than similar books published earlier in Hungary. The authors manage to write a focused national history, which also demonstrates the Hungarian developments in a wider geographical context. For example, Hajdu and Pollmann present the military and diplomatic history within an imperial framework and provide good insights into the personal relationships between the leading actors of Budapest and Vienna. The volume also discusses briefly the most important military and political developments outside the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, demonstrating their effects on the Habsburg Empire. Furthermore, the book is very well structured and the arguments are clearly formulated, so it successfully achieves a balance between the demands of the academic audience and the wider readership. However, in some cases it would have been preferable to have included more references for the academic audience.

In spite of the fact that A régi Magyarország utolsó háborúja is a balanced summary of Hungary’s participation in the Great War, it also reflects the main problems of the current Hungarian military history scholarship. Over the course of the past few decades, World War I has been a relatively neglected topic in Hungary, and the vast majority of studies have restricted their focus to the operational and political history of the conflict. Consequently, the book’s chapters in which these issues are discussed provide far better and more cutting-edge analyses then the chapters on the social, economic and cultural aspects of the war.

Contrary to the case of operational history, in these fields Hajdu and Pollmann can only rely on a handful of up-to-date studies. It is therefore not surprising that the authors were not able to present any complex analyses of such significant issues, like the memory of the conflict or the transformation of gender roles between 1914 and 1918. The absence of these two topics from the volume is acute, because they are probably the most widely discussed problems in the international scholarship of the past several decades.

No doubt Hajdu and Pollmann, who were both keen on using modern methodology in their earlier works, made a huge effort to involve some other fields (fields which in Hungary have not been given adequate attention) in their investigation. For example, they write relatively extensively about the brutalizing effects of the war, particularly with regards to such technological developments as gas warfare. Unfortunately, mostly due to the outdated secondary literature, they are not able to engage with the ongoing international debate and present the long-term consequences of the war on domestic and political violence in Hungary. Similarly, the absence of up-to-date studies prevent the authors from providing a cutting-edge analysis of the economic and social aspects of the conflict.

In spite of these problems, A régi Magyarország utolsó háborúja is probably the best and most complex summary of Hungary’s participation in World War I so far. It draws on many findings in the current historiography, especially in the chapters discussing the operational history of the conflict. Unfortunately, due to the lack of basic research, it does not live up to the same standards in the fields of social, economic and cultural history. Hajdu and Pollmann’s book, with all its pros and cons, reflects well the present stand of Hungarian scholarship on World War I.

Tamás Révész

 

KL. A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. By Nikolaus Wachsmann. London: Little, Brown, 2015. 880 pp.

 

Synthesizing the main findings of a vast corpus of secondary sources and drawing extensively on the author’s own primary research as well, Nikolaus Wachsmann’s KL aspires to offer nothing less than the first comprehensive and integrative history charting the development of the Nazi concentration camps. The book’s integrated approach to the altogether twenty-seven main camps and their over 1,100 satellite camps combines a macro analysis of Nazi terror with micro studies of individual actions and responses. It compares conditions and developments between and within individual camps while also putting them into their wider political and cultural contexts.

The author repeatedly emphasizes that “the KL acted much like seismographs, closely attuned to the general aims and ambitions of the regime’s rulers” (p.626). Accordingly, his KL explores the various incarnations of these flexible instruments of lawless repression over time. The book exemplifies the changing functions of the concentration camps, for instance by discussing how, between 1933 and 1945, Dachau was variously meant to serve as a “bulwark of the Nazi revolution, model camp, SS training ground, slave labor reservoir, human experimentation site, mass extermination ground, and center of a satellite camp network” (p.593).

In accordance with its key agenda of thorough historicization, the over 800 meticulously researched pages of KL (the notes alone fill some 158) proceed in a largely chronological fashion. They trace the non-linear escalation of “terror” in excruciating detail. While Wachsmann highlights that “periods of rising terror” in the camps could be followed by moments of relatively greater “moderation,” such as in the mid-1930s and even in 1943 (p.188), he also explains that absorbing change and adapting without losing its core mission proved to be one of the most terrifying features of the institution (p.192). Alongside its key agenda of historicization, another central ambition of the book is to show how a singular focus on the SS’s attempt to demonstrate its absolute power oversimplifies SS policy, which was in fact also guided by considerations of a more ideological, economic, or simply pragmatic nature (p.158).

The first three chapters of the book chart the origins, formation and expansion of the KL system between 1933 and 1939. Here, Wachsmann shows that the primacy of political terror set the Nazis on the road to absolute rule already in 1933, when up to 200,000 political prisoners were detained. However, there were neither detailed blueprints, nor a coordinated national network of Nazi camps at the time. The many hundreds of new sites could hardly have been more varied. By the mid-1930s, it even seemed likely that the KL system, which held some 3,800 inmates at a time when regular prisons in Nazi Germany held well over 100,000, would simply wither away.

As we know, precisely the opposite happened. The camps expanded, even as domestic political opposition diminished, and by 1937/38, measures related to them were centralized and escalated. Potentially boundless camps, such as Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, and Ravensbrück were opened, characterized by “a uniform administrative structure, a common architectural ideal, a professional corps of SS men, and a systematic brand of terror” (p.134). As Wachsmann shows, they emerged as “firm fixtures of the Third Reich, outside the law, funded by the state and controlled by a new agency,” the Inspectorate for Concentration Camps (p.134). The main function of these camps soon shifted from browbeating political opponents to terrorizing social outsiders. The twenty months prior to the outbreak of World War II then brought the first huge rise in the death rate, as 2,268 people lost their lives inside the camps (p.169).

Subsequent chapters on the early years of World War II examine wider developments of the camp system as well as daily life in individual camps to thereby explore the descent of the camps into sites of mass death and executions. Arguing that the lethal turn of the KL system had begun as early as between 1939 and 1941 (p.191), the author shows that many key features of the wartime camps, such as “bigger compounds, new camps outside the German heartland, masses of foreign prisoners, lethal living conditions, murderous everyday violence, and planned executions” emerged early on (p.238). By the fall of 1941, the Nazi war of extermination also entered the KL: “with the killing of infirm inmates with poison gas still in full swing, the Camp SS embarked on an even more radical program”, the murder of “tens of thousands of Soviet POWs” (p.242). As Wachsmann rightly highlights, this was “a cataclysmic moment dwarfing all previous killing campaigns” (p.262). By this time, the concentration camps had developed a dual function. As KL asserts, the systematic murder of exhausted, weak, and ill prisoners had become one of their permanent features, and “many structural elements” of the Holocaust had emerged inside the camps before the SS crossed the threshold to genocide in 1942 (p.287-8).

KL focuses on the experience of altogether around 2.3 million registered inmates who were dragged into concentration camps between 1933 and 1945 and of whom over 1.7 million lost their lives. The story it tells thus only partially overlaps with that of the Holocaust. At the same time, the book fully acknowledges that systematic mass killing turned into genocide as the Holocaust entered the KL in 1942. It in fact traces in detail how the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, a focal point for SS economic ambitions and a center of the Nazi Final Solution, was transformed into the largest and most lethal camp by far and became the central location of the Holocaust by 1943. On the other hand, while pointing to institutional and organizational connections between the KL system and the three Globocnik death camps, Wachsmann discusses the latter sites only briefly. (The Globocnik death camps admittedly did not function as concentration camps. As Wachsmann puts it, in them, terror was compressed to its very essence.) However, KL does highlight that 1942 was also the year in which a shift in power between legal and SS terror could be observed as, for the first time, camps held more inmates than German prisons.

The KL prisoner population grew exceptionally rapidly the following year, shooting up from an estimated 115,000 to around 315,000 by the end of 1943 (p.414-5). Over the course of the year, the SS started to press more and more prisoners into the war economy. By the autumn of 1943, a veritable scramble for KL prisoners started, which also meant that the Camp SS could exert less control over them (p.453). Even if concentration camps were admittedly never turned into significant hubs for the German war economy and their main “product” remained the misery and death of their prisoners, Wachsmann argues that their “dramatic descent into squalor and death, which had begun with the outbreak of war in autumn 1939” was thereby “temporarily arrested and reversed”(p.427).

One of the last chapters of the monograph is devoted to the spread of slave labor and satellite camps, whereas others analyze prisoner communities and the final phase of violence. 1944 meant “the climax of the Holocaust in Auschwitz,” when, upon the arrival of Hungarian Jews, “the largest extermination program the KL system had ever seen” was implemented (p.458-9). At the same time, Wachsmann diagnoses a partial erosion of the importance of ideology as a determining factor in 1944, as economic pressures started to dilute the full impact of Nazi racial policy (p.474). Even if there were very clear limits to flexibility, the new policy meant a U-turn in the deployment of Jews, implying a mass influx of Jewish prisoners far into the territory of Nazi Germany. The rapid rise of satellite camps also led to the recruitment of tens of thousands of new guards, among them elderly soldiers, women, and even non-Germans. However, terror continued even as the SS presence diminished. Frighteningly, the everyday operation of the KL apparently did not require a vast army of political soldiers (p.471).

Regarding the inmates, more generally, KL suggests perseverance, solidarity, and defiance as key perspectives from which to analyze their behavior (p.499). Wachsmann explains that the KL provided the most barren grounds for the growth of defiance, and those aiming to violently oppose their tormentors faced terrible dilemmas (p.527). While he emphasizes that inmates retained a sense of right and wrong within the warped world of the camps, he essentially argues that for the most part, theirs was a tale of degradation and despair with few heroic and uplifting moments.

Last but not least, KL dissects how the climax and collapse of Nazi concentration camps went hand in hand. As we learn, at both chronological ends of the Third Reich, the camps were characterized by a high degree of improvisation: in 1933, the KL system had not yet formed and by 1944, it was already starting to fray (p.465). However, as camps increasingly turned into disaster zones, the final months of the KL system proved to be among the most lethal. In early 1945, there was a record of 714,211 registered KL prisoners in all (by comparison, 80,000 men and women were locked up in 1942). When the war ended a mere four months later, an estimated forty percent of them had already died.

KL is likely to remain the definitive overview of its subject for many years to come. However, as is the case with any book aspiring to be comprehensive, some of KL’s emphases may also be debatable. Gender-related issues and questions of memory and remembrance receive rather brief treatment, while the biographical analysis of perpetrators might have been extended too. In terms of the main interpretative thrust of the book, Wachsmann depicts the Nazi concentration camps as a highly distinctive system of domination and contextualizes them almost exclusively within a national framework. Instead of expanding on their comparative and transnational dimensions, KL argues that the sources of their inspiration were German disciplinary discourses and practices rather than foreign precedents and that their manner of transformation made Nazi camps significantly distinct from other “totalitarian camps,” notably the Gulag. Such somewhat debatable choices and contentions aside, KL offers meticulous scholarship and a largely convincing interpretation of how murderous orders from the top and local initiatives from below radicalized each other and ultimately plunged the KL into a maelstrom of destruction.

Ferenc Laczó

 

The Nation Should Come First. Marxism and Historiography in East Central Europe. By Maciej Górny. Translated by Antoni Górny. Editorial assistance Aaron Law. (Warsaw studies in contemporary history 1.) Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2013. 302 pp.

 

For a long time, the scholarship of historians who were working behind the Iron Curtain during the Communist period was mostly regarded by the “international” (i.e. predominantly the “Western”) community of scholars as part of propaganda efforts and was not taken seriously. In the few cases when it was given due consideration, for instance the works of the internationally renowned Hungarian historians György Ránki, Iván T. Berend, and Péter Hanák, the explanation for this lay in the fact that they had at some point abandoned the gray-suited army of those who falsified and manipulated history behind the Iron Curtain and joined the bright, colorful, “free” world of Western scholarship. So why should the small field of the history of historiography care about this group of pseudo-historians (in the eyes of the West), who did not even speak the right languages, and this not only in the literal sense (since they published their writings in Polish, Hungarian, Czech or Russian instead of English, French or German), but also in the sense of a language that consists of different assumptions and concepts, taken mostly from Marxism-Leninism? But in the 1990s, a few German and other Western historians began to become interested in the historiography of East-Central Europe for two essential reasons: because it concerned seemingly foreign countries, more foreign than their own pasts, and because it was part of the culture of State Socialism, a new field that suited the necessities of post-totalitarian perspectives, which had begun to take an interest in how the world of ideas, attitudes, understandings of Communism worked. And they found, of course, exactly what they were looking for: historians who represented the inner logic of the communist party state.

Now, two decades later, we are well beyond these earlier misunderstandings of the historiography of East Central Europe. The Nation Should Come First is one of the best introductions to this new knowledge. Maciej Górny’s book is the English translation of a text that was first published in Polish (2007) and then in German (2011). Górny’s main thesis is that historical writing in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and even East Germany in the first two decades of State Socialism was marked by strong continuities with pre-war traditions, or, to put it negatively, the influence of Marxism-Leninism and the “manipulation” of historical scholarship by the Communist party and by ideologically “brain-washed” historians had a much weaker impact than is often assumed. In other words: the nation was supposed to “come first” in most history books, not the party. Maciej Górny presents his argument in five chapters.

The first chapter introduces the main questions and debates in the field. The history of historiography is treated as “a broad panorama of concepts and events shaping an image of the past” (p.23). This is, to some extent, an affirmation of the project of the cultural history of historiography of the 1990s, especially regarding the GDR, but, and this is emphasized by the author, the perspective of “postmodernist” Diskursgeschichte has often neglected the study of the content of historiography by almost completely focusing on institutions, forms and styles of discourse and ultimately arriving at the conclusion that historical professionalization was somehow distorted to the east of the Elbe River (p.19). This is a critique of studies by Martin Sabrow and others, though Górny does not include Siegfried Lokatis’ study (which was published within the same Potsdam school), which explicitly shows how the form and content of the history of the German labor movement was shaped by historians embedded in a dense web of institutions of the SED. (Siegfried Lokatis, Der rote Faden. Kommunistische Parteigeschichte und Zensur unter Walter Ulbricht [2003].) Admittedly, this concerns the most political and most controlled part of GDR historiography, but Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (eight volumes of which were published before 1966) was not just one history book among others. It represented a model for the whole area of modern history.

In contrast to the “postmodernist” school, Górny tries to look at institutional and political dimensions, but also at “interconnections between historiography and historical tradition, the imaginings of the national past, the history of ideas and collective memory, and finally, historical myths” (p.24). Chapter 2 examines the institutional changes and continuities and the “creation of early postwar narrations” in the four cases (East German, Czech, Slovak and Polish historiography). He acknowledges that there were numerous personal changes and discontinuities after 1945, although less so in Poland and Czechoslovakia, where universities managed to keep more of their independence than in East Germany (p.39). Similarly, the production of new, Marxist national textbooks of history was less successful in Poland and Czechoslovakia than in Germany, and thus the conclusions of Lokatis’ work cannot be extended to other East Central European countries.

Chapter III, the central part of the book, describes how historians were searching for “progressive” traditions that could be used in the context of the new national historical narratives and how they mostly had little choice but to return to earlier established themes, topics, and heroes already cherished by nationally minded historians of earlier periods. Here, Górny convincingly shows how national narratives, especially in Poland and Czechoslovakia, celebrated their comebacks garbed in new “Marxist-Leninist” language, but with little actual change regarding content and interpretation. In the 1950s, the older historiographical traditions came under attack from “progressive” historians, but their defenders profited from the problem of providing a clear definition of “progressiveness” (p.250). In the end, the fierce debates concerning which traditions were more “progressive” than others only revealed the central dilemmas of Stalinist Soviet-style centralized historiography, which was marked by an attempt to limit the multiplicity of interpretations, which is precisely what keeps the work of historians from becoming dead letters completely detached from reality. The last chapter provides a brief comparison of the four historiographies with other Communist cases (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria).

Árpád von Klimó

 

Otthon és haza. Tanulmányok a romániai magyarság történetéből [Homeland and Home: Essays on the History of the Hungarians of Romania]. By Nándor Bárdi. Csíkszereda: Pro Print, 2013. 607 pp.

 

Nándor Bárdi’s Otthon és haza is a summary of more than two decades of intense research on the history of Hungarian minorities. Nevertheless, the book is not a synthesis in which the author adopts one of the two typical approaches to this issue, narrating it either as a story of tragedy, decline and heroism or as a sober, rational and resigned account of inevitable loss. Its nine chapters, each of which would qualify as a separate book on the basis of its richness, take different perspectives on the question of how a minority community was constructed out of a group of people separated from Hungary and attached to Romania. Bárdi understands the term “construction” in a very practical way. In the various chapters of the book, he analyzes the means and mechanisms of establishing the institutions of a(n imagined) community and seeks to further an understanding of how different actors from Budapest, Kolozsvár (today Cluj in Romania) and Bucharest gained or lost agency mainly at one another’s expense. As one might expect, the vision of such a newly emerging community was hardly stable, and this created another field of contestation between the actors, namely contestation over different representations of the minority Hungarians.

The chapters give a detailed analysis of the transition that took place at the end of World War I in the remote city of Székelyudvarhey (today Odorheiu Secuiesc in Romania), a community which was almost entirely Hungarian-speaking. In the wake of the war, revolutionary passions were fading away as the struggle against the Romanianization of the administration became more prominent and intense. The zig-zagging of Hungarian politicians in the first few years of the existence of Greater Romania would have been impossible had they not been able to find allies, for they were compelled to navigate between the expectations of Budapest that they would preserve the loyalty of Hungarians to the Hungarian state and the necessities of finding a place in the Romanian political system. Bárdi discusses in detail the methods with which they secured a level of autonomy vis-à-vis Budapest while also maintaining the unity of a fragile party. Bárdi also shows how and why the members of the first minority generation abandoned the idea of the equality of nationalities based on a vision of organic nations living side by side in harmonious internal unity. They sought instead to establish Hungarian supremacy and regional devolution in Northern Transylvania between 1940–1944 in order to avoid the supposed mistakes of liberal Hungary, which allegedly had led to the dismemberment of the country after World War I.

Two further chapters introduce the reader to the complex and secretive world of pseudo-civic and governmental organizations in Budapest, which channeled funds and information between Romania and Hungary after 1920. These organizations also aimed to control Hungarians abroad to the point of devising social research and identity building projects. The two closing chapters in turn set out a typology of minority political strategies on the basis of their relationship with Hungary and Romania. Bárdi discusses the sequence of generations and their visons of the community, which were formed under the impact of extraordinarily different circumstances following the fall of dualist Hungary and the creation of Greater Romania, including the communist takeover and its consequences.

The author focuses on the ways in which this community was built in the minds and designed on the desks of government bureaucrats, experts, old fashioned noble politicians, young visionaries and calculating political technicians in a fervent search for stability and authentic social organization that was meant to solidify a group thought otherwise to be doomed. In its effort to dissect various relevant trends, the book lacks an overarching argument apart from a modest proposal to complement Brubaker’s famous triadic nexus model with a fourth field of international organizations and international law. This additional dimension is meant to reinterpret the relationship between mutual expectations, fulfilment or non-fulfilment and permanent adaptation. The various perspectives are also bound together by the author’s emphasis on underlying processes of differentiation. Such differentiation was the gradual result of the involuntary and forced separation of Hungarians from Hungary who found a new balance in an altered, more distant relationship with their kin-state, even acquiring a sense of moral superiority over inhabitants of the “motherland,” who, according to some narratives, were (and are) in need of a kind of “national salvation” originating from the Hungarians of the minority community.

Bárdi is unquestionably in his element when he is setting out the details of the politics and policies, the connections between personalities, institutions, the past relationships and present animosities and how the actors used one another while they were attempting to create something called the “Hungarian minority of Romania.” He can account for the last penny spent on Hungarian-language theater brochures, and he describes how these sums were requested, authorized, disbursed and taken to Romania, a process involving plenty of maneuvering on the part of almost everyone concerned. Albeit seemingly insignificant, such minutiae convey details of politics and its mechanisms would never have been discovered in the traditional sources on political history. This abundance of detail helps one deconstruct the typical narratives and makes palpable the concept of “minority construction.” One should note the inflexibility of Bárdi’s model of three distinct elites, which neither allows for a realignment of forces nor can it take into account regional level actors from the majority. It is, however, eminently capable of revealing how fragile the very construct of the Hungarians of Romania as a community and its representations as a unitary group were. This construct remained limited, despite the best efforts of all kinds of social actors, to a dwindling set of institutions, the nationally educated middle-class, and the larger part of the peasantry. The invention of this new society in fact implied a strange existence between two nation states. This conclusion inevitably raises another question: how best to study such a limited and fragile—from a certain perspective almost non-existent—subject?

Gábor Egry

 

Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989–1992. By James Krapfl. Ithaca–London: Cornell University Press, 2013. 292 pp.

 

The historical phenomenon of the 1989 revolutions in East-Central Europe is a prominent topic of historiographical research in the field of contemporary history and Slavic studies. (See Padraic Kenney, A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989 [2003].) Regarding the Czech and Slovak part of the story, an impressive array of books and articles has been published over the course of the past two decades. However, this literature was published mostly in Czech and Slovak and was concerned with rather particular issues, such as regional aspects of the Velvet Revolution or the memory of prominent actors of 1989. (See Milan Otáhal and Miroslav Vaněk, Sto studentských revolucí: studenti v období pádu komunismu - životopisná vyprávění [1999]; Pavel Marek, Prostějovská „sametová revoluce“: příspěvek k počátkům demokratizace české společnosti v letech 1989–1990 [2009]; Ivana Koutská, Vojtěch Ripka, and Pavel Žáček, eds., Občanské fórum, den první: vznik OF v dokumentech a fotografiích [2009].) Apart from the monumental monograph Labyrintem revoluce (Through the Labyrinth of Revolution, a political history of the Velvet Revolution written by Czech historian Jiří Suk, there has been no attempt to publish a comprehensive or at least empirically and intellectually more ambitious history of 1989 in Czechoslovakia. (Jiří Suk, Labyrintem revoluce: aktéři, zápletky a křižovatky jedné politické krize: (odlistopadu 1989 do června 1990) [2003].)

In 2009, Canadian historian James Krapfl published a Slovak version of the book under review. (James Krapfl, Revolúcia s ľudskoutvárou: politika, kultúra a spoločenstvo v Československupo 17. novembri 1989 [2009].) It was a significant development to have, in the year of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, a fresh and pioneering account of the events of 1989 in Czechoslovakia finally be made available for readers in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The English edition of this book is thus a kind of culmination of Krapfl’s research project, which was launched already in the late 1990s. Its publication was preceded by the publication of several case studies. (James Krapfl, “Revolution and Revolt against Revolution: Czechoslovakia 1989,” in Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe: Challenges to Communist Rule, ed. Kevin McDermott and Matthew Stibbe [2006], 175–94; James Krapfl, Poetický základ politiky: Dějiny významu roku 1989, in Kapitoly z dějin české demokracie poroce 1989, ed. Adéla Gjuričová and Michal Kopeček [2008], 134–57.) The Slovak edition of the book was praised as a path-breaking historiographical account of 1989, as Krapfl’s book was the first historical narrative of the Velvet Revolution that aimed to analyze the events “from below” and with respect for both the Czech and Slovak cultural and political contexts.

The narrative of Revolution with a Human Face is based on an extraordinarily impressive source base. The author pursued extensive research in more than forty Czech and Slovak archives and gathered a unique collection of historical documents. The majority of the archival materials used by Krapfl were produced by local activists and revolutionary enthusiasts. Rather than reading numerous official statements produced by Prague and Bratislava revolutionary elites, Krapfl analyzed declarations, posters, leaflets, bulletins, articles and complaints which were formulated in numerous regional hubs of the revolution. These sources enabled him to write a cultural history of the Velvet Revolution that focuses on the Czechoslovak revolutionary community. Whereas the majority of available histories are concerned primarily with the agenda of the highest metropolitan representatives of the Civic Forum and Public against Violence, Krapfl lets the rank and file of revolutionary movements speak, who have been portrayed by the vast majority of historians as well as by the post-socialist political and media elites as an anonymous mass rally in the streets and squares of Czechoslovak cities. In this book, these local protesters and activists are finally portrayed as genuine historical actors aiming to push their political agendas based on their specific sets of revolutionary ideals and values.

The first part of the book analyzes narratives of the Velvet Revolution. Krapfl distinguishes between four discourses of revolution: revolution as romance, revolution as comedy, revolution as tragedy and revolution as satire. These four narratives are in fact major interpretations around which the controversy about 1989 was structured since the very first days of the Velvet Revolution. This shows how this revolution was understood by its actors and how its outcomes were evaluated by the Czechoslovak revolutionary community. Although there was an ongoing conflict of interpretations, the fact that all four competing narratives characterized the events of late 1989 and early 1990 as a revolution makes the debate concerning whether 1989 was a revolution, a regime change, or something else seem quite pointless. According to Krapfl, in Czechoslovakia 1989 amounted to a revolution because it was understood as a revolution by those actively involved in the events.

The most important and intellectually most exciting part of the book consists of the chapters analyzing the constitution of the revolutionary community and portraying a specific set of values characterized by the author as the “ideals of November.” Krapfl carefully describes collective symbolic practices and public acts, such as happenings, which helped create the new sense of community. His aim is to analyze the ways in which the revolution was experienced by its actors and how the “system of signs and symbols enabled citizens to communicate with one another in new ways and to make sense of the world in ways that had scarcely been imaginable before” (p.70). Thanks to the sophisticated study of numerous texts produced by revolutionary activists, Krapfl managed to define essential values and ideals of the Velvet Revolution. He is able to reconstruct the mental horizon of 1989 in Czechoslovakia in a coherent and convincing way. The book mentions the following crucial ideas and values shared by the members of the revolutionary community: nonviolence, self-organization, democracy, fairness, socialism and humanness. Among other important ideals of the revolution were liberty, human rights, informality, criticism of corruption and emphasis on dialogue. Such “revolutionary idealism” was driven by emphasis on the necessity of overcoming the failed state socialist system, which had produced various inequalities and was corrupt, alienated from the citizenry, excessively centralized, highly bureaucratic and essentially anti-human.

Krapfl’s account of the “ideals of November” is explicit polemics with thinkers like Jürgen Habermas or François Furet, who claimed that the 1989 revolutions did not invent any new or substantial ideas and were essentially backward-looking revolutions of regional importance with rather modest ambitions to restore liberal democracy in East-Central Europe. Krapfl argues convincingly that such interpretations are fundamentally mistaken and flawed by a lack of insight into the original thought that was characteristic of 1989. The originality and novelty of the 1989 revolutions lay in the centrality of ideals of humanness, respect for human dignity and nonviolence. According to Krapfl, the conviction shared by members of the revolutionary community that non-violence and humanness were driving forces of their revolution and more important than any conventional political ideology was a fundamental contribution of the 1989 revolutions to the long tradition of European democratic politics and political thought.

However, the aim of the book is not to create an idealized picture of the “revolution with a human face.” Krapfl also describes the conflicts that arose with the emergence of new power relations and hierarchies after November 1989. The inner dynamics of revolution gave birth not only to an insistence on and assertion of the aforementioned humanist ideals and values, but also to more controversial aspects of public debates, such as regionalism and nationalism. Of significant importance was also the conflict between the centralist aspirations of revolutionary elites and local activists aiming to preserve certain levels of political autonomy. Krapfl collected plenty of evidence showing that local activists were increasingly upset and frustrated by the fact that the metropolitan leaders of the revolution ignored their complaints and appeals. There was a growing suspicion on their part that leaders of the Civic Forum aimed to slow-down the revolution or even bring it to a standstill. This conflict between the pragmatism of new political leaders, who aimed to consolidate power and begin to govern the country, and local enthusiasts and activists, who called for more far-reaching changes, was, according to Krapfl, a chief source of political controversies in the early 1990s. The pressure from below led to the gradual dissolution of the Civic Forum and Public against Violence and the subsequent formation of new powerful political parties, such as the Civic Democratic Party in the Czech Lands and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. These political subjects arranged the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and played a pivotal role in the further development of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the 1990s.

Ironically, the initial struggle of local activists for direct democracy and a general deepening of revolutionary transformations led in the longer perspective to the establishment of two post-socialist national regimes whose functioning was in many respects in sharp contrast with abovementioned “ideals of November.” In the course of the 1990s, it was increasingly evident that the “ideals of November” had not been incorporated into the political culture and political economy of post-socialism. Krapfl’s book thus not only offers an insightful, balanced and highly innovative history of the Velvet Revolution. His analysis of the revolutionary community, its ideals and its internal contradictions also opens new perspectives for reflection on the developments in East Central Europe in the last 25 years. It is worth posing the question to what extent the recent rise of populism and distrust in politics in the region has been influenced by the fact that the “ideals of November” were not further developed or at least adopted by the majority of citizens or the post-socialist political elites. Revolution with a Human Face could thus also serve as the starting point for further critical examination of the developments from the “revolutionary idealism” of the 1989 to recent popular disenchantment with post-socialist democracy.

Vítězslav Sommer

pdfVolume 5 Issue 1 CONTENTS

BOOK REVIEWS

Das Preßburger Protocollum Testamentorum 1410 (1427)–1529, Vol. 1. 1410–1487. Edited by Judit Majorossy and Katalin Szende. (Fontes rerum Austriacarum, 3. Abteilung, Fontes iuris 21/1.) Vienna: Böhlau, 2010. 535 pp.
Das Preßburger Protocollum Testamentorum 1410 (1427)–1529, Vol. 2. 1487–1529. Edited by Judit Majorossy und Katalin Szende. (Fontes iuris, Geschichtsquelle zum österreichen Recht, 21/2.) Vienna: Böhlau, 2014. 572 pp.

The use of late medieval testaments as sources in the study of legal issues, economy, culture and everyday life has been popular for some time now. In noble, ecclesiastical and urban settings, this type of source material offers a large pool of information on everyday life, economic and social ties, religious piety, understandings of the afterlife, provisional mechanisms, etc. In recent decades, a good number of collections of last wills originating from Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary, Austria and Dalmatia have been edited and analyzed. Apart from Hungary, intensive research has also been conducted in Bohemia and Moravia, where the last wills from the cities of Prague, Olomouc, Pilsen and Tabor were edited and analyzed. Well-preserved testament collections of Dalmatian cities such as Zadar, Split, Trogir and Dubrovnik are all frequently consulted by scholars. In Austria, the evaluation of late medieval wills has been intensified with the editions of the collections of Vienna, Wiener Neustadt and, recently, Korneuburg. In the 1980s, Gerhard Jaritz, member of the Institute of Medieval Material Culture in Krems and professor at the Central European University in Budapest, initiated the edition of the collection of legal instructions known as Wiener Stadtbücher, which also contain a large number of wills. This has been used as a reference for the current edition of the Pressburg (Pozsony in Hungarian, today Bratislava in Slovakia) Protocollum Testamentorum. In close cooperation with the Commission for Austrian Legal History (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna), four volumes have been published so far.

The manuscript kept in the Bratislava Municipal Archive is the first of a series of testament books kept by the city of Pressburg until 1872. In close cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Archive, two prominent Hungarian urban historians, Katalin Szende and Judit Majorossy, prepared this two-volume edition of the first volume of the Pressburger Protocollum Testamentorum. A third volume, an extensive index, is in preparation. They fundamentally worked on the material in terms of formal auxiliary science. The editors prepared a full-text edition, in which all parts of the text were reproduced in full. A register at the beginning of each entry provides short information on the types of documents involved, the dates of their genesis, and the people involved. In addition to the recent editorial work, which has been underway for more than a decade, they also carried out extensive research on the history of Pressburg and its position in the changing social, political and economic environment. Pressburg became one of the Hungarian “free royal cities” at the beginning of the fifteenth century, as it gained more and more influence under the rule of King Sigismund. He preferred Pressburg to Buda, as it was located further upstream on the River Danube and closer to the Holy Roman Empire.

In the following I highlight some elements of the 844 wills preserved in the testament books and edited by Majorossy and Szende.Recorded my last will” – many burghers of Pressburg used this phrase in order to express their personal and independent will as testators. Declarations of will have survived in many European cities. This form of transmission is the result of the need to express and preserve the last will in a legally secured way. Municipal governance provides the basis for this. The competence of the civil community to assure independently the legal rights of its members is a particular feature of late medieval urban communities in the region. The recording and archiving of these legal documents in an accurate way was one of the most important priorities of a municipal administration.

From an economic point of view, an interesting element of the estates of Pressburg, frequently referred to in the wills was their vineyards. In the Danube region, vineyards were not only the most common form of land ownership for the townspeople, they also enjoyed a special legal status because of the labor-intensive cultivation that they involved. Thus, they became easily accessible capital, as we can see in the testaments, where wine is treated more like a substitute for money than a consumer product. The foreign relations of the merchants of Pressburg also had effects on individual dispositions: monetary and material debts are evidence not only of the usual practice of trade on commission, but also of regional and national business contacts: Vienna, Bruck an der Leitha, Enns or Nuremberg, Landshut and Cologne belonged to the regional trading area of the local merchants. A prominent example for the social range of monetary debts is preserved in a testament: the Austrian duke Albrecht VI (†1463), was indebted to a merchant of Pressburg. As an illustration of the usefulness of the testaments published in the volumes as sources that offer far more than mere insights into economic history let me refer to the testament of Liebhard Egkenfelder, town chronicler of Bratislava. Egkenfelder’s will contains a detailed inventory of his partly acquired, partly self-compiled library and his mobile and immoveable property, the intended use of which after his death he specifies.

Information on individuals and their economic, religious and social environments can rarely be gathered in such detail on the basis of other types of sources. Social relations have been activated but also deactivated – through the exchange of material and the negotiation and production of intangible resources, such as social prestige or access to social networks. The various forms of relationships that could exist between two burghers are clearly discernible in the various last wills. The executives of last wills themselves were chosen on purpose. The group affiliations and other social connections are all very well reflected in testaments. Even the nomination of a trustee is an expression of the significance of the relationship to that person. Sometimes wills gave people opportunities to give expression to existing relationships or even fashion new ones.

The edited testaments of Pressburg offer perfect ways to get information about heredity practices, as well as the forms in which religious and social affiliations found manifestation over a long period. They also offer insights into the cultural processes and practices of an ever-changing urban community.

Elisabeth Gruber

 

Sopron. Edited by Ferenc Jankó, József Kücsán, and Katalin Szende with contributions by Dávid Ferenc, Károly Goda, and Melinda Kiss. (Hungarian Atlas of Historic Towns, 1.) Sopron: Győr-Moson-Sopron Megye Soproni Levéltára, 2010. 87 pp.
Sátoraljaújhely. Edited by István Tringli. (Hungarian Atlas of Historic Towns, 2.) Budapest: MTA Történettudományi Intézet, 2011. 81 pp.
Szeged. Edited by László Blazovich et al. (Hungarian Atlas of Historic Towns, 3.) Szeged: Csongrád Megyei Honismereti Egyesület, 2014. 155 pp.

With the publication of these three fascicles (text and maps), Hungary has joined the European Historic Towns Atlas project. As is outlined in the introduction to the first volume, this project was set up by the International Commission for the History of Towns in the aftermath of World War II with the aim of encouraging comparative studies of European towns that would be based on large-scale (cadastral) maps. The principal map for each town was to be the same in scale, 1:2,500. There are now eighteen countries involved in this project, and atlases of more than 500 towns have been produced so far.

The Hungarian Atlas of Historic Towns started in 2004 under the auspices of the late András Kubinyi, a prominent urban historian. It was continued by Katalin Szende, who took responsibility for the Hungarian project. Towns were selected in order to represent different settlement types and different geographical locations. A very important asset of these three fascicles is that all the explanatory texts and keys to the maps (unfortunately not the topographical gazetteers) have been translated into English, opening up a brave new world about which English speakers knew very little previously.

The cadastral surveys of the second half of the nineteenth century served as the basis for the 1:2,500 maps showing the preindustrial topography of the three towns in question. The original names were kept. In the case of Sopron, the names of public buildings are in German, but in the case of the other two towns, the names of the buildings are in Hungarian. It would be very helpful if an English translation of the functions of public buildings could be provided as part of the key. The surroundings of the three towns under discussion are shown on selected sheets of the 1st and 2nd Military Surveys, rescaled to 1:50,000. A reproduction of an early twentieth-century plot-level survey, at a scale of 1:50,000, and large-scale aerial photographs show the modern expansion of the towns. In fact, the Hungarian Atlas provides more original research for the transformations of towns in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries than other European atlases, which were designed in their time not to go beyond 1900. The International Commission formulated their recommendation that the atlases should continue into the twentieth century only at their meeting in Prague in 2012.

In the three Hungarian volumes the cadastral and related maps constitute Series A, which is obligatory for each fascicle. Series B compliments these maps with cartographic representations of recent research on the morphology and social topography of the towns in question. Series C contains reproductions of early maps and prospects depicting topographically relevant features. Like the Irish Historic Towns Atlas, the Hungarian Atlas includes a thematically arranged topographical gazetteer. This is a most welcome addition, as the historical data compiled in the gazetteer greatly facilitates comparative work. In one important methodological aspect the Hungarian atlas differs from its European counterparts: there is no comprehensive growth-map. Instead, there are a series of growth-maps arranged side by side on one sheet. No doubt this method allows for greater accuracy in the representations of the individual growth-phases. Perhaps a composite growth-map at a greater level of abstraction might be added to the individual ones in the future in order to help the reader.

As a scholar of urban history working at the far western end of Europe, I found reading the above three volumes a demanding but very worthwhile venture. The challenge when looking at the three Hungarian volumes (and this is true of the European Historic Towns Atlas project as a whole) is that you look at primary source material. When you study the principal maps of the three towns, you are struck by the differences. Sopron is surrounded by a massive wall (inherited from antiquity), while the other two towns have no town walls at all. In Sopron the individual house plots are built side to side. In other words, houses are contiguous, while in Sátoraljaújhely and Szeged gable-sided houses cover only part of the plot. In all three towns irregular market places appear to be an open space associated with the earliest church. They are not comparable with the rectangular market places that we know from medieval town foundations in the area east of the Elbe, modern Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Sopron originated as a trading post on the former Roman Amber Road. On the basis of archival sources and topographical and archaeological evidence, Szende shows that the early layout of the town in plots occurred simultaneously with the arrival of the Franciscans. In other European countries Franciscan friaries were only set up once the towns were well established. I believe that this very early division of the town into plots is not found in any of the other European atlases. The archaeologists made a particularly significant contribution to the Sopron Atlas with reconstructions of the former Roman town and the eleventh to mid-thirteenth-century ispán castle (the castle of the royal representative). The transformation from the ispán’s castle to the royal town in the mid-thirteenth century coincided with the arrival of the Order of the Knights Hospitallers, who were settled in Sopron by Béla IV in 1247. There are parallels in other countries: the Hospitallers arrived in Kells (Ireland) at the time of the foundation of the town by an Anglo-Norman lord.

Sátoraljaújhely was planned as part of the effort to rebuild the kingdom of Hungary after the Mongol Invasion. Its charter dates to 1261 and is detailed, portraying an advanced civil society with more rights for the citizens than citizens appear to have enjoyed later in the landlord period of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the Middle Ages, the town was home to a parish church, Saint Emeric, a Pauline Monastery dedicated to Saint Giles, and the Saint Stephen’s Augustinian Friary. The history of the town between 1526 and 1711 was strongly influenced by the nearby presence of the Ottomans. The Ottomans never entered the town, but the Crimean Tatars did in 1566, and they burned down 86 percent of the houses and took denizens of the town as slaves. After the town was no longer in royal ownership, it became part of the estates of various aristocratic or noble families over time, including the Pálóczi, Perényi, Dobós, and Rákóczi families, who demanded services and taxes from the citizens.

A special characteristic of Sátoraljaújhely is the formation of districts which segregated areas of the town according to the ruling landlords. The aristocratic Perényi family was Lutheran, and the Újhely church became Lutheran until 1567, when the inhabitants took up Calvinist doctrines. In 1554, the Augustinian friary was dissolved and the lord integrated the street in which the friars had owned property into his domain. The Pauline monastery survived until the end of the sixteenth century and only reappeared as part of the Catholic Restoration of the 1640s. By the end of the seventeenth century, the population was divided among three religious traditions: Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, and Calvinists. In 1789, the Calvinists built a new church. By the end of the nineteenth century, Judaism had become the fourth major religious denomination. In 1940, there were 4,960 Jewish residents in Sátoraljaújhely. Tragically, by 1949 only 360 remained.

The maps showing the surroundings of Szeged, adapted from the 2nd Military Survey, provide a lively picture of the Tisza River, with all its meandering bends, that flooded parts of the town whenever the waters rose. Szeged was occupied by the Ottomans. Its fascicle contains a fascinating thematic map showing the social topography of Szeged in the sixteenth century on the basis of two tax registers, one from 1522 and the other from 1548, i.e. before and shortly after the Ottoman occupation. The map shows that in the suburb east of the castle (the so-called Palánk), judges, scribes and master craftsmen resided. North of the castle we find farmers, flock owners, and vineyard owners. The reader will wonder where the merchants were. My Hungarian colleagues tell me that local merchants were subsumed into the categories of flock-owners and vineyard-owners, because cattle, sheep, and wine were the main export articles both before and during the Ottoman period. Merchants specializing in other goods (spices, textiles, etc.) were usually not local residents, but rather people who traveled through the town.

The map also shows important buildings, including churches. It is interesting to learn how long into the period of Ottoman occupation churches survived. Only the Franciscan friary in the so-called Alsóváros part of the town remained and provided pastoral care to the surviving Catholic population. Otherwise, all the other Catholic churches were turned into mosques. The Ottoman occupation lasted from 1543 to 1686, but no buildings from that period have been preserved. In Szeged Sokollu Mustafa’s palace was situated in the marketplace in a building that most probably had been there prior to the Ottoman occupation. One wonders if it is still standing. It would be helpful if the atlas also gave indications of the dates at which buildings were demolished, redesigned, or put to other uses.

The presentation of the history of the three towns is done chronologically. Therefore, Szeged is discussed as a royal town between 1247 and 1543. The thematic map showing medieval churches and associated settlements vividly portrays the churches as focal points, which were surrounded by the houses of the wealthiest families. During the period specified in the next heading, “16th to 18th centuries: the late medieval city and Ottoman rule,” the town stagnated and became a military assembly point. According to an Ottoman tax register, in 1548 there were 1,203 heads of household in the city, 300 fewer than in the census of 1522. The Ottomans converted the Saint Demetrius Church into a mosque and built a minaret next to it. One interesting aspect of the period is that many churches fell into ruins, but cemeteries survived. The same observation applies to Ireland after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century. Under the Ottomans, the town was divided into different quarters along ethnic lines. From 1554 to 1560, the Turks expelled the entire Christian population from the central town-quarter, which was called Palánk. The wealthier among them abandoned the city. This process is reminiscent of what happened in former Roman towns along the Rhine when the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century.

The suggestions is made that in the post-Ottoman period there was no consolidated bourgeoisie in Szeged. Bad floods and epidemics were responsible for the fact that the number of inhabited plots fell by 50 percent by the middle of the eighteenth century. In the latter part of that century, life began to improve in Szeged due to an economic revival. After 1711, Szeged again became the nationwide center for salt storage. In the context of the Counter-Reformation, prominent buildings were built in the baroque style. The nineteenth century was a time of modernization, which bore witness to the construction of new squares, new public buildings in a neo-classical style, and improved infrastructure. The reconstruction of the town that followed the disastrous floods of 1879 turned Szeged into a modern city with a circular layout of roads reminiscent of Frankfurt am Main, where boulevards follow the line of a former medieval wall, as shown in the Szeged Atlas in order to further comparison.

These three fascicles are a tremendous achievement. While there is an editorial board, there is as of yet no host institute. The editors had to rely on sponsorship from archives and museums. Without the tenacity of the senior joint editor, Katalin Szende, that would hardly have been possible. The lack of a permanent hosting institute and an executive officer has deprived the Hungarian series in some instances of a unified approach. For example, the introduction to the Sopron volume contains an outline of the role of the Commission as founder of the series and a discussion of the importance of cadastral maps and the military survey for the production of the core maps. It would be helpful for readers of later fascicles if this information were repeated. Why is it that only the Sopron volume includes a CD with a PDF version of the publication? This situation will most likely improve in the near future, as a full-time researcher and coordinator has been appointed, who will streamline the project and iron out any inconsistencies. As of 2016, the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has been hosting the project.

Judging from the bibliography, a large amount of research had been done in Sopron and Szeged before the work of compiling the atlas was undertaken, while in Sátoraljaújhely a lot of research had to be undertaken by the author himself. The bibliography for Sopron consists of 340 entries very few of which have been published in Latin (medieval sources), German, or English, and works by archaeologists like János Gömöri in Sopron or medieval historians who work in a pan-European context, like Mozdzioch, Piekalski or Szende. If one takes into consideration the fact that a vast amount of research has been incorporated into the atlases and thereby made available, along with primary source material in the form of maps, illustrations, taxation records and fieldwork, then we begin to appreciate just how important these atlases are for researchers in Hungary but also for urban historians from other parts of Europe and beyond. We owe a debt of gratitude to our colleagues who took on this meticulous work. On some occasions, the authors of these volumes point towards comparative urban studies and tempt the reader to think of more comparisons with other towns that are part of the European Historic Towns Atlas project.

These three beautifully produced volumes open the door to Hungarian urban history. They are essential for defining the typology of Hungarian towns, and they will facilitate comparative urban studies on a European scale. Furthermore, they will enable scholars and instructors to teach the history of Hungarian towns on a much wider scale than has previously been possible.

Anngret Simms

 

Egy székely két élete: Kövendi Székely Jakab pályafutása [Two lives of a Székely: The career of Jakab Székely of Kövend]. By Bence Péterfi. (Sziluett. Korszerű történelmi életrajzok.) Pécs: Kronosz, 2014. 165 pp.

Hungarian medievalists are to some extent exceptionally lucky. I know of hardly any country where the surviving medieval documentary evidence can be more easily accessed than in Hungary. Thanks to the digitalization projects undertaken by the Hungarian National Archives, more than one hundred-thousand legal documents can be accessed online with ease. This database provides a sufficient foundation for research on virtually any aspect of the history of the Hungarian Middle Ages. However, there are a number of topics for which the scholar is compelled to consult further archives. One of these topics is the study of someone who was involved in the political life of more than one country or court, such as Jakab Székely of Kövend, the focus of a new book by Bence Péterfi.

The book is a biography of a medieval self-made man who hailed from Transylvania. The Székely (Szekler) family of Kövend (present-day Plăieşti in Romania) may not have belonged to the richest class of the Székely society, the primores, but by the time Jakab Székely died in 1504 he had become a frequent visitor at the imperial court of Maximilian and owner of a number of major estate complexes, both in the Hungarian Kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire. His career was extraordinary, even in the Middle Ages. The book explores the ways in which a nobleman in the second half of the fifteenth century was able to achieve such a position.

Jakab Székely was born around 1445–1450, but we hardly have any information about him before 1472, when he and his family were given a number of estates in the Székely Lands and also in other areas of Transylvania. But it is more telling that from the mid-1470s Jakab Székely was frequently to be found in the entourage of King Matthias I. Székely was among the numerous delegates who went to Naples in 1476 to accompany the future wife of Matthias, Beatrice of Aragon, to Hungary. In addition to the roles he played at the court, it was his military service that allowed him to rise rapidly in the social hierarchy. During the war against Frederick III in the 1480s, he was one of the most important leaders of the Hungarian army, as indicated by the fact that he became the captain of two of the most important captures, the wealthy trading centers of Ptuj and Radkersburg for more than a decade. From the mid-1480s, he served as chief commandant of the Hungarian army in Steiermarkt, while István Szapolyai, later palatine of Hungary (and father of János Szapolyai, future king of Hungary), served the same position for Austria. Székely’s positions suggest that he was in command of a considerable proportion of the means spent on the war against the Habsburg territories. During these years, he acquired even more estates. His growing importance is clearly illustrated by the fact that he had enough power to marry a woman from a baronial family, the Szécsi family, which was thanks to his efforts in negotiating the settlement of a dispute between the family, Miklós Szécsi, and King Matthias I.

After the death of Matthias in 1490, the political situation in Hungary became increasingly complex. There were a number of claimants to the Hungarian throne (Beatrice, John Corvin, the natural son of the late Matthias, Maximilian, the son of Frederick III and king of the Romans at the time, as well as two members of the Jagiełło family, Władysław II, king of Bohemia and John I Albert, later king of Poland). In this period, it was difficult for a landlord to navigate successfully between the claimants, but as Péterfi demonstrates, by turning to the Habsburgs as early as July 1490, Székely managed to do so. In this period, however, he had to hand over some of his castles to Frederick, but he was able, in the meantime, to put his hands on others. The civil war, which lasted for more than a year, came to an end with the treaty concluded at Pressburg between Frederick, Maximilian and Vladislaus II in 1491. According to the treaty, Székely, along with others who had managed to occupy castles, had to hand them over to their lawful lords. This treaty has been familiar to scholars for some time now, but Péterfi is the first historian to draw attention, both in recent publications and in this book, to the fact that some of the treaty’s conditions were never implemented. In consequence, along with a number of other families, the Székelys became permanent landlords in two realms, the Holy Roman Empire and the Hungarian Kingdom. After the treaty was concluded, he never changed political sides again. He remained loyal to the Habsburgs, which turned out to be a rather prudent decision, as in the long run he not only managed to keep most of his properties in Hungary but also was able to leave a number of castles and their furnishings to his heirs in the territory of the Empire. Péterfi shows that Székely’s incomes from his possessions in Steiermarkt may have been more significant, but even taking into account only his income from lands in the Hungarian Kingdom, by the end of the fifteenth century he had emerged as one of the major landlords. Because of his loyalty to the Habsburgs, he was generously rewarded both materially and symbolically in the Empire. The author shows that Székely’s seal-usage as well as his title as knight banneret (Bannerher) were both signs of his strong position in Frederick’s and later in Maximilian’s court. Péterfi discusses Székely’s military and diplomatic missions in the second half of the 1490s, which increasingly were against Italy and France, rather than the Hungarian Kingdom. The monograph does not conclude with the death of Jakab Székely in 1504. Rather, it also includes a summary of the history of the family from the execution of Székely’s lost last will and testament to the extinction of the male line of the family in 1643.

The book offers a thorough analysis of the surviving narrative sources (Bonfini, Unrest, Tubero etc.) that concern the political events of the 1480s and 1490s, combined with other documentary – mostly archival – evidence from Hungarian and Austrian archives. The biography is more than a mere presentation of an undeniably splendid career. It is a well-chosen example of the ways in which a talented member of the lesser nobility in the second half of the fifteenth century could rise to become a member of the higher classes of society. The secondary literature on the history of the period contains examples of a few people who had similar careers, both laymen and members of the clergy, but we nonetheless know very little about the strategies that were used in order to achieve these successes. It is also a well-chosen example because of the insights it offers into the ways in which a nobleman with estates in two realms (“amphibious nobility,” as the author calls it) could prosper. Finally, it provides a concise overview of the political history of the period around the death of King Matthias, in particular with regards to the events that took place at the border region between the Habsburg territories and Hungary.

The work was published in a new series launched by a lesser known publisher, Kronosz, which aims at presenting grey eminences of Hungarian history to a wider audience. It is of course not the reviewer’s task to question the legitimacy of the publication of Jakab Székely’s biography in this series, but it reasonable to wonder about the extent to which the book will reach the intended readership. Because of the decision by the publisher to attempt to reach a wide audience, the book includes only a few endnotes and a rather limited bibliography. On the one hand the attempt to demonstrate to the wider public that the study of medieval Hungary is more than the study of kings and political history is of course to be welcomed. However, perhaps the most self-evident and possibly the most eager readership, historians of the Middle Ages, will have to grapple with difficulties when using the book, since much of the valuable information, which is the result of extensive archival work on the part of the author, is hard to track down.

András Vadas

 

Towns and Cities of the Croatian Middle Ages: Authority and Property. Edited by Irena Benyovsky Latin and Zrinka Pešorda Vardić. Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest–Croatian Institute of History, 2014. 534 pp.

This volume, which is the product of an international conference entitled Towns and Cities of the Croatian Middle Ages: Authority and Property (Zagreb, November 2010), consists of 22 studies dealing with topics ranging from Late Antiquity to the beginning of the Early Modern Period. Geographically, the studies focus on the Eastern Adriatic and Central Europe. This volume attempts to answer questions regarding the relationships between urban authorities and the urban space by analyzing cities which are underrepresented in modern historiography. The articles are not organized in chronological order, but rather in thematic groups, with an introduction that outlines the theoretical background of the volume.

The first group of articles deals with the question of public and private property in the cities and the surrounding areas, drawing mainly on the example of Istria (pp.35–114). The studies in this group analyze the transition that cities underwent between the fifth and the tenth centuries by highlighting the process of ruralization of urban centers and its long-term consequences. In this period, the privileged elites began to associate themselves with the municipality, blurring the borders between public and private. The cities underwent significant expansions, amassing greater areas of arable land, and this led to new territorial organization of the municipality. The expansion of ownership also affected the relationship between the authorities, members of the nobility, and the Church.

The studies in the second group observe the development of urban centers and their relationships with the local nobilities (pp.115–271). As addressed by these authors, the lack of written sources does not indicate a lack of developed urban centers in the Early Middle Ages, and the use of archaeology can cover the gap left by the scarcity of written sources. Most of these studies draw attention to the connections between kindred groups and cities and the effects that kindred control had on urban development. The studies in this section consider the administrative and economic developments of cities, analyze the trade networks established between the oligarchs and the cities, and compare the development of the urban centers with the models of premodern cities promoted in the works of Max Weber and Fernand Braudel. The conclusion is reached that urban centers tended to develop as a means of protecting and controlling trade.

The third group of studies examines the status of urban elites and the mechanisms with which the elites increased their lands and their influence over the city and its districts (pp.273–437). The nobility in medieval Dalmatian and Italian cities had a privileged position in building towers but also greater obligations in the organization of the defense of the city. While the property in the hands of the nobility of Dubrovnik was constantly expanding through the appropriation of new city quarters, the growth of the property and influence of the confraternities led to attempts by the city authorities to introduce regulations. The articles in this group make particular use of notary and judicial sources, as well as material remains. This enabled authors to study the fate of the lands in Venetian Dalmatia that were originally owned by key members of the nobility of Trogir (Ana Plosnić Škarić), as well as to observe fluctuations in the real estate market and its functions in the late medieval community of Split (Tonija Andrić). The last article moves away from the coastal towns and introduces prosopography in the research concerning the owners of luxurious palaces in Gradec (Zagreb) in the fifteenth century.

The fourth group deals with the rights of marginal groups, namely women and foreigners (pp.439–68). The work of Marija Karbić looks at the right of women to own and sell property. Karbić examines the ways in which women could become citizens (cives) in the medieval urban centers of Gradec and Varaždin. The second chapter, by Ante Birin, examines city statutes from the late Middle Ages and analyzes the decisions that regulated the position of foreigners (forenses) and their ownership of town properties.

The fifth group examines the legal regulations and procedures concerning the ownership and management of property in medieval Dalmatia (pp.469–508), mainly by focusing on urban laws and how they regulated daily life in the city. These laws dealt with a number of issues, including business transactions, regulations of testaments, pledging, forcible taking of property, thefts, and fines. The last work in this group, by Nella Lonza, compares the work of the legal institution of Dubrovnik with its statute in order to uncover differences between “common” and “heavy” burglaries.

The last article in the volume did not fit in any other group. Trpimir Vedriš (pp.509–34) analyzes symbolic ownership based on the theories of capital by Pierre Bourdieu. Vedriš moves away from the definition of property as an actual material thing and observes the role of the translatio of the relic of Saint Chrysogonus to Zadar and the social memory attached to the relocation. By comparing the translatio with several donation charters, Vedriš detects the existence of “social knowledge,” and he comes to the conclusion that the population of Zadar viewed the preservation of the memory of the burial of the saint as an important way of building communal identity.

Beyond the variety of topics it contains, this collection’s most novel contribution is the application of recent or less frequently used theories and approaches in medieval scholarship. Despite the variety of topics addressed in the volume, there are some absences, such as articles dealing with the relationship between the Church and urban ownership. This is a key issue, since in many of the Dalmatian and Istrian communes discussed in the articles the Church had considerable land holdings, both in the enclosed areas of the cities and in the hinterlands. However, this shortcoming does not detract from the generally positive qualities of the book or its scholarly importance. The volume as a whole is a valuable contribution to the study of urban history, presenting, in English, the latest developments in research concerning the medieval lands of present-day Croatia and the surrounding areas.

Mišo Petrović

 

Customary Law in Hungary: Courts, Texts, and the Tripartitum. By Martyn Rady. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 266 pp.

In nineteenth-century Hungary, the history of Hungarian law was often compared with the history of English law. The contention was made that in both places local tradition maintained its primacy. Roman law was not slavishly adopted, and both countries had strong parliamentary traditions. After all, the observation was made, the Magna Carta and the Golden Bull, the foundations of English and Hungarian constitutional law respectively, both dated to the same era, 1215 in the case of the Magna Carta and 1222 in the case of the Golden Bull. In the twentieth century, German historian Fritz Kern, one of the founders of the comparative study of the history of constitutional law, drew a parallel between the history of the Hungarian and the English parliaments in his typology of European parliaments. Today, we speak of this question from different perspectives. The phrase “adoption of Roman law” became another one of the many outdated historical concepts that proliferated at the turn of the century. Hungarian law in the late Middle Ages and Jus commune were so intertwined that it is both pointless and impossible to speak of an opposition between them. The Magna Carta had no influence whatsoever on the Golden Bull. Today, we know significantly more concerning the mechanisms of European parliaments than was known one-hundred years ago. That we are unable, our increasingly detailed stock of learning notwithstanding, to compose the kinds of broad statements that were made at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth is another question entirely. Today, no one would expect a British historian to provide a comparative study of the history of English and Hungarian law. So we are left with synthesis. The book by Martyn Rady, the first study of Hungarian customary law in English, is just that.

Rady offers a focused examination of Hungarian customary law. The so-called Tripartitum, the first summary of Hungarian customary law, is at the center of his inquiry. The Tripartitum was written by István Werbőczy, one of the magistrates in the royal court of justice and a man who later had an influential career as a politician. He completed the Tripartitum in 1514, and three years later he submitted it to a printing press. The Tripartitum is not technically a book of statutes for two reasons. First, it is not a summary of previously existing laws, but rather a collection of the norms of customary law at the time. Second, it never actually became law. It was simply a legal work that had been compiled by a private individual for practical use. Rady is one of the most highly esteemed scholars on medieval history in Hungary and Central Europe. He has innumerable publications, including a book on Buda in the Middle Ages and the medieval Hungarian nobility. This book, which is in no small part the fruit of earlier research and publications, was conceived when Rady participated in the translation and publication of laws from the Jagiellonian era and the Tripartitum for a series entitled The Laws of Hungary.

Until the twentieth century, legal tradition in Hungary was dominated by customary law. Rady’s book certainly does not stop at 1514, when Werbőczy wrote the Tripartitum. He examines the history of Hungarian law until 1959, when the first code of Hungarian civil law was proclaimed. In his assessment, it was not until 1959 that the rule of consuetudo in Hungary came to an end. As a characteristic example, he refers to the publication of the Tripartitum in 1897 (as part of the celebrations marking the millennial anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin in 896), in which the editors used bold typeface to set off sections that they regarded as prevailing law (as was done at the time when any Hungarian book of laws was published). In the case of the Tripartitum, some 70 pages of the text, i.e. more than one-third, were regarded as statutes in force (the document was 160 pages, not including the 25-page Prologue). According to Rady, however, this practice was little more than an “empty fiction.” Rady reflects on the contentions that were made in the nineteenth century concerning the similarities between the English and the Hungarian constitutions. In his view, this was a “spurious parallel” (p.240). As this ascertainment exemplifies, Rady’s conclusions are simple. When he finds something too artificial, he does not adopt even a century-and-a-half old concept like H.S. Maine’s widely used concept of “fiction.”

The organization of the book is logical. The historical introduction and a section in which Rady clarifies what he means by customary law are followed by a presentation of the Tripartitum. This is followed by a presentation of the sources of common law: charters, legislation, and a description of the courts. There is a separate chapter on the intricate interconnections between the nobility and the king, as well as a separate chapter on crimes and a presentation of medieval rules of procedure. These chapters are followed by sections dealing with the Early Modern Era and the Modern Era, including the political and institutional changes in the new era, processes of codification that took place after Tripartitum, and a presentation of jurisdictions in the eighteenth century. The book concludes with a chapter entitled “Custom and Law in the Modern Period.”

Rady’s assessment of customary law is founded on the most up-to-date literature on legal history. He does not content himself with the repetition of an opposition between law and custom, an opposition used even by Werbőczy himself. On the contrary, he provides a very precise, understandable presentation of the complex relationship between written law and customary law (p.8).

Rady’s task was not made much easier by Hungarian historians. Following the socialist reorganization of the sciences, the study of the history of governments and systems of government continued to thrive, but the study of the history of law faltered. The sections of Rady’s book that address topics that other historians have already examined are the most thorough and convincing. Like the vast majority of Hungarian legal historians and historians, Rady attributes considerable significance to a few of the tracts from the Tripartitum. However, apart from the preface and the sections that are of political and social significance, he only writes in detail on the titles, which concerned the rules of inheritance. Rady provides a short and clear description of the courts of the royal presence (p.51), as well as a convincing section on processes of codification after the Tripartitum (chapter 10), in which he presents the essence of the Early Modern works. There is no description, however, of the royal court system in the period between 1541 and 1691. This is not a mere matter of chance. To this day Hungarian historians have failed to address the subject adequately. In 1541, Hungary was divided into three parts: the middle swath of the country was occupied by the Ottomans, Transylvania became an independent principality, and a slender strip in the west and the north remained under the rule of the Habsburgs as the Hungarian kings. In this part of the country the old court system remained in place, though by the time the country was liberated of Ottoman rule in 1691 the courts had undergone major transformation.

Rady’s book, however, is by no means a simple abridgment or collage of the existing secondary literature. He raises new questions and examines the conclusions of the works he consults, comparing them with the primary sources. He uses both published and archival sources. His description of the relationships between witch trials and public prosecution represents a very important contribution to the history of criminal law in the Early Modern Era (p.119). He also makes the accurate observation that the contention according to which the barons blocked the passage of the Tripartitum into law because it did not recognize the superiority of the rights they enjoyed over the rights of the lesser nobility is unpersuasive (p.18). This contention is as widespread as it is unconvincing.

Rady writes in a clear, comprehensible style. He avoids complicated modern legal terminology and words that are fashionable in some of the tendencies in the writing of legal history, even though they often obscure the point of an inquiry. There are some small mistakes, but they do not undermine the essence of the book. For instance, the Magyars and the Onogurs were not two peoples who melted together. Rather, the two terms were used to denote the same people (p.1).

Customary Law in Hungary is far more than a new monograph on the history of old Hungarian law. Rady’s use of sources is original and does not get lost in the details. He adheres consistently to his initial goal: how and why did customary law remain the decisive thread of Hungarian law until the twentieth century? By adopting this approach, he sets a high standard for those who seek to follow in his footsteps. Any attempt to characterize old Hungarian law without consulting this book would be quite unthinkable.

 

István Tringli

Geschichte schreiben im osmanischen Südosteuropa: Eine Kulturgeschichte orthodoxer Historiographie des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts. By Konrad Petrovszky. (Balkanologische Veröffentlichungen: Geschichte, Gesellschaft und Kultur in Südosteuropa, 60.) Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014. 272 pp.

It was the fate of the pre-modern states that were inhabited by numerous peoples to be presented by the national histories of the successor states, which later came into existence in competition with one another and were based on notions of a unified linguistic and cultural space, in a fragmentary manner. This is as true of the Habsburg Monarchy as it is of the Ottoman Empire. In the case of the Ottoman Empire, an additional consideration is the simple fact that the historiography on the realm, which first began to be written in the Renaissance, has been studied with greater duration and depth than the practice of writing history in the Ottoman-Orthodox cultural and communication space itself. We know very little about the multilingual Orthodox chronicles, annals, and other historical texts of the Early Modern Era in southeastern Europe. This is where the monograph (originally submitted to the Faculty of Philosophy at Humboldt University as a doctoral dissertation) by Konrad Petrovszky comes in. Petrovszky is not concerned with providing a conventional narrative of the Orthodox Christian historiography in southeastern Europe under Ottoman rule, nor does he offer an assessment of the historiographical texts, which for the most part were written in Greek, Church Slavonic, and Romanian. He is far more interested in the shifting relationships between these texts and social constellations, as indeed the subtitle of his book suggests. He seeks to further a deeper understanding of “the social and communicational preconditions of the writing of history” and provide “a dense contextualization of historiographical practices” (p.12).

Petrovszky takes the multilingual nature of southeastern Europe and the accompanying diversity of its traditions of writing, which inevitably hinder any attempt to offer an integral study of the historical texts of the Ottoman Empire that embraces the multiplicity of languages, as a challenge. He is quite at home in the languages that are used in the primary sources (Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Romanian), whether printed or handwritten texts, much as he is at home in the many languages of the relevant secondary literature. He offers persuasive arguments in support of his choice of sources, and the spatial and temporal frameworks of his inquiry also seem reasonable. This is particularly true of his decision to ignore the writing of history in Transylvania and Veneto, where the forms and practices adopted by historians differed strikingly from the practices used in the neighboring territories.

The ambitious goals that Petrovszky has set for his treatise and, therefore, his own praxis as a scholar, become clear in the dense introduction, which is rich with ideas and provides an exemplary presentation of the subject of the inquiry. The book, a well-informed inquiry, is eloquent and persuasive from the first page to the last. One has little difficulty following his argument, thanks in large part to the clear and balanced structure. The introductory chapter on trends and tendencies in social and cultural developments in Ottoman southeastern Europe between 1500 and 1700, in which Petrovszky offers a sketch of the interrelationships among political, administrative, cultural, social, and religious processes of exchange, is followed by a chapter that focuses on the Orthodox historiography. He is concerned with the circulation of knowledge in the Early Modern Era: education and the relevant backdrop and paths, the safeguarding and dissemination of knowledge, and finally the role of book printing. Petrovszky then presents “the craft of history writing between the spoken, written, and printed word.” He is concerned with the specific circumstances of the transmission of individual texts, phenomena such as the limited written culture of southeastern Europe, evidence of a shifting understanding of writing, and the gradual rise of the vernacular in the seventeenth century. While the first half of the monograph is focused on the constraints and preconditions of historiographical practice, the two chapters that follow bring questions of content, discourse, and models of history to the fore. For instance, Petrovszky discusses the meaning of the Byzantine tradition for the Orthodox Christian writing of history, and he presents various narrative models and distinctive regional characteristics.

The conclusions of this inquiry, which is persuasive both in its methods and erudition and in its ideas and argumentation, are manifold. Petrovszky convincingly demonstrates that “the Orthodox written culture of southeastern Europe remained throughout the period in question closely tied to the religious sphere or at least under its strong influence. […] In the area in which the south-Slavic languages prevailed, the writer, the place of writing, and the place of printing remained more strongly bound to the field of the Church than they did in other Orthodox regions and language areas” (p.229). In addition to presenting this finding, which he supports with numerous examples, Petrovszky offers insights into the relationships between political context, social diversification, educational migration, the transfer of knowledge, and Orthodox concepts of history and the writing of history. The same is true of his observations concerning content. Thus, for instance he determines that Islamic history writing is given no reception whatsoever in the texts that are in the center of his inquiry. It is quite clear “that the existence of a large space in which intercommunication was possible, such as the space that was undoubtedly created by the space of Ottoman rule, did not always mean permeability and actual exchange” (p.232). This inquiry, which far surpasses the standards set by other treatises submitted to complete academic requirements for historians in Germany, constitutes a significant contribution to other, quite varied disciplines in the humanities. This is true not only for the departments and institutes that deal with the culture and history of southeastern Europe, but also for scholars who are interested in the early modern intellectual history in Central and Western Europe.

Joachim Bahlcke

 

A gyulafehérvári hiteleshely levélkeresői (1556–1690) [The requisitors of the Gyulafehérvár place of authentication (1556–1690)]. By Emőke Gálfi. (Erdélyi Tudományos Füzetek, 283.) Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Múzeum Egyesület, 2015. 235 pp.

In the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era, there was a network of institutions in Hungary known as the “loca credibilia,” which were chapters or convents that served as places of authentication. The functions of these places of authentication included serving the role of notary public. In recent years, historians have begun to realize that the documents that were produced by these places of authentication, which have traditionally been used as sources in the study of diplomatic and institutional history, are also indispensable in the study of the history of Early Modern society. In the decades following the defeat of the Hungarian army at the hands of the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the development of the institution began to take a different turn in Transylvania than in the Kingdom of Hungary, where it continued to function. In 1556, the places of authentication in Transylvania became secular, and the tasks relating to the maintenance of records were taken over by secular scribes, so-called requisitors, who begin to be mentioned in the sources in 1559.

The goal of Emőke Gálfi’s monograph is to examine the lives and careers of the officials of the place of authentication of the chapter of Gyulafehérvár (today Alba Iulia in Romania) and the history of the institution, from its secularization in 1556 to the end of the principality, from the perspectives of governmental and social history. Gálfi has divided the monograph into three longer chapters. In the first, she presents the evolution of the office of the requisitor and, in this context, the secularization of the Transylvanian chapter (one of the consequences of the Reformation) and the functions and roles of the first requisitors. In the second chapter, she examines the social strata of the intelligentsia represented by the requisitors. She begins with the process according to which they were appointed and the tasks with which they were entrusted (which were the traditional tasks of the archivist) and then provides subchapters on their incomes and estates. As the reader learns from these subchapters, on the basis of their estates and the number of serfs belonging to their estates, most of them were members of the medium-sized estate-owning nobility. It is worth noting that roughly half of them were not originally from Transylvania. Rather, their families had fled to Transylvania from regions of the country that had fallen under threat from the Ottoman Turks. Regarding their social backgrounds, eleven of them had come from urban settings or market towns. Four of them belonged to the middle nobility. One of them was a serf and two were Székelys. The rest either were members of the lesser nobility or of an indeterminate background. However, by the end of their lives, thanks to the roles they had played in these offices, all of them were able to achieve noble rank. Sources indicate that at least fifteen of them had had thorough schooling. From the perspective of their denominational makeup (they were Unitarians and Calvinists), it is quite clear that almost exclusively people belonging to Protestant churches were regarded as suitable for this important position. Indeed this factor determined to a large extent the network of their relationships. They were closely tied to the Calvinist elites. They also seem to have adopted very deliberate strategies with regards to marriage. They strove to improve their circumstances by marrying women who either were of equal social position and wealth or of higher social position and wealth. The 32 wives on whom information is available of 22 requisitors (the difference is due to some of the man having had more than one wife) were mostly of noble origins. Only men from more humble social backgrounds chose wives from among the burghers.

The third chapter, which examines the documents and data concerning the requisitors, is the most expansive. Gálfi offers a detailed presentation of the social backgrounds, educations, careers, and material and familial relationships of 38 requisitors in chronological order on the basis of thorough knowledge of the primary sources and secondary literature. The appendix is an important complement to this chapter. It contains in extenso supplements concerning the requisitors, including certificates, correspondence, last wills and testaments, letters regarding the division of properties, inventories of assets, etc.

Gálfi’s monograph addresses what has remained something of a blank spot in Hungarian historiography. The publication of the book is important from at least two perspectives for scholars. First, the history of the institution itself, the loca credibilia, has hardly been a subject of much interest among historians. Her book may well serve to draw attention to its significance in the larger context of institutional history. Second, it is admirable for the thoroughness and nuance with which it examines the functions and social composition of the Transylvanian requisitors, who represented an institution essentially unfamiliar in Hungary. Thus, Gálfi has enriched the field with a monograph that addresses an important subject and constitutes a significant contribution to our knowledge of the period in question. It may well prompt further inquiries into the history of the roles of loca credibilia in the Early Modern Era.

Irén Bilkei

 

Török szövetség – Habsburg kiegyezés: A Bocskai-felkelés történetéhez [Ottoman alliance – Habsburg compromise: On the history of the Bocskai uprising]. By Sándor Papp. Budapest: Károli Gáspár Református Egyetem–L’Harmattan, 2014. 398 pp.

The anti-Habsburg movement led by István Bocskai, which took place between 1604 and 1606, has always been given a place of prominent importance in Hungarian historiography. There are several reasons for this. As the first piece of legislation concerning the religious freedoms of the Hungarian estates was the result of the peace treaty that was signed at the end of this uprising, Bocskai was quite obviously seen as a hero of the Reformation by the Protestant historiography of the nineteenth century. This denominational perspective—canonized at the International Monument to the Reformation in Geneva, where Bocskai’s statue is the only one representing the region—was paired with another political message very popular in nineteenth-century historiography, namely that Hungary’s repeated attempts to achieve independence represented one of the most important threads in its history. As this uprising was the first occasion on which the Hungarian estates had taken weapons in hand to defend their liberties against their legitimate king, Rudolph of the Habsburg House, Bocskai was an obvious choice for a national hero, who represented not only religious freedoms but also the struggle for independence. After 1945, the uprising became canonized as a “szabadságharc,” an ambiguous term that can refer to a fight for (political or religious) liberties (which the uprising beyond any doubt was), but also has the connotations of a struggle for national independence, especially since it is used to refer to the Revolution of 1848.

It was the latter connotation and everything that it entails in respect to narratives of long-term historical developments that prompted a revisionist interpretation ten years ago, on the occasion of the publications of a massive quantity of writings produced for the anniversary of the uprising. One of the most important arguments presented by historian Géza Pálffy in his critique of interpretations of the Bocskai uprising as a fight for independence was that its leader, István Bocskai, was, in the course of the events, not only elected prince of Transylvania, a tributary state of the Ottoman Empire, but also enjoyed the sultan’s military support. Thus, he had no chance of emerging from the fight as a ruler of a Hungary independent of the two neighboring empires. One of the most important reference points used by Pálffy was the early studies by Sándor Papp on the Ottoman contacts of the Bocskai uprising, which brought forth many novel results and has now grown into a monograph, a dissertation that secured its author the title of Doctor of the Academy of Sciences.

Having acknowledged the ideologically heavily loaded character of his field of research, Papp promises to make a thorough reconstruction of the chronology and causal connections between the various moves of different actors in this complex game of politics and war based on the broadest possible selection of primary sources. This is a promise he fulfills to the letter. He draws on his philological skills in Ottoman Turkish paleography to provide documents to enrich his reader’s understanding of the Ottoman perspective on an unprecedented scale and also dedicates longer sections to the meticulous study of sources long familiar and long misunderstood. With his keen aptitude for detail, Papp at times risks jeopardizing the coherence of his inquiry because of his meticulous focus on the close study of primary sources. Some sections have little to do with the main topic of the book, such as the painstaking reconstruction and critique of the sources related to the alleged poisoning of Bocskai in 1606 (which Papp ultimately finds unlikely ever to have taken place). It may have been prudent to have published such sections as separate articles. In most instances, however, Papp’s method yields important insights into the questions he posed as the most important focus of his research.

The Bocskai uprising took place in the very last phase of the Long Turkish War at the turn of the seventeenth century (or the Fifteen Years War, as it is known in Hungarian historiography), a fact that has been acknowledged by all authors writing about this historical event, though no one has taken it as seriously as Papp has. He begins his narrative several years before the uprising, and he provides an account of the various attempts at peacemaking between Habsburgs and Ottomans, a prehistory of Bocskai’s campaign. It is thus immediately apparent why the Hungarian uprising was met with such a hearty welcome from the Ottoman side and why the grand vizier found it important to issue in the name of the sultan an inauguration document for Bocskai as king of Hungary only some months after his initial successes. A rare collection of correspondence between Bocskai and the Ottoman dignitaries and also among the sultan’s office-holders involved in the Hungarian campaign enable Papp to trace the steps in the process of coordination between the parties. This material shows that the details of military cooperation were continuously discussed, and Grand Vizier Lala Mehmed expected a great deal from Bocskai’s activities. It is also clear that the Ottomans tried to keep Bocskai and his Hungarian supporters interested in not concluding a final settlement with the representatives of the king of Hungary until there was a chance to reach an agreement on the questions debated at the Ottoman–Habsburg peace negotiations that led eventually to the Treaty of Zsitvatorok.

One of the most important focal points of Papp’s narrative is the personal meeting between Grand Vizier Lala Mehmed and István Bocskai (who by that time had been elected prince of Transylvania and Hungary) at Rákosmező on the November 11, 1605. On this occasion, Bocskai was given a crown by the Ottoman dignitary. Apart from clarifying the origins of this crown (and identifying it as a Byzantine jewel, which had been renovated in Constantinople for the occasion), Papp also provides convincing arguments against one of the widely familiar myths concerning the Ottoman relationship to the Bocskai uprising. On the basis of the apologetic contemporary description of Johannes Bocatius, Hungarian historiography for centuries has claimed that Bocskai accepted the crown only as a jewel, not as royal insignia, and that he did not seek to challenge the right of Rudolph, the legitimate ruler, to the Hungarian throne. A close reading of Bocatius’ narrative has persuaded Papp that such an insult would not have been possible at an audience staged by the second most important person in the Ottoman Empire for a prince who had been in subordinate position towards the sultan. Recently discovered Ottoman and Hungarian sources also support this conclusion.

All in all, the thorough source analysis, paired with an interest in the wider political context, make Papp’s monograph a valuable contribution not only to a more realistic understanding of Hungarian history, but also to a more nuanced grasp of the history of the Ottoman Empire and its relationships to its tributaries.

Gábor Kármán

 

Bécs vonzásában: Az agrárpiacosodás feltételrendszere Moson vármegyében a 19. század első felében [In the pull of Vienna: The preconditions of the development of the agrarian market in Moson County in the first half of the nineteenth century]. By Gergely Krisztián Horváth. Budapest: Balassi, 2013. 695 pp.

Gergely Krisztián Horváth’s new monograph is a masterpiece of Hungarian economic and social history, both of which are undergoing a refreshing revival. It offers a thorough picture of the economic processes of the protoindustrial period, the various effects they had on society, and the responses (which showed varying degrees of flexibility) that were given to the challenges that arose, all of which led to a gradual loosening of the hierarchical feudal social order in the region before 1848. In order to present the economic processes that were taking place in the first half of the nineteenth century and loosening the existing social structure, Horváth chose to examine Moson County, which lies in the western corner of Hungary, at the gateway of Vienna.

The book is structured around a gradual approach to its subject. The introduction, in which Horváth raises the fundamental questions of his study, acquaints the reader with the conclusions in the available secondary literature and clarifies the theoretical framework of the inquiry. This is followed by a presentation of the structural characteristics of the region. Here, Horváth adopts a gradual approach, beginning on the regional level (the relationship between Vienna and Moson County at the beginning of the industrial revolution in Austria, which led to deindustrialization as a complementary process) and then examining local circumstances (the social structures of the villages). This is followed by a description of the system of natural and geographical preconditions of the development of an agricultural marketplace and a discussion of the ways in which this was influenced by anthropogenic factors. The archducal estate of Moson County and the county itself are presented separately as independent agents with diverging interests, as are the social factors (from work done in the service of a landlord to schooling) that shaped peasant farming and determined the surplus quantity that could be sent to market. This is followed by other factors that influenced trade, including border and customs policy and conflicts involving transportation. Finally, Horváth provides a quantitative analysis of exports, including their composition and the roles they played in the provision of supplies for Vienna and the living conditions of the peasantry. The book follows a logical structure in which the various elements build clearly on one another, while at the same time the many case studies and comparisons offer an array of information.

Horváth adopts primarily an analytical approach. The best example of this is perhaps the chapter in which he examines the relationships between demographic, social, denominational, and ethnic differences (how did religious affiliation affect family size and economic influence, and was it a decisive factor in the success of adaptation strategies) and the extent of the influence of this on economic development (was there a connection between the size and production capacity of a plot of land and the social or ethnic background of its owner). The map appendix, which illustrates natural and social-economic processes and regional differences in these processes, helps orient the reader.

Horváth’s decision to focus on Moson County proved fortuitous. Influences arriving from the West and the interregional division of labor (industrial goods for agricultural goods) hit this region first in Hungary. Thus, the effects they had can be examined directly. Because of the geography of the land and the potentials this created for transportation, the region profited from the situation. The production and social indicators of the county, which were comparatively favorable on the national level, were as much consequences as they were preconditions of this process. According to Horváth, of the favorable conditions one of the most significant was the ratio of livestock to serfs, which was remarkably high in comparison with the rest of the country, as well as the literacy rate and the ethnic makeup (it was the only county in Hungary with a German-speaking majority, and thus there were no real obstacles to communication with Austria). The presence of the archducal estate in Mosonmagyaróvár was also a favorable circumstance: the concentration of capital helped solve problems that were in principle the responsibility of the county, but the administration was unable to address them because of lack of will and lack of sources. Individuals were no better able to solve these kinds of issues, since at the time, i.e. in the early days of the emergence of a burgher middle class, they did not have the necessary financial resources or the forums for self-organization. Large estates played a significant role in the development of higher education, the modernization of farming, the spread of industrial and agricultural innovation, and protective measures against floods, which threatened people’s livelihoods and sustenance. Thus, the dynamic development of the region was not due so much to its natural and geographical features as it was to the economic and social structures that emerged relatively early here in comparison with other parts of the country.

It is worth asking why the region, which lay near to an industrial center, was not itself able to embark on the path towards industrialization (Horváth examines this in the chapter entitled “Protoindustrialization contra the Agrarian Market”). According to classical interpretations, the explanation for this lies in the relative prosperity enjoyed in the field of agriculture, which was a consequence of the division of labor that had emerged. It led to a decline in small industry in the region that served the industrial center because of competition with the manufacturing industry. However, the turn for the better in “terms of trade” and the growth in agricultural exports (according to theory, this in general leads naturally to deindustrialization, since it is more profitable to invest in agriculture) created an accumulation of capital that could have been invested in industry (instead of this, the consumption of imported industrial goods was on the rise). The explanation for why this did not take place lies in the absence of social structure as an institutional background and the hindering effects this had. In Horváth’s assessment, the fact that Moson County often was more rigid than a given estate, village, or social stratum in its responses to the challenges that arose (the problems of drainage and the regulation of waterways to protect the marshlands of Hanság from flooding and create more arable land or the economic problems concerning customs duties on the internal Austrian-Hungarian border) was a clear sign of the disintegration of the traditional frameworks. In contrast with the county administration, the estates, villages, and social strata found back doors in the system, gradually cracking its frameworks at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The book is a work of both economic history and social history. It relies on a number of methodologies, including microhistorical analysis, cliometric methods used in quantitative economic history, and an array of methods used in sociology, as well as agrarian history and ethnographic observations. This is complemented with a critical analysis of the writings of Anton Wittmann and Andreas Grailich, two proponents of modernization. Their work makes it possible to determine the labor productivity among peasants and compare it with productivity in other territories. The book is pioneering from the perspective of methodology as well, and not simply because of its statistical approach (Horváth examines the proportions of Hungarian exports, Viennese imports, and production on the county level, each of which places a different aspect of the complex interrelations in the foreground), but also because of the conclusions the author draws. Thus, it will be of interest and use to historians, specialists in agriculture, geographers, and economists. The importance of geography is always at the fore, as natural problems were clearly often in the background of social phenomena. The book even contains theories and arguments that draw on the natural sciences (for instance, arguments concerning plans for the regulation of the Hanság marshlands). Thus, it will also be informative and interesting to geographers and specialists in water engineering, and it provides insights into economic interests that exerted an influence on regulation plans and projects. We are even given a kind of archetype miniature of the debate concerning the regulation of the Tisza River and the social groups and organizations that took part in this debate, each of which had diverging interests. The importance of geographical considerations is palpable even in the discussion of principles of economics. As far as Horváth is concerned, the administrative borders of Moson County were not congruent with the actual borders of the economic spheres of the county or even individual settlements. He takes the regrettably rare and all the more admirable step of considering not how the different institutions were supposed to function according to the law (whether we are speaking of an institution of agricultural education, an assessment of taxes, the closing of a border, the issuing of a passport, the manner in which a plot of land was used, etc.), but actually how these institutions did function. This enables him to assess the disintegration and transformation of the nobleman’s county and hierarchical feudal society.

Given the breadth and depth of his inquiry, Horváth had to familiarize himself with an array of written sources. He seems to have consulted almost every available archival source, from notices of loss to requests for remittal of tax debts to schematics on schooling. His ability to organize the data he uncovered in the course of his research is eloquent testimony to his knowledge of theoretical questions and his practical gift as a writer. His descriptions offer a clear grasp of the ways in which the systems functioned, and the book will be an indispensable crutch for scholars pursuing research on local or regional history. Horváth has used every assessment of taxes and source of information in order to compile as much data as possible, and anyone who has ever attempted to compare data from different eras and based on different units of measurement in order to create a coherent kind of database knows what a daunting task this is, full of snares. One of his strengths is his ability to use soft variables alongside hard variables in order to draw subtle conclusions, and he does a good job alternating dense and focused description with looser narrative. His holistic approach allows him to flirt with the idea of writing a “total” history.

Horváth also provides a critical analysis of the existing secondary literature, including the comparatively few works on Moson County and works that examine the region in general. He reflects on some of the traditional views found in Austrian and Hungarian works on economic history, sometimes adopting a contrary standpoint and throwing into question the plausibility of the contentions that have been made. Both the reliability of scales, measurement units, and theories about the significance of the double customs border in the development of Hungary are discussed. Someone seeking to provide an assessment of another county or region according to a similar set of perspectives must confront the fact that the phenomena described in this book are not necessarily of general applicability. Thus, the most important virtue of the work is not that it can serve as a general handbook (of collected methods), but rather that it demonstrates persuasively that it is possible to reconstruct, in addition to the basic functional mechanisms of power and administration, the economic substance of regulations and units of measurement and thus to further an understanding, alongside sources of conflict, of social capacities to assert interests. Furthermore, Horváth offers on the micro-level a sketch of the successes of the various strategies of economic (dairy farming, grain production, transportation, viticulture, providing provender) and social adaptation (breaking the law, tax evasion, education) and compares these strategies.

Gábor Demeter

 

Pánszlávok a kastélyban: Justh József és a szlovák nyelvű magyar nemesség elfeledett története [Pan-Slavs in the manor house: József Justh and the forgotten history of the Slovak-speaking Hungarian nobility]. By József Demmel. Bratislava: Kalligram, 2014. 284 pp.

Social history and the history of mentalities, which began to become increasingly popular subjects of study in East Central Europe after the fall of communism, are unquestionably among the most dynamic areas of the field of history today. As far as national and political identity of noble families is concerned, it has been a subject of interest in writings on Hungarian history since the Middle Ages. Half of the Hungarian noble families lived in the northern region of pre-World War I Hungary (what today is Slovakia), where the population was primarily Slovak-speaking. They enjoyed privileges, they were also obliged to fight in defense of the country, but none of this meant that they had to speak Hungarian. Until 1844, the language of state in Hungary was Latin, and much of the written culture of the region in question was in German or Czech. The nobility of the territory regarded itself as part of the Hungarian nation politically and socially, but ethnically it identified with the Slavic nation (broadly understood). With the rise of the modern concept of linguistic nation and nation state in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the non-Hungarian-speaking nobility was expected to accept ethnic Hungarians as the ruling nation. This demand did not encounter major resistance, and gave rise to a prevalent optimism at the time and even in later assessments of the period. Research projects and initiatives that were launched in the 1970s confirmed this view. These inquiries asserted the claim that one finds, in the mentality of the era, a mass tendency towards spontaneous assimilation, thus presenting the reader with an image of the country as a kind of melting pot. The repeal of feudal privileges in 1848 did not slow the process. Thus, an 1878 pamphlet, for instance, read “ambitious Slovaks raise their boys to be Hungarian gentlemen. In their minds, the word ‘Slovak’ and the word ‘gentleman’ are mutually exclusive” (Béla Grünwald, A felvidék: Politikai tanulmány [1878], 29).

In contrast, the nationalist Slovak elite of the nineteenth century, which was active in parallel or, more precisely, in opposition to the Hungarian elite, condemned these noble families for their “betrayal”, though these families were expected to take their place at the vanguard of the fight for Slovak equality. Pamphlets and speeches emphasized that, in earlier centuries, the Slovak nobility had played a leading role in the protection of the borders and rights of the country and Slovak had been used in public and Church affairs. According to this elite, these nobles could only be members of the Slovak nation, which was of the same status as the Magyar nation.

To this day, the question of dual Slovak-Hungarian identity has not been the subject of any serious research projects. József Demmel’s new work breaks from the ideological and normative approach. In the introductory chapter Demmel offers a persuasive presentation of the ways in which a dual identity functioned by drawing on the examples of specific individuals. An aristocrat in the second half of the nineteenth century on the one hand resolutely opposed the Slovak national movement, while on the other he felt himself as Slovak in the company of Hungarians and wrote fine poetry in Slovak in the solitude of his manor house. At the middle of the century, relatives of Lajos Kossuth living in Turóc (Turiec) County wrote much of their correspondence and discussed the economic affairs of the family for the most part in Slovak, in spite of the fact that Kossuth himself, as perhaps the most recognized figure of Hungarian politics, was always a staunch opponent of the Slovak national movement. According to Demmel, this was all quite natural, given the linguistic environment in which the child of a noble family grew up in the region. Family members spoke German and Slovak, the larger community spoke almost exclusively Slovak, and the children only began to use Hungarian (and Latin) in school. Thus, these people did not choose dual identities, but rather inherited these identities as part of the legacy of the multilingual communities in which they lived. They regarded themselves as part of the noble Hungarian nation (the Natio Hungarica), but in many of the most important spheres of their lives they used Slovak (and in writing for a long time Czech) as the dominant language. Demmel, however, does not simply content himself with his observation concerning this nuance. He analyzes the trends in local politics in Turóc County (the population of which was entirely Slovak-speaking) by putting the county in the larger context of the party struggles and conflicts of the 1830s and 1840s, showing persuasively that the national struggle between the liberals and the conservatives provided a background for the local struggles between the leading families of Turóc County and their political supporters. The family of the person whom Demmel has chosen as the focus of his inquiry, József Justh, had been locked in a struggle for centuries with another influential family of the area for the leading role in the community. In the 1840s, Justh’s faction supported the policies and goals of the liberal parties, which meant opposition to the use of Slovak and Latin in public life and support for the use of Hungarian. Thus, he had support on the national level, while the conservatives, who were being pushed from local positions of influence, began to support the Slovak national movement in its struggle against efforts to make Hungarian the language of public affairs. These leading figures of this movement, however, proved too liberal for their inclinations, and they soon distanced themselves from them. It is one of the ironies of history that the debate between the two camps took place for the most part in the columns of the newspaper of the Slovak national movement, as this was the forum in which the two sides were best able to express their views.

Gradually, József Justh became a leading figure of liberal politics in Hungary on the national level. In 1847, he became a delegate of the national assembly, and during the 1848 revolution he was made commissioner of Turóc County and the leader of a neighboring county. He was charged with the task of keeping a watchful eye on the Slovak national movement and harassing its leaders. As the military constellation began to shift, he was taken prisoner by the pro-Habsburg Slovak troops that occupied Turóc County. However, his political inclinations and responsibilities notwithstanding, he maintained his ties to the Slovak community. In the 1840s, he defended one of the leaders of the Slovak national movement, Jozef Miloslav Hurban, who was accused in a Church affair of anti-Hungarian activity, and though in 1849 he himself was Hurban’s prisoner, the two men maintained respect for each other throughout their lives. After the Revolution, Justh maintained his friendship with Ľudovít Štúr, the leader of the Slovak nationalism (whom Justh had been supposed to apprehend in 1848), and in the 1850s he supported (though unsuccessfully) Štúr’s plan to create an institutional framework for secondary schooling in Slovak. His sons were educated for years at a time by people who openly supported the Slovak nationalist movement (as indeed the title of the book, Pan-Slavs in the manor house indicates). The zenith in his political career came in 1861, when a memorandum demanding local autonomy was accepted at the national assembly of the Slovak nation. Justh took part in the drafting of this document and even agreed to serve as a member of the delegation that was to be sent to the national assembly in Budapest. What might have prompted him to take part, quite openly, in the struggle for equal recognition for the Slovak nation? As Demmel suggests, Justh had had a chance to experience, during the Revolution, the power of the Slovak national movement. He had born witness as the leaders of the movement had managed to mobilize all of Turóc County in support of their aims. The statements they made in the 1850s and 1860s convinced him that the Hungarians regarded the non-Hungarian peoples of the country as equal partners (in this he was mistaken). However, the attacks that were leveled against the Memorandum made plain to him the fact that the Hungarian leaders continued to espouse and labor in support of a notion of a single, unified Hungarian nation and Hungarian state. He immediately did an about-face (he withdrew from the delegation) and from then on distanced himself from the political aspirations of the Slovak community. He remained an influential representative of liberal Hungarian politics. He continued to serve as the delegate of Turóc County. In 1869, he was elected to serve as president of the governing liberal party under Ferenc Deák, and he was celebrated by his contemporaries as a staunch opponent of “Pan-Slavism,” i.e. the Slovak national movement. In the course of the election campaigns, he did indeed come into conflict with candidates who represented the aims of the Slovak national movement. He used corrupt tactics to ensure victory in these skirmishes (which was perfectly common at the time), but in the background, “as a kind of silent Slovak” (to use Demmel’s characterization), he supported Slovak institutions (the savings bank, printing press, comprehensive school, casino, and Matica slovenská, the society for public education).

Justh’s political and personal life fell to pieces in the mid-1870s. As Demmel shows, he was unable to represent effectively in Turóc County the aims of Hungarian nationalist circles, at least not to the satisfaction of these circles, who saw him as someone all too willing to reach compromises with local Slovak groups. He had lost many of his supporters and his financial resources had dwindled, and he and his remaining group were regarded as an obstacle to the termination of the Slovak comprehensive schools and Matica slovenská.

Demmel rejects the notion of archetypes and resolutely remains within the theoretical framework of micro-historical analysis, focusing on individual cases as individual cases, rather than as examples. Nonetheless, his selection of a prominent figure of history seems to have been a perfect choice as an illustration of his thesis. Justh’s career and life show the major turning points in the politics and ethnic relations of the nineteenth century and, more narrowly, the process of Magyarization, which was by no means an unbroken, uncontested development.

Barna Ábrahám

 

In Search of the Budapest Secession: The Artist Proletariat and Modernism’s Rise in the Hungarian Art Market, 1800–1914. By Jeffrey Taylor. Saint Helena, CA: Helena History Press, 2014. 260 pp.

Jeffrey Taylor’s book covers the emergence of the modern art market in Hungary, locating the evolution of Hungarian artists’ groups, organizations, and exhibition venues from the early nineteenth century to World War I within the international developments of the era. Taylor interprets the fin-de-siècle, one of the richest periods of Hungarian art, from a hitherto underexplored angle, placing the intricate mechanisms of the art market in the focus of his investigations. Protagonists like the Nagybánya group or The Eight and major modern artists like József Rippl-Rónai or Lajos Tihanyi thus appear in an unusual light, portrayed not only as pioneering artists but also as conscious actors in the art trade and inventors of groundbreaking (self-)marketing strategies.

The author is currently assistant professor of arts management and entrepreneurship at Purchase College, State University of New York, and for a long time has been an active participant in the art business himself. Thanks to his practical expertise, Taylor knows the art market from the inside and from the outside: he is intimately familiar with the mechanisms of the art trade in a way in which very few academic art historians are. The great strengths of Taylor’s book stem from the author’s multi-faceted knowledge: his hands-on experience on the one hand, and his academic erudition on the other.

The book’s introductory chapter outlines the emergence of European art markets and points to the dispersion of models, originating in France and the Netherlands but adopted also by the European peripheries in the course of the nineteenth century. During the process of what Taylor calls market pluralization, the intermediaries of art (exhibition venues and organizations) would multiply, beginning with breakaway movements which challenged the monopoly of dominant national organizations and continuing with an ever-increasing number of private galleries and splinter organizations, which created rival forums for the art trade. After outlining the pan-European models, Taylor briefly marks out the position of Hungarian art organizations within the international trends, indicating (at this point, only in an introductory manner) the similarities and differences between the core countries of Europe and a peripheral state like Hungary.

The question raised by Taylor in the introduction as one of his chief problems involves the dating and identification of the Secession in Budapest: his question concerns which particular group or movement can be characterized as equivalent to the well-known Secessions of Central Europe, i.e. the Vienna Secession, the Munich Secession, or the Berlin Secession. But “Secession” as a term is not used by Taylor exclusively to designate movements and organizations which have gone down in art history by that name. He interprets Secession as a movement which shatters the market monopoly of a formerly hegemonic organization and therefore has key importance in the development of modern art markets. By tracing the evolution of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century art organizations in Hungary, he sets out to devote his book to the quest for the Hungarian Secession.

Chapters 1 and 2 deal with the evolution of the art market in nineteenth-century Hungary. Chapter 2 presents the emergence of a major national art organization, the National Hungarian Society of Arts (Országos Magyar Képzőművészeti Társulat), and analyzes the role its exhibitions, modeled on the Paris Salons of the period, played in a period in which the art market in Hungary was just in the making.

Chapter 3 discusses the history of the National Salon, a second large art organization in Hungary founded in 1894, which was the first significant formation to challenge the former monopoly of the National Hungarian Society of Arts. At the beginning of the chapter, Taylor formulates an excellent reading of what Nemzeti Szalon was all about, interpreting the new institution from the point of view of market logic and competition within the profession, rather than explaining its emergence by aesthetic differences. In his introduction of the pre-World-War-I history of the National Salon, Taylor offers excellent close readings of the conflicts, struggles and rivalries within the Hungarian art world. In this chapter, Taylor also examines the problem of the artist proletariat, going deep into the roots of the issue. According to Taylor’s thesis, the emergence of the free art market and the late-nineteenth-century proliferation of exhibition opportunities gave rise to an artist proletariat, steadily increasing in numbers as the nineteenth century drew to a close; out of that mass, only a narrow elite (which Taylor terms “the labor aristocracy of established artists”) was able to make a living off the arts as a profession.

In Chapter 4, Taylor traces the evolution of private galleries in Hungary, following the process of specialization from the mixed profiles of early dealers to the specialized art galleries of the early twentieth century. Taylor introduces the five par excellence modern art galleries that operated in Budapest in the early 1900s, and he introduces the reader to their business models. By presenting a number of their exhibitions, Taylor shows the importance of the roles played by new galleries in shaping the new canon; analyzing their activities, Taylor also identifies various new types of exhibitions, such as “solo-type shows” or traveling exhibitions accompanied locally by social events, emphasizing, very aptly, the marketing strategies at work behind the staging of the shows.

Taylor’s main question in the book is what one should identify in Hungary as the equivalent of European Secessions; which institution or splinter group bears the closest resemblance to the well-known European models of the era.

Taylor’s preoccupation with capturing the Hungarian Secession, however, may have diverted his attention away from other equally important achievements of his own work. Is the main issue really which group or institution we should call secession? The story Taylor tells is actually more exciting: he interprets the relatively well-known history of turn-of-the-century Hungarian art from an unconventional and highly original point of view. Taylor’s close examination of various interest groups and their behind-the-scene struggles provides the reader with hitherto undiscovered perspectives, offering a richer understanding of the special logic of art as an economic field.

Power struggles within the art world are interpreted in Taylor’s book not as competing aesthetics and credos of “schools,” but as acts of competition for better sales opportunities. Taylor’s highly ingenious interpretations throw the milestone exhibitions of the period, steadily fixed in the hagiographies of Hungarian artists and described hundreds of times by the creators of the modern canon, into an entirely new light. The reader will understand that the rise of certain groups, such as the Nagybánya painters, depended at least as much on their successful strategies of protest and marketing as on their artistic novelty, especially compared to unsuccessful group formations in the same period.

Having acknowledged the unquestionable merits of the book, I would make a few critical observations as well. One of the major shortcomings of the book is already apparent in the introductory chapter, and it runs through the entire volume. One assumes, and the reviewers quoted on the back cover of the book also assume, that Taylor’s potential audience will consist of readers from all around the world, ranging from non-Hungarian art historians to art collectors, people who are not experts in fin-de-siècle Hungarian art but wish to acquaint themselves better with it. The critical observer, however, cannot avoid the impression that Taylor in fact did not really clarify to himself who his book’s target audience would be. The issue here is not one of content but one of communication. Taylor seems implicitly to suppose that his readers will be familiar with the artistic movements and institutions he discusses in the book; even the introduction is written in this spirit. Taylor makes insider references to movements, groups, and institutions without sufficiently introducing them to his readers. Hungarian names of groups and venues, as a rule, are only translated into English at their first occurrence, but then are used in their original Hungarian forms throughout the book. Hungarian is an esoteric language to most foreign readers, and one cannot presuppose any degree of familiarity with the meanings of Hungarian words (unlike in the case of French, Italian, Spanish, or German texts). To most native English readers, Nemzeti Szalon (National Salon) and (a more striking example) Magyar Képzőművészeti Társulat (Hungarian Society of Fine Arts) will appear undecipherable at best and intimidating at worst. The frequent use of such Hungarian names, although of course understandable from the point of view of accuracy, makes reading comprehension difficult for non-Hungarian readers and unnecessarily burdens Taylor’s otherwise excellent and very readable style. It may have been more prudent to use the English versions of the names of the various art groups and venues throughout the book, with the Hungarian originals given at the first occurrence.

The second problem is that Taylor does not sufficiently introduce the milieu about which he intends to write. Again, the implicit assumption seems to be that the reader will know all the basics about the Hungarian art world of the fin de siècle and he or she will not need any orientation. That assumption is most probably wrong, unless the author’s intention was to address his book to the professional circle of Hungarian art historians; otherwise, a thorough introduction to the circumstances of the art world in Hungary, including its structures, groups, and institutions, would have been not only beneficial but a must at the beginning of the book.

Maybe as a consequence of the book’s general strategy, the broader context (e. g. society and politics) is not discussed at all. One would of course not expect the author to paint a broad canvas of turn-of-the-century Hungary, but Taylor should have included at least some examination of the interactions between art, society, and the political sphere. An understanding of societal forces is strikingly absent from Taylor’s main arguments. “The expanding stream of young men and women throwing themselves into the profession of artist” (p.xi), and, hence, producing the artist proletariat, according to Taylor’s thesis, is a phenomenon that requires much more complex explanation that is not limited to market mechanisms and exhibition facilities: much of the explanation should deal with conditions that lie outside the world of art, e. g. with the growing social prestige of art as a profession at the end of the nineteenth century.

Other factors may be directly related to art but external to Hungary. Near Munich, one of the undisputed art centers of the region until the end of the nineteenth century and a city with its own academy of fine arts, was an art market far superior to Budapest because of the presence of foreign customers; Munich offered very attractive sales opportunities and probably motivated several talented young Hungarians to embark on a career as an artist in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

As far as the embeddedness of the art market is concerned, contextualization is not among the virtues of In Search of the Budapest Secession. New Cultural History and New Art History do not seem to have influenced Taylor’s approach very much, although his highly ingenious, market-oriented focus clearly sets him apart from conventional art histories as well. In general, he scarcely deals with the other side of the art market, namely customers and the public at large, unless in the abstract as part of the demand side of the art trade. Neither are the contemporary habits of exhibition attendance (as an element of emerging bourgeois lifestyles) discussed in depth, nor is the social prestige of membership in partially lay art societies analyzed.

Apart from these shortcomings, however, the book offers a refreshingly new reading of the Hungarian fin-de-siècle. I can heartily identify with Taylor’s pragmatic approach, and I fully appreciate Taylor’s insights as well as his erudition. The body of primary sources on which he draws is truly impressive, as is his synthesis of the secondary literature. In Search for the Budapest Secession will be indispensable reading for anyone interested in the birth of modern art in Hungary and a good introduction to the evolution of market models in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Western art.

Erika Szívós

 

Anti-modernism: Radical Revisions of Collective Identity. Edited by Diana Mishkova, Marius Turda, and Balázs Trencsényi. (Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770–1945): Texts and Commentaries, 4.) Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2014. 452 pp.

Although nationalism and collective identities remain highly debated topics throughout Central and Eastern Europe, collective endeavors focused on generating complex working tools for research on these two subjects are surprisingly rare. Thus, the current volume, edited by historians Diana Mishkova, Marius Turda and Balázs Trencsényi and consisting of contributions from more than a dozen scholars, is a significant addition, which provides a wide range of primary sources never before presented on this scale to an English-reading audience.

This is the fourth and final installment of a praiseworthy scholarly undertaking that lasted more than a decade and published its first volume in 2006, which focused on the late Enlightenment and the emergence of the modern “national idea.” It is a treasure trove of primary sources, which are meant to enhance readers’ understandings of the period between 1880 and 1945, an age of regenerative projects and rebellious explorations of alternative paths to modernity, which has been appropriately labeled an “age of anxiety.”

The volume is divided into five thematically designed chapters dealing with salient issues, such as integral nationalism, the crisis of the European conscience, the search for a national ontology, conservative redefinitions of tradition and modernity, and the anti-modernist revolution. Each chapter contains relevant primary sources pertaining to the aforementioned topics, with excerpts from the works of influential intellectuals, politicians and other public figures. The chapters also include useful biographical and contextual information. This format does a great deal to foster and facilitate a nuanced understanding of the issues at stake.

The texts were carefully selected and include some of the main public voices from the anti-modernist camp that were relevant in Central and Southeast Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Even if the national(ist) landscape of this region was fragmented by claims of authenticity and uniqueness, by reading these texts side by side one can discern certain common traits concerning the preference for a collectivist-organicist national model, as well as a critical attitude towards fin-de-siécle liberalism, which was regarded by many as the source of all evils.

The introductory chapter by Sorin Antohi and Balázs Trencsényi convincingly explains the structure of the volume and the relevance of the chosen themes, while also highlighting the theoretical approach to the hitherto less-explored issue of anti-Modernism. Defining anti-modernism as “(a) the negative double of modernism and (b) the critique of modernism within modernism, not outside of or separated from it,” the authors emphasize that it differs from its double because it displays a string of characteristics such as negativism, authoritarianism, the cult of violence, cultural pessimism and biopolitical exclusion (p.3). The way in which anti-modernism is defined is useful because it helps the reader grasp it from the inside out, thus ensuring a higher explanatory power with respect to the success it garnered in various social quarters in the first half of the twentieth century.

For most of the protagonists of this collection of texts, the Great War was the end of all illusions. New alternatives were to be explored in order to arrive at solutions to the perceived existential crisis of modernity and its politics. The first chapter acquaints the reader with some of the early anti-modernist and nationalist discourses that emerged in various conservative circles across the region. Some of the relevant figures presented in this chapter include Georg von Schönerer and his Pan-Germanism and Josef Tiso, the leader of the Slovak People’s Party and a voice for the Slovak autonomist movement, which was authoritarian in its political goals. Among these early anti-Modernist discourses one also encounters the writings of Dezső Szabó. Szabó, a Hungarian nationalist writer, emphasized ethnocentric politics and the abandonment of Hungarian ambitions in the region in favor of a mission to organize the nations of Eastern Europe and the Balkans into a union and to proclaim “to these young nations the message of the new democracy and a new culture revived through their peasants” (p.114). In his case, the influence of Charles Maurras was significant, given that the ideas of the French ideologue were also present in other countries from the region, such as Romania.

The post-World War I pursuit for alternatives to the perceived crisis of European conscience is illustrated in the second chapter by texts such as Spiritual Itinerary, written by Romanian intellectual Mircea Eliade. This was Eliade’s intellectual program for the young interwar Romanian generation, which he regarded as “the most blessed generation, the most promising of all that have existed in this country.” Eliade argues in support of the primacy of the spirit (p.131). He saw the present as an unprecedented window of opportunity for his generation, with no immediate national goals to fulfill, free to experiment and determined to create products of universal value in the cultural realm. However, one cannot help noticing that Eliade’s itinerary, which seemed apolitical at the time, gathered around it a generation that in the 1930s would be partially seduced by the growing appeal of the extreme right. Hungarian writer Mihály Babits reaffirmed the universalist tenets of nationalism and pleaded against the racialized, totalitarian way of thinking that gained traction in the 1930s: “My calling is to safeguard my people’s purest moral traditions and not to allow the spirit of justice to become obsolete. To keep awake the smarting anxiety of the conscience amidst notions of humanity, the honor of the spirit and freedom. These are the real sacraments of the nation” (p.155).

There were also public figures in the region who offered diverse solutions in order to bypass the state of crisis by promoting the reshaping of the “national being” of their respective nations. Ion Dragoumis showcased the vision of a new civilization for Greece, the Hellenic Civilization, a synthesis of what the East and the West have to offer and also a construction different from the past Macedonian and Byzantine models. Nikolaj Velimirović promised the Serbs a more privileged place in Heaven, a Great Celestial Serbia that would come about as a result of the people’s sufferings and faith (p.225).

The fourth chapter provides several examples of how conservative discourses were adapted throughout the region in the troubled interwar context. Gyula Szekfű espoused an anti-liberal conservative critique. He lamented the failure of the process that was meant to assure that the Hungarians would be able to preserve and extend their supremacy through the peaceful means of their higher spiritual and material culture” (p.254). Karel Kramář developed a neo-Slavic discourse from a conservative perspective, with a declared non-aggressive stance and justified as a means to protect the Czech nation against the perceived threats of Germanism and Magyarism (p.286).

A revolution with an anti-Modernist ideological core fascinated politicians and thinkers throughout the region, and examples of this kind of thinking can be found in the final chapter of the volume. One of the most relevant examples is that of Ioannis Metaxas who, under fascist influence, promoted ideas such as national regeneration, organic nationalism, the nation as a homogenous organism, and the rejection of foreign influence, all while emphasizing the importance of the Hellenic tradition. The text selected for the current volume eloquently illustrates the characteristics of the regime he imposed in August 1936: “A people now unified, not divided into parties and factions, a people constituting a whole, a solid body and a single will, having at its head the King, as the carrier of the national will [...] a Leader who belongs to the whole of the Nation and who deals with its needs as a unified whole, a Leader who is supported by the undivided and absolute trust of the people” (p.353). This new regime was labeled “the Third Hellenic civilization” in an attempt to match Metaxas’ ambitions.

Anti-modernism: Radical Revisions of Collective Identity, as well as the entire four-volume enterprise, is an invaluable tool for those who want to do comparative work on the region but do not know where to start. The relevant and diverse selection of primary sources leaves the reader craving for longer excerpts (which in all likelihood were kept short simply because of space constraints). The book certainly paves the way for future, similar projects by setting such a high standard. The potential audience for this volume goes beyond the academic realm. It would be ideal for undergraduate and graduate classes on comparative modern European history. It can be read to great avail by anyone interested in the evolution of Central and Eastern Europe between the 1880s and 1945 and the shaping of collective identities in this region, which involved processes that continue to have historical consequences to the present day.

Valentin Săndulescu

 

Holy Legionary Youth: Fascist Activism in Interwar Romania. By Roland Clark. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015. 288 pp.

Holy Legionary Youth by Roland Clark is an outstanding piece of scholarship on the Romanian fascist movement known as the Iron Guard. Following in the footsteps of reputed researchers such as Armin Heinen, Bela Vago, and Radu Ioanid, Clark joins the younger generation’s chorus of new voices in the study of Romanian Fascism led by Constantin Iordachi, Oliver Jens Schmitt, and Valentin Săndulescu. Distancing himself from the “palingenetic” twist introduced by Roger Griffin or George L. Mosse’s cultural turn, Clark’s book boldly concentrates on the social underpinnings of the Romanian fascist movement and the collective dynamics of different professional groups (painters, priests, writers, intellectuals) listed in the Iron Guard’s rank-and-file. Working from the perspective of the history of the everyday life (Alltagsgeschichte), Clark seeks to show “fascism as an everyday practice” and to consider “how legionaries performed fascism and how being fascist marked legionaries socially” (p.6). In his depiction of the “illiberal subjectivities,” Clark also investigates “the emotional energy they [the legionaries] invested in political activism and the extent to which they allowed legionary discipline to shape daily routines” (p.6) in order to clarify the social extent of legionary activism and the sheer obsession of legionaries with almost ascetical discipline. Bridging gaps in conflicting historiographical approaches and relying on a sophisticated theoretical underpinning ranging from the historiography of Fascism to systematic and liturgical Orthodox theology, Clark’s book offers the reader a subtle yet comprehensive narrative account of what it meant to be a member of the Iron Guard in interwar Romania.

One of the strong points of the book is the overwhelming and indeed unmatched amount of archival research undertaken by the author in Romanian archives, both central (Arhivele Nationale Istorice Centrale, Arhiva Consiliului National pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securitatii) and regional, as well as in the generous archival funds held by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Archives in Washington D.C. Together with these valuable archival documents, the large collection of interwar publications (newspapers, books, propaganda leaflets, etc.), oral history accounts, and a large array of memoirs penned by former legionaries masterfully convey a complex and broad picture of the Iron Guard’s everyday life from bottom to top and the fascist, anti-Semitic developments from the early 1920s up to the early 1950s in Romania.

The book’s structure is well balanced and the chapters provide both a clear-cut analytical framework and empirical analysis of the archival sources, the contemporary press, and the secondary literature. Among the most original chapters are “Youthful Justice” (pp.28–62), “Elections, Violence and Discipline” (pp.95–121), and “Salvation and Sacrifice” (pp.184–215). The first two discuss the early stages of the ultranationalist young generation’s anti-Semitic build up from early 1920s up to the early 1930s and the social construction of its appeal to the masses. The third focuses on “clerical activism” (pp.190–193) and describes the biographies of a few legionary clergymen and their ties to the movement. Addressing the question of why Orthodox clergymen and theologians got embroiled in the violent, xenophobic turn beginning in the early 1920s, the author emphatically states that, “because of the political leanings of their professors, theology students were at the forefront of anti-Semitic agitations” (p.190). Nevertheless, one question arises concerning the 1930s fascist activism of the Orthodox clergy: apart from the infectious influence of charismatic university and seminary professors, such as Grigore Cristescu (1895–1961), Nichifor Crainic (1889–1972), and Dumitru Iliescu-Palanca (1903–1963), what other explanations are there for the fact that the Orthodox priests and theologians mentioned by Clark publically supported the Iron Guard? Was it for the socio-cultural reasons that appealed to all the Orthodox clergymen, or were there local and individual dynamics? Also, following the argument presented in the theoretical framework envisaged by the author in the introduction, one is prompted to ask what sort of social practices these clergymen engaged in when performing as fascists, in addition to familiar case-studies of public funerals of legionary martyrs, religious commemorations of the dead (parastase), and the blessing of crosses erected by the legionaries. Did they behave as regular fascists or did they act differently from other legionary professional groups because of their constant self-awareness of their clerical vocation?

When writing about the logic of self-sacrifice in the context of the funeral of Ion Moţa and Vasile Marin (Iron Guard leaders killed in the Spanish Civil War in 1937), the author makes a compelling argument concerning the complex relationship between legionary martyrdom and Orthodox rituals: “Legionaries not only stated that church and nation were identical communities that were represented most perfectly by their movement; they enacted these relationships by using Orthodox funerary rituals to commemorate legionaries as national heroes. Legionary nationalism did not replace religious communities with national communities. Through ritual commemorations it reinforced the Orthodox Church as national, and the nation as Orthodox” (p.210). Although these ideas, which involved a symbolic overlap of the nation and the Church, were actually present in the Transylvanian context in the nineteenth century, Clark makes a valuable and original remark related to the symbiotic relationship between legionary and religious nationalism in interwar Romania. As noted by the author, in their search for public legitimization and as a means of augmenting their mass-appeal, the legionaries engaged in rituals that were shared with the Orthodox clergy, even when these public ceremonies were funerals and commemorations for the dead. This bolstered the social relevance of the Orthodox Church for both the members of the Legionary movement and the wider public. The legionaries behaved in this way towards the Orthodox clergymen in order to recall and to reemphasize the importance of so-called organic (what might in other contexts be referred to as native) tradition, the popular religiosity of the Romanian people, and the constant referral to religious rituals and Orthodox symbols in the social memory of the Romanian nation, an initiative favoring the Iron Guard’s utopian dreams of totalitarian political power.

Clark’s assumption that the nineteenth-century Orthodox Church from the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia supported the spread of nationalist movements (p.12) finds little support in the secondary literature on the subject. A more vigorous effort on Clark’s part in his discussion of the alleged precursors of the fascist movement in Romania would perhaps have been necessary in order to present some of his claims more persuasively. Some of his contentions remain unsupported and hypothetical. For the scholar of European Fascism, the absence of a historiographical essay in the introduction is a regrettable shortcoming. Although the author offers insights on the secondary literature on Fascism by shifting his attention towards the works of Roger Griffin, George L. Mosse, Michael Mann, and others, he fails to provide the reader with an analytical assessment of the secondary literature, both foreign and Romanian, on the Iron Guard. He does not make clear how his inquiry builds upon previous research and monographs or how, in its search for originality, the present work relates critically to previous undertakings in the field.

A relevant contribution to the field of fascist studies, Holy Legionary Youth opens new research avenues for students of European Fascism and Eastern European history. Highly interdisciplinary, analytically comprehensive, and informed by a prodigious array of both primary sources and secondary literature, Clark’s book is a much-awaited reading for researchers, university professors, and students alike. It will serve as a useful teaching tool for undergraduate and graduate classes on the interwar history of Eastern Europe, the genesis of interwar anti-Semitism, and everyday life under totalitarian regimes.

Ionuţ Biliuţa

 

Siebenbürger ohne Siebenbürger? Zentralstaatliche Integration und politischer Regionalismus nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg. By Florian Kührer-Wielach. Munich: De Gruyter, 2014. 419 pp.

Writing in 1991 at the end of his career, the Romanian historian David Prodan waded into the resurgent ‘militant history writing’ on Transylvania. In Transylvania and again Transylvania, Prodan dismissed Hungarian national histories of Transylvania as ‘unscientific’ emotional stories. His own study, firmly encamped on the Romanian side, by contrast, purported to tell a dispassionate history of the region. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Transylvania was a hot topic again. A growing nationalist mood among Hungarians and Romanians culminated in violent clashes in Târgu Mureş in March, which left six dead, hundreds injured, and blinded the poet András Sütő in one eye. Academic disputes, generally ‘so bitter because the stakes are so small’ (as Kissinger famously put it), this time actually mattered.

Florian Kührer-Wielach intervenes in a long-standing debate about Transylvania and Transylvanian identity which has long been dogged by competing nationalist master narratives. In his book Siebenbürgen ohne Siebenbürger? Zentralstaatliche Integration und politischer Regionalismus nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, Kührer-Wielach examines, often in meticulous detail, the complex web of interwar integration, regionalism, and competing identity politics. His book focuses on Transylvanian Romanians and in so doing tells a different story to those told through the Hungarian or German lens: instead of a narrative of decline, Kührer-Wielach’s book tracks a group in the ascendancy.

Kührer-Wielach opens with an impressive historiographical and methodological section (pp.16–45), situating his work within a cutting edge paradigm of identity studies, Transfergeschichte, regionalism and spatial history. His review of a range of scholarship places his work in a broader framework in an attempt to ‘deprovincialise’ Transylvanian history, though there are some gaps in the bibliography and in practice the focus of the book remains largely regional. He then introduces his readership to a complex history of Romanians in Transylvania, their relationship to the Habsburg Empire/Hungary, their connections to Romanians from Wallachia and Moldova as well as differences to other Romanian minorities, such as in the Banat or Bessarabia. The book explains the historical context, beginning in the late seventeenth century, and builds up to the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire and subsequent inclusion of Transylvania into the Greater Romanian state of the interwar period.

Kührer-Wielach treats us to an institutional and political history of the integration of Transylvania into Greater Romania. It is striking that the main clashes of opinion documented in this study are not between Romanians and Hungarians, but between Romanians themselves. As Kührer-Wielach points out, the integration of Transylvania in the interwar period was perceived by many Transylvanian Romanians as setting back Transylvania to a ‘Wallachian’ level (p.15). Indeed, despite the initial euphoria, Romanians collided on a number of issues. The school system was a particularly divisive issue (pp.139–56). Much of what was enacted from Bucharest in Transylvania had been designed to reverse the Magyarization processes of the previous regime. In that sense, the book details the conventional story of Hungarian-Romanian battles for Transylvanian education. Yet the efforts to centralize and harmonize Greater Romanian schooling also became evident in other ways. Politicians in the Regat were concerned that years of Hungarian control had ‘de-nationalized’ Romanian children (p.140). Combatting such developments demanded lateral solutions. Some politicians even suggested school exchanges between secondary schools in the Old Kingdom and Transylvania, particularly in hotspots such as the Szekler land (p.141). Disagreements also occurred between advocates for the nationalization of schools and the defenders of religious schools. Clerics and religious teachers resisted centralization due to their profound difference on the role of the church in education (p.146). One commentator believed that church schools had been crucial for the ‘racial struggle’ in the Habsburg period, but had lost their raison d’être in unified Romania (p.146). Some educational problems were, however, more mundane: Transylvania faced a shortage of qualified teachers, which central government sought to redress as a matter of urgency (pp.154–56).

Religion played a crucial role in the battle for Transylvania in the interwar period. Romanians who were not Orthodox bore the brunt of central government’s attempts to create a unitary nation-state. Talked up as being the ‘most important institution of Romanians in Transylvania’ (p.160), the Orthodox church assumed a role that was at odds with other established religious institutions in the region: the Greek Catholics, the Catholics, and of course the reformed churches. The Greek Catholic confession was a particular thorn in the side of the more assertive centralizers due to this religion’s secondary allegiance towards Rome (pp.163–70). The interwar period witnessed a full-blown ‘confessional war’ in which politics and religion mingled to create a toxic mix. Likewise, Transylvania also faced a messy ‘war of monuments’ after unification with Romania (pp.180–87). As Maria Bucur’s 2009 study of memory in interwar Romania highlighted in great detail, this was not always a straightforward affair. Instead, local grievances often dictated memory battles, and Kührer-Wielach backs this up in his brief section on monuments and memory.

All these battles conducted in different arenas pointed to one central issue, which Kührer-Wielach addresses in the book’s second substantial section: the identity of Transylvania in a post-imperial setting. Romanian politicians in Transylvania still retained a transnational character formed during their studies and stays in Vienna, Budapest, and elsewhere in the Habsburg Empire (pp.265–67). Even after unification, Romanian Transylvanian thinkers and politicians insisted on their Transylvanian difference. They were more ‘western’, they insisted, and tended to ‘orientalize’ their Wallachian and Moldovan counterparts (p.275). The Old Kingdom was viewed as ‘oriental’ and ‘Venetian’ (p.278). This stance, Kührer-Wielach demonstrates, contributed towards a strengthening of a regional Transylvanian identity, which in turn provoked Romanians from the Regat to paint a disrespectful picture of Transylvanians: they were ‘less smart’, ‘lazy’, and ‘ill-tempted’ (p.276). This was far removed from a picture of Greater Romanian unity. To counter this factionalism, a new wave of Romanian scholarship sought to place Transylvania at the heart of the Romanian master narrative. Transylvania formed the final nexus of symmetry for Romania (p.286). Historical and ethnographic arguments were deployed more aggressively to prove continuity to the Daco-Roman period (p.287). Burebista’s Dacian Empire in the first century BC corresponded, helpfully, with the borders of the Greater Romania. Yet as Kührer-Wielach asserts in the rest of the book, these efforts to integrate Transylvania continued to sit at odds with the strong remnants of regional forces. Transylvania retained its position as a contested borderland, torn between federalism, regionalism, and nationalism.

It is interesting to place this book in a broader historiography on Translyvania which is still largely divided. On the one hand, since the large scale emigration of Romanian Germans from Romania (mainly from Transylvania and the Banat), German scholarship on Transylvania especially among these émigrés, has burgeoned. A once insular and self-referential group of Romanian German émigrés writing in a Cold War anti-communist milieu has since turned into an active and inclusive environment with numerous groups, conferences, and publications. From Studium Transylvanicum – an academic network aimed at younger audience of scholars and members of the general public – to institutes such as the Institute of German Culture and History of Southeast Europe in Munich (where Kührer-Wielach is based), there has been an impressive amount of activity around the issue of Transylvania. At the same time, there has been a distinct Hungarian and Romanian vein of scholarly interest in Transylvania. Romanian publications on Romania and Transylvania in particular have been in dialogue with the aforementioned German interest in all things Transylvanian. This is, in part, due to a movement within Romanian scholarship away from the polemics of the late Cold War. Scholars such as Lucian Boia, Sorin Mitu and others have introduced a far more critical edge to Romanian scholarship by unpacking the very discourses that confine national historiography as a tool of politics. In so doing, there has been a vibrant interchange between Romanian and German language writing on Transylvania in the last two decades.

Yet there is a further field of a lively and growing scholarship on Transylvania in the ‘Anglo-American’ sphere. Transylvania has featured in a recent spate of publications on post-Habsburg regional contests and developments. Holly Case’s Between States: The Transylvanian Question and the European Idea during World War II (Stanford, 2009) is a major highlight of the new Anglo-American historiography on Transylvania. The work of Maria Bucur, Roland Clark, Tahra Zara and others has all dealt in some form with questions of identity and politics in the Habsburg Lands in the first half of the twentieth century, and Transylvania and Romania have either featured as a central component (Bucur, Clark) or as a comparative element within that body of scholarship. Yet these two scholarly worlds – the ‘German’ and the ‘Anglo-American’ – have rarely been brought into fruitful dialogue. Despite excellent and thoughtful publications on both sides, the lack of interaction is striking, and despite its many merits and obvious value the book under review has also missed the opportunity to bridge the gap.

James Koranyi

 

Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia. By Rebekah Klein-Pejšová. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015. 194 pp.

Rebekah Klein-Pejšová offers readers perhaps the first attempt at a comprehensive view of the development of Jewish identities in connection with declarations of political allegiance to the interwar Czechoslovak Republic in 1918–1938. Although the title of the book suggests that the author focuses primarily on the region of Slovakia, in fact the book deals with a broad spectrum of socio-political, historical, and demographic factors which influenced the Jewish communities not only in the interwar period, but also during the last decades before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

The book consists of five chapters. In the introduction, the author provides the necessary historical, demographic, and other kinds of statistics related to the history of the region and the status of the Jewish population within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This information provides an understanding of the initial state of the community and its future prospects in the newly formed state of Czechoslovakia. The author focuses on the concept of the Jewish nationality as a category created by the state in an effort to resolve national issues, issues which involved not only Jewish citizens but also large German-speaking and Hungarian-speaking minorities. This hypothesis is analyzed in detail and further supported in the following chapters.

The chapter “From Hungary to Czechoslovakia” contains more or less familiar historical facts. Particularly interesting are the different approaches of the Austrian and Hungarian parts of the monarchy to the Jewish war refugees from neighboring countries who were seeking protection first in these two lands and later within the borders of Czechoslovakia. This chapter in the history of East European Jewry influenced the formation of Jewish identities in the successor states. In each chapter the author examines the fate of the Jews in Slovakia by introducing partial stories of individuals.

The chapter entitled “Nationality is an Internal Conviction” examines the period in which the Jewish community was integrated into the Czechoslovak state and a search was underway for the “right path” regarding the territory of Slovakia and its majority population, which took place alongside similar efforts to shape Jewish and Czechoslovak identities. The author has mapped opinion movements and expert discussions led by prominent people, including sociologists, statisticians, and demographers, about the definition of nationality for the census in 1919 and 1921. She demonstrates how important the question of nationality was (not only) in the Jewish population in Czechoslovakia from the perspective of the international negotiations at the Paris Conference. She explains the international position of Czechoslovakia, the insecurity among the citizenry of the new country which was due in large part to the dramatic political changes, and the instability of the political border with Hungary. Under many pressures, including pressures from Hungary, not only Jews had to decide on their ethnicity and nationality, questions that were of vital importance to their civil and political futures in the new state. Klein-Pejšová analyzes the elections in 1920 and the formation of Jewish political parties and public spaces in which Jews could pursue national politics. She supports her findings with an in-depth analysis and interpretation of statistics, accompanied by clear tables.

The chapter “Contested Loyalty” solves a specific problem faced by the Neolog community in Slovakia, which was from a historical point of view close to the Hungarian Neolog movement and Hungarian culture. The author cites several examples to demonstrate the process of drawing attention and sentiment away from the Budapest Neolog center and the gradual reorientation to the geopolitical changes in Europe, which contributed to the creation of a new collective self-understanding among members of the Jewish community as “Slovak Jews.” Klein-Pejšová addresses several aspects of the issue, including the pressure exerted by the Czechoslovak state and politicians not to use the Hungarian language, various manifestations of loyalty (including the enforcement of loyalty), and the arguments of representatives of civil and political life from within the community to its members about their civil orientation in Czechoslovakia. Klein-Pejšová also includes into her analyses the pressures that were put by Hungarian irredentist policies on the Neologs in Slovakia, which, according to her, ultimately proved counterproductive.

In the chapter “Between the Nationalities” Klein-Pejšová focuses on the pressures that were put on Jews who had already found “the right path” to Czechoslovakia by Hungary and Germany in the 1930s. She draws attention to the important fact that the existence of a political construct of “Jewish nationality” at the same time limited the linguistic and cultural rights of the Hungarian and German minorities, which were tied to the proportion of a given minority (at least 20 percent) in an electoral district. This problem is also reflected in the 1930 census, in which Jewish nationality was again used as a category regardless of mother tongue. The chapter focuses on discussions throughout the political and national spectrum and also abroad, concluding with an analysis of the Slovak autonomy policies against Jews. Klein-Pejšová analyzes the reasons why these policies were rejected by the majority society, beginning with the exclusive pro-Christian policy of the Slovak autonomist movement. At the same time, the book explains why Jews were important from the perspective of the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia and also why Slovak autonomists failed to win widespread support within Jewish communities.

Klein-Pejšová refutes the frequently mentioned stereotype according to which Jews were Hungarians (or people who had been “Magyarized”), which is often found in the Slovak literature. She presents the ways in and means with which the Jewish communities of Slovakia negotiated their identities and their relationships to the Czechoslovak Republic in the interwar period, as well as the differing opinions and attitudes with respect to these identities and the consequences of “belonging” and not “belonging.” Klein-Pejšová argues persuasively in support of the conclusion that the Jewish communities living in Slovakia were loyal to the Czechoslovak Republic.

Klein-Pejšová has worked with an array of archival and statistical material and secondary sources, which she analyzes and interprets with precision. She has made substantial contributions to Judaic studies in Slovakia. In particular, I appreciate her efforts to put the topics in the broad international context of the interwar period, which is unfortunately a rare undertaking in Slovak historiography. At the same time, the work could have offered deeper insight into the situation of the Slovak Jewry. For instance, the sometimes tense relationships between the Orthodox, the Neolog and the “status quo ante” communities could have been discussed in more details. The reader gets the impression that the Neolog community was predominant in Slovakia, whereas in fact, the Orthodox were superior in number. The work also lacks the context of works by other scholars, e.g. Peter Salner, who has studied Jewish identity and community transformations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Robert Büchler, one of the editors of the four-volume Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia (2009–2014), and Hugo Gold, one of the editors of a compilation of the archival materials on Bratislava’s Jewish community from the 1930s. Had she taken such precautions, Klein-Pejšová would have avoided including some inaccurate and incomplete data.

In conclusion, Rebekah Klein-Pejšová’s monograph is a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of the Jews in Slovakia during the interwar period, a history that has only barely begun to be told. It provides an essential starting point for more detailed analyses of Jewish identities, loyalties, and life strategies on the regional and local level. I believe that in a short time a Slovak translation will be available, and it will perhaps contribute to the gradual elimination of deep-rooted stereotypes regarding this community.

Ivica Bumová

 

Priest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia. By James Malice Ward. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2013. 362 pp.

The life and work of Jozef Tiso, the leading politician of the Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana (Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party, HSĽS) during the First Czechoslovak Republic and the president of the Slovak Republic between 1939 and 1945, have not previously been made the subject of systematic inquiry. Apart from books with an “apologetic” intention (Milan S. Ďurica, Jozef Tiso, 1887 – 1947: Životopisný profil [2006]), until now only conference proceedings from 1992 (Valerián Bystrický, ed., Pokus o politický a osobný profil Jozefa Tisu) and the biographical essay of the Slovak historian Ivan Kamenec (Tragédia politika, kňaza a človeka: Dr. Jozef Tiso, 1887 – 1947 [1998 and 2013]) were available. In light of this, James Malice Ward’s dissertation from 2008 at Stanford University marked a real breakthrough in the research on the life and personality of Jozef Tiso, especially with respect to its broad focus and inclusion of new sources.

Ward’s book on Tiso is shorter than his doctoral dissertation, but the structure, basic thesis, and conclusions remain unchanged. The volume is divided into eight chronological chapters, which deal with Tiso’s activity during the Hungarian era before 1918, his entry into politics and his successful career in the First Czechoslovak Republic, his controversial rise to the position as head of the wartime Slovak state, and his fall, political trial, and execution for treason after World War II. The closing remarks are devoted to the emergence and continuance of Tiso’s cult and attempts that have been made to offer critical interpretations of this cult.

James Ward reconstructs the formation of Tiso’s Weltanschauung in the context of Political Catholicism or, more precisely, the Christian socialism with which he became familiar during his studies at the prestigious Pazmáneum College in Vienna. Ward examines the beginnings of Tiso’s pastoral activity and the important moment of the Great War, which Tiso experienced as military chaplain on the Eastern Front in Galicia. As it did for so many others, for Tiso this experience foreshadowed the brutalization of politics in interwar Europe.

The chapters on Tiso’s role during the “revolutionary” events of 1918 and 1919 are essential with regard to Ward’s thesis. Ward investigates Tiso’s metamorphosis from a rather apolitical loyal Hungarian citizen to a Slovak nationalist who made an important contribution in a local context to the establishment of the new Czechoslovak state. Still, the downside of this development was political radicalization and the search for an “enemy”: it was the first time that Tiso used aggressive anti-Semitism to rally against “Jewish Magyarones” and “Judeobolshevists.”

In view of such a political inauguration, it is confusing to note that Tiso became the most important figure of the moderate HSĽS faction in the 1920s. Ward explores Tiso’s strategy according to his Catholic philosophy as a desire for compromise between spiritual and secular power. This offers some explanation as to why Tiso remained a moderate as long as the political circumstances required moderation, whereas during “revolutionary” times the very same desire led him to adopt more radical positions. According to Ward, it was the same Catholic dilemma that prompted Tiso to refrain from exploiting anti-Semitism in the 1930s. Tiso’s reputation was tarnished immediately after the so-called Munich Agreement in 1938, when the European powers legalized Hitler’s annexations at the expense of Czechoslovak integrity. As a consequence, the autonomy of Slovakia was proclaimed, and Tiso became the chairman of the Slovak autonomous government, which was dominated by the HSĽS. Tiso’s radicalization was again accompanied by anti-Semitism. He bore responsibility for the deportation of thousands of “unwelcomed Jews” to the new Slovak-Hungarian borderland in revenge for alleged Jewish support for the First Vienna Award, which made southern Slovak territories with largely Magyar-speaking inhabitants part of Hungary.

In March 1939 Czechoslovakia was finally destroyed and a new Slovak State was established. Tiso was elected Head of State later that year. His presidency, especially his responsibility for the so-called “solution of the Jewish question,” remains a matter of controversy. The HSĽS regime deprived tens of thousands of Jewish citizens of their basic rights, expropriated them, and in 1942 deported a large majority of them to German-occupied Poland, where almost all of them were murdered.

After 1938, Tiso increasingly turned away from the principles of so-called natural law and moderate nationalism. As Head of State, he subordinated Slovak and Christian socialist interests to German and National Socialist interests. He would eventually silence his radical opponents within the HSĽS by taking over their arguments. Especially concerning the “Jewish question,” he was sometimes the driving force behind their activities. This was true last but not least regarding the Hlinka Guard, the paramilitary group within the HSĽS. Tiso and his office submitted proposals for “solutions to the Jewish question,” and Tiso sometimes made concessions to members of the Hlinka Guard.

No less controversial were Tiso’s actions after the so-called Salzburg negotiations in the summer of 1940, which strengthened the radical faction within the HSĽS, led by Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka and Interior Minister Alexander Mach. Tiso never distanced himself from the building of so-called Slovak National Socialism, and he used it for his own benefit or at least made efforts to reconcile it with his own ideology of Christian socialism. Contrary to the nostalgic clichés of the “prosperous Slovak State,” neither a large-scale housing and electrification project nor land reform measures were implemented. In this case too, the social question was overshadowed by the “Jewish question.” In particular, Tiso defended and even promoted “Aryanization,” in accordance with his old argument about the necessity of building a “Slovak middle class,” in effect succumbing to the temptation of rampant corruption.

Beginning in the autumn of 1941, Tiso became more and more radical. Despite criticism from the Vatican, he was unable or not even willing to distance himself from the racist principles of the so-called “Jewish Code,” which summarized the Slovak anti-Jewish acts. On the contrary, after the return from the Eastern front in October 1941, he rediscovered the slogan of “Judeobolshevism.” In January of 1942, Tiso called for the adoption of more “effective measures” against the already completely disenfranchised and deprived Slovak Jews, several weeks after the conclusion of the agreement with the Nazi Germany regarding the deportation of Slovak Jews. Tiso thus agreed with the deportations, even before he (ex post) confirmed them by signing the constitutional law of May 1942. It makes no difference that Tiso simultaneously sanctioned exemptions from the Jewish Code, which applied mostly to converts, Christians by birth, and economically “irreplaceable” and “assimilated” Jews. It was no coincidence that Tiso shortly afterwards declared himself Vodca (Leader), who was “always right.”

Nevertheless, as of mid-1944 Tiso began losing control over his state, and after the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising he completely subordinated himself to his Nazi protector. The end of Nazi rule in Europe thus also marked the end of Tiso’s career and life. The new Czechoslovak rulers sentenced him to death and executed him, and in doing so contributed to the inauguration of his cult as a “national martyr.” In the last chapter of his book, Ward describes how after 1989 Slovak emigrants tried to revive Tiso’s cult in Slovakia.

In his biography, Ward charts new territories both in Slovak history and in the historiography of Slovakia. He pays particular attention to the intellectual influences which fueled Tiso’s ideology. He does not content himself with vague and controversial categories such as “authoritarian conservatism” or “clero-fascism.” However, terms such as “modernization” and “revolution,” which Ward uses to describe Tiso’s radicalization in 1918–1919 and 1938, respectively, are no less problematic. One would expect a more precise conceptualization of these key terms. References to a distinguished scholar of Fascism, Roger Griffin, suggest that Ward inclines towards Griffin’s interpretation of Fascism as a variant of “Modernism.” However, this should be more closely linked to the understanding of historical figures in the “age of Fascism” (cf. Roger Griffin, “Political Modernism and the Cultural Production of ‘Personalities of the Right’ in Inter-War Europe,” in The Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe, ed. by Rebecca Haynes [2011]).

Notwithstanding these objections, James Malice Ward has written a book for which both the Slovak public and historians have been waiting for decades. Hopefully it will soon be published in Slovak translation.

Miloslav Szabó

 

Jewish Resistance to “Romanianization”, 1940–44. By Stefan Cristian Ionescu. Palgrave Studies in the History of Genocide. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 267 pp.

Although he is treading on well-worn paths in Holocaust and genocide studies, in his book Stefan Cristian Ionescu offers several new insights into a topic which might be regarded as having already been made the subject of exhaustive study. Not only does the work provide a coherent and comprehensive overview of the manner in which the Romanianization process unfolded during the years of World War II, which is in itself a new enterprise (so far, no other expert has attempted to provide such a thorough overview of the facts), it also offers the reader a clear picture of the historical (political, social, and economic) background from which these development emerged.

Divided into eight chapters and a conclusion, Ionescu’s book reveals the author’s thorough familiarity with both older and more recent specialized literature. His readings are impressive and cover a variety of perspectives and sources from several countries. For instance, the chapter focused on the fate of Bucharest’s Jews in 1940–44, which opens the volume (“Introduction: World War II Bucharest and its Jews”), gives the reader a balanced overview of the main historical events of the time and interpretations of these events by the most important scholars in the field (Jean Ancel, Dennis Deletant, Armin Heinen, Carol Iancu, Mihai Chioveanu, Radu Ioanid, etc.). It also provides an interesting comparison with previous nationalization policies of the Romanian state, which constitutes a new and welcome contribution to the subject. The introduction additionally bases its interrogation of the process of Romanianization on local theoretical grounds, showing that this process had deep and strong Romanian intellectual roots and was not an import or imitation of another model (which does not mean, however, that the Romanianization process was not well part of larger trends at the time, as Ionescu rightly mentions). Ionescu clearly underlines the goals and targets of this process, and he does not neglect mention of the Roma as one of the targets. Furthermore, the use of carefully selected and verified interviews, letters, diaries, memoirs, and court rulings as research sources alongside the usual statistics, archival documents, and materials from the press is an original and innovative approach in tackling the wartime condition of the Jews of Bucharest, especially since their situation was quite different from that of their coreligionists in the rest of the country, with its three component parts (the former Principalities of Wallachia, Moldova, and Transylvania), as Ionescu indeed reveals by adopting a comparative perspective.

Ionescu’s thorough effort to trace the roots and evolution of the Romanian anti-Jewish legislation and analyze this legislation in relation to similar laws passed in the neighboring and allied countries, in particular Germany (Chapter 2, “Romanianization Legislation: Concepts, (Mis)interpretations and Conflicts”), constitutes another contribution to the field, especially in regard to “the burden and ambiguity of ethnicity during the Antonescu regime: the problematic concepts of ethnic Romanian, Jew and German” and the “state institutions’ complaints against the formalities of Romanianization legislation and the misinterpretations of these laws by courts and public agencies.” Neither of these topics has been given much attention by other experts in the recent past. Similarly useful and welcome is Ionescu’s original review of two particular cases of exemptions from Romanianization and their respective outcomes: that of the foreign Jews (with all the implications and subsequent, sometimes beneficial complications that the notion entailed) and that of the Jews who converted to (various types of) Christianity.

Ionescu analyzes another rather neglected aspect of the process in the third chapter, “The Romanianization Bureaucracy.” This gives him an opportunity not only to describe the structure and roles of the bureaucracy, but also to document what is considered “common knowledge” but has not really been addressed in detail, i.e. the fact that the enterprise, the Romanianization of the bureaucracy, was doomed to fail from its inception due to the ways in which Romanians sabotaged it from the inside through nepotism, intentional and unintentional poor management, and bribery, to which the author adds as his own contribution a new and persuasive argument: the lack of consistent state policy.

In its turn, in addition to giving a thorough review of the various categories of people and organizations that benefited, directly or indirectly, from the process, whether in cash (bribery) or in kind (real estate), and as a result of more or less determined (at times even aggressive) competitive pursuit, the chapter on “The Beneficiaries of Romanianization” allows Ionescu to originally ponder a number of intellectuals’ sometimes shocking lack of understanding of the psychological implications of their participation in theft, such as Camil Petrescu, who built his literary career on a (Jewish) Hillel scholarship (1914–19), or Alice Voinescu, who was otherwise very sympathetic to Jewish plight.

Another interesting contribution to the field is Ionescu’s insight into “Romanianization versus Germanization” (chapter 5), which brings to the forefront the subject—which has been largely overlooked—of local and foreign German competition for Romanian Jewish properties and the negative reactions it prompted both among the state officials and the general public. Ionescu thus analyzes the reactions of the Germans to the different treatments to which they were subjected by the Romanian authorities: the properties of the Germans who left Romania to join the Waffen SS were Romanianized, while Germans who remained in Romania were allowed to preserve their assets, to the dissatisfaction of the majority; however, no German, whether local or foreign, was permitted to obtain any benefit from the properties confiscated from the Jews, much to their dissatisfaction.

In regard to “Deportation and Robbery: The Roma Targets of Romanianization” (chapter 6), relying on published and unpublished documentation made available by Romanian and foreign experts, Ionescu draws some interesting conclusions of his own, not without merit. He sketches a series of new social and racial nuances in the interpretation of the reasons behind the deportation process, and he rightly underlines the differences between Jewish and Roma victimhood, both in the eyes of the authorities and in the eyes of the majority population.

By and large, “Jewish Legal Resistance to Romanianization” (chapter 7) is a valuable account of the struggle to fight the state with its own means. Drawing heavily on recently discovered archival documents and the existing secondary literature, Ionescu manages to come up with a clear picture of the chaos ruling the wartime Romanian legal system, which complicated the Romanianization process and allowed a number of Jews to outwit it, thus giving a new dimension to the analysis, which so far has dealt more with the Jewish initiatives and acts and less with their results.

Finally, based almost exclusively on recently discovered archival material and diaries, “Sabotaging the Process of Romanianization” (chapter 8) proposes an entirely new approach to the subject from a rare perspective. This chapter constitutes Ionescu’s main personal academic contribution to the historiography of World War II Romania. This is undoubtedly the book’s strongest point.

All in all, the variety of sources, innovative approaches, and original insights make the volume a significant contribution to the historiography of the Romanian Holocaust. Its only downside is that while it is called Jewish Resistance to Romanianization, 1940–44, only two of its eight chapters deal with Jewish resistance. The rest are devoted to the various aspects of the Romanianization process itself. This is not to say that the six chapters dealing with the process were not necessary or should have been shorter. On the contrary, the book should perhaps have been longer and also should have included more discussion of other forms of resistance among Jews (educational, cultural, spiritual, etc.), which Ionescu mentions but does not dwell upon. However, this does not make the book any less important as a very useful tool for both researchers and students in the field of Holocaust studies.

Felicia Waldman

 

Magyar megszálló csapatok a Szovjetunióban, 1941–1944: Esemény – elbeszélés – utóélet [Hungarian occupation forces in the Soviet Union, 1941–1944: Event, narrative, afterlife]. By Krisztián Ungváry. Budapest: Osiris, 2015. 468 pp.

In most accounts of the Second World War, the role attributed to the Hungarian Army is often reduced to that of cannon fodder for the Wehrmacht, due above all to the military disaster at the Don River in early 1943. It is much less widely known that Hungarian units were also deployed as occupying forces in the Soviet Union, where they were charged with the task of controlling territories about twice the size of their home country. In Hungary itself, in the 70 years that passed since the war, there has been no scholarly discourse and very little awareness of the role of these units. So what were their tasks, how did they adapt to the situation, and to what extent were they responsible for war crimes or even genocide? In his well-researched book, Krisztián Ungváry addresses these questions.

Ungváry’s book begins with a description of the Germans’ occupation policies after their attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. Despite some general—and extremely drastic—ideas laid down in the Generalplan Ost, the Germans were far from prepared for a prolonged war on the territory of the Soviet Union. As a consequence, they were constantly improvising, and hardly ever gained full control of the territories they occupied. Often villages would not be visited by a single representative of the occupiers for months. Moreover, there were constant internal conflicts concerning how to deal with the local population: while the political leadership in Berlin, above all Himmler’s Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), was issuing orders to suppress the local population by all means and was pushing for the murder of Jews, Roma, prisoners of war, and hospital patients, some senior officers of the Wehrmacht were trying to maintain viable relations with the local population, if only out of self-interest.

The second chapter is dedicated to the origins and the structure of the partisan war in the USSR. Ungváry’s description closely follows recent German studies, notably those of Christian Gerlach and Bogdan Musial, who have shown how the Soviet partisan movement, while largely ineffective from a military point of view, was a constant menace to the local population, fueling the spiral of terror wherever they were active.

It is in this context that Hungarian forces, about 40,000 troops in total, were deployed as auxiliary forces of the Germans. They were subordinate to the Wehrmacht’s command, but communication between the two armies was not always smooth. In some instances, Hungarians pursued different policies towards the locals, for example by protecting ethnic Poles from Ukrainian nationalists. Often, the relationships with the inhabitants varied according to the ethnicity of the soldiers in Hungarian uniform: in many cases, the army deployed large numbers soldiers belonging to ethnic minorities who hardly spoke the language of their superiors but were able to communicate with the locals.

There were two main zones of Hungarian deployment, and they were fundamentally different from each other: the western zone in western and central Ukraine remained largely quiet throughout the war, while the eastern zone in eastern Ukraine, reaching into Belarus and Russia, was right at the center of the partisan war.

Large segments of the book are dedicated to detailed accounts of military operations against supposed partisans. They are based mainly on the reports of the Hungarian units, sometimes juxtaposed with the German data. Ungváry urges the reader to be cautious with the numbers: while data about losses on the side of the organ providing the data tend to be credible, data concerning losses allegedly inflicted on the enemy are not only often inaccurate, in many cases the term “enemy losses” is simply a euphemism for the murder of civilians during an operation.

Another long and persuasively documented section is dedicated to the complicity of Hungarian troops in the Holocaust. Beginning with the end of the summer of 1941, the Einsatzgruppen and several other specialized units systematically murdered the Jewish population in the Soviet Union. As Ungváry shows, Hungarian troops were very often involved in the process, particularly in the western zone. The evidence suggests that in most cases their task was to drive the victims to the shooting pits or to stand guard during the murders. Occasionally, Hungarians were also among the gunmen. Quoting private correspondence from the lowest to the highest ranks, Ungváry proves that as early as 1941, there was general knowledge of the murder of the Jews not only in the army ranks, but also in the political leadership, up to Horthy himself. More shockingly, the mass murder of Jews seems to have been regarded as normal by most of the men involved. During the last year of the war, news was spreading in the opposite direction too. In other words, Hungarian soldiers were well aware of the deportation of Hungarian Jews in 1944. Asked about their motivation to carry on, many soldiers expressed their hope that they would receive chunks of confiscated Jewish property upon returning home.

In conclusion, Ungváry states that the conduct of the Hungarian occupying forces varied greatly according to the situation on the ground, especially with regards to the intensity of partisan warfare. He maintains that—except for their obvious involvement in the murder of the Jews, which took place predominantly in the western zone—there can be no talk of a genocide against the local population committed by the Hungarian occupying forces. Still, the overall behavior of the troops was appalling, especially in the eastern zone. Ungváry argues that while there was plenty of room for individual decision-making, the overall record of the Hungarian army often tends to be even worse than that of the Wehrmacht: “Poor equipment, insufficient training, minority complexes leading to overcompensation, and the irresponsibility resulting from the ‘guest role’ all had a radicalizing effect on the behavior of the Hungarian officers and soldiers” (p.436).

The last chapter of the book deals with the judicial afterlife. That the authorities in the post-war era were neither able to uncover nor interested in uncovering the truth in a systematic manner is not unexpected. However, the fact that after 1990 Hungarian courts in several cases rehabilitated officers who had been convicted of war crimes without even bothering to cite the evidence is somewhat depressing.

Unfortunately, the book does have its weaknesses. For instance, there is no map showing the entire theater of operations. Photographs are often placed in an inexplicable context. This is particularly true of the rather misleading cover picture of a Ukrainian woman greeting friendly Hungarian officers with flowers. Ungváry also tends to overemphasize the importance of discipline inside the Wehrmacht, while not devoting enough attention to other German and auxiliary units which spread unprecedented terror on the ground. These preconceptions concerning supposed German perfectionism are especially irritating when it comes to the detailed descriptions of mass shootings. The same authors that Ungváry quotes do not fail to point out that this type of mass murder was brutal, bloody and chaotic, but Ungváry chooses to ignore that.

Still, this is an important and indeed groundbreaking book. The lively public debates and the unusually large number of copies sold show that there is a genuine need in Hungarian society to come to terms with these widely unknown chapters of its past. Ungváry’s book is a major step forward and will hopefully inspire other researchers to uncover more on the everyday reality of life and death behind the front lines.

Ádám Kerpel-Fronius

 

A jelenkori magyar társadalom [Contemporary Hungarian society]. By Tibor Valuch. Budapest: Osiris, 2015. 300 pp.

The “change of regime” and “post-socialism”1 have been catchwords which have produced a voluminous literature since the collapse of “actually existing” socialism both internationally and nationally in the Eastern and Central European regions. The capitalist modernization project received ideological support from transition theory, which dominated the discourse on transformation in the first few years after 1989–1991. Since the adoption of Western institutions ranked high on the political agenda in the East-Central European countries, the main focus of the literature was political science and other “timely” issues, such as privatization and economic restructuring. Social history lagged behind, in spite of the fact that, as the events of the 1990s showed, the prognosis of transitology—according to which the newly established democracies would soon catch up with the consumption levels of the advanced Western countries—was not accurate.

In Hungary, this consensus changed in the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, when well-known sociologists published a number of studies in which they contended that the new societies had taken forms that differed from the prognoses (or illusions) of the dissident intellectuals who actively participated in the change of regime. These differences became manifest in the field of social policy as analyzed by Zsuzsa Ferge, the appearance of a new Hungarian underclass as shown by János Ladányi, and the whole work of the left-wing sociologist Erzsébet Szalai, who envisaged a society closer to the Latin American type, characterized by large social and economic inequalities, than to the often idealized Western model.

One important merit of Tibor Valuch’s book is that it is the first synthesis which provides a remarkably balanced picture of contemporary Hungarian society both for academics and the wider audience. Valuch has consulted an impressive amount of secondary literature. Moreover, he systematizes a very diverse array of materials from two perspectives, that of a sociologist and that of a historian, because he is a leading expert of post-World War II social history of Hungary. Given the fact that the post-socialist era serves as a battlefield for various competing ideologies and paradigms, his discussion of the interpretations of the change of regime and the diverse secondary literature on which he bases his inquiry merits unambiguous praise. In the secondary literature coming out of Hungary, critical theories, especially those which share affinities with Marxism, often fall victim to a conspiracy of silence. Valuch’s book, in contrast, will be enjoyable and revealing reading to anyone who prefers facts to historical myths and political ideologies.

Hungary’s situation was unique in the Eastern Bloc because, as Valuch writes, the late Kádár-regime, in its essence, was a period in which concessions and greater freedoms were granted to all segments of the population in order to preserve political rule. Dissent had no real social basis and the extension and spread of the second economy in itself hindered active participation in the work of the opposition” (p.26). Disappointment with the change of regime and the building of a new, capitalist society reinforced hopes for a distinctive “third way,” neither socialist nor liberal, in Hungary. It was in this social context that the introduction of the so-called autocratic meta-democracy took place in 2010 (p.20), and its consolidation continues today. It is perhaps worth noting that the so-called third way is an important political metaphor in the rhetoric of the far-right wing party Jobbik.

The volume gives a similarly objective and detailed but not exhaustive overview of the physical and mental map of contemporary Hungary from the perspectives of demography, regional economics, the ethnic makeup of the regions, social stratification, political activity, national consciousness, social policy, and various forms of deviance. The structure of the book is logical. The individual chapters provide answers whether we are examining specific, focused questions or are interested in larger trends, which provide daily fodder for the public media. One such issue is low birth rates in contemporary Hungary. The birth rate was decreasing in the socialist period, but it was in 1998 that it first fell below 100,000 births a year, and it has remained below this level ever since. There are many explanations for this decline in the number of births: interrogation of gender roles just as traditional gender roles are largely reinforced by mainstream politicians, an increase in the number of single people, emigration to the West (one should not forget that it is typically young people of childbearing age who leave the country), and the impoverishment of large segments of the population. The unstable job situation (flexible employment, public work, informal work, etc.) can be also a frequent cause of childlessness. It is worth mentioning here that Stefano Bottoni, who investigated the post-1944 history of Eastern Europe, considered the emigration of members of the younger generations as one of the most important challenges that the East Central European societies and governments would have to face and to which they have to find a political answer (Stefano Bottoni, A várva várt Nyugat: Kelet-Európa története 1944-től napjainkig [2014]).

The second, similarly neuralgic point is the large inequality that characterizes Hungarian regions. The underclass is concentrated in small settlements, where the lack of job opportunities leads to other inequalities. These inequalities include the lack of quality educational opportunities, the lack of health care, the lack of public transport, and the failure of the majority society to encourage or allow the populations of these settlements to integrate. Thus, whole regions lag behind and/or lose contact with the Hungary of the twenty-first century. The main characteristic of the underclass is precisely this cumulative deprivation, and as a result, the opportunities for the generations growing up in these settlements have also been cumulatively deteriorating. New poverty does not mean that there is not enough clothing for the needy, but rather that there is no chance for upward social mobility. The children of the poor (and the majority of the Roma population is poor) are effectively segregated in ghettoized settlements, in part due to ineffective social and educational policy, which, indeed, is so ineffective in addressing social inequalities that one is tempted to think that it is meant to preserve rather than challenge the status quo.

The chapters on social stratification and the transformation of the elite are especially illuminating in part because Valuch examines the ways in which Hungarian society differs from the Western ideal. Without going into detail concerning the inequalities that existed under state socialism, one can safely state that the new capitalist society in Hungary has produced much greater inequalities. As Zsuzsa Ferge concludes, post-1989 Hungarian social policy could not counterbalance these negative trends effectively. Furthermore, in certain cases it reinforced existing inequalities because it primarily favored the middle class (Zsuzsa Ferge, Vágányok és vakvágányok a társadalompolitikában [2012]). I have only one critical comment regarding these chapters: the issue of integration into the job market would have merited more emphasis, since membership in the middle class today presupposes a job and job security. It is important to remember that the specific and distinctive aspect of social change in Eastern Europe is precisely the fact that, while in Western Europe we can still speak of a large middle class (in spite of the crisis of 2008), in Eastern Europe neither wages nor employment security developed in a way that would have led to the emergence of a middle class of a similar position and size. We can also add, on the basis of the research of Erzsébet Szalai, that the national elite is divided: the interests of the so-called national middle class often differ from the aspirations of the international elite, which is linked to global capital. The book would have greatly benefitted from a more analytical discussion of the reasons behind the manifest differences between contemporary Hungarian society and the Western model as envisaged by the liberals of the post-socialist era. This critical observations, however, does not influence my general opinion that the book is highly worth reading for anyone who seeks to understand post-socialist Hungarian society based on objective indicators.

In order to understand the post-socialist social milieu, it is essential to have a deep and less ideologically biased knowledge of state socialism, which remains a challenging task both for historians and sociologists. The “conspiracy of silence,” by which I am referring to the aspiration to exclude the socialist era from Hungarian history or present it as a regime which was simply thrust upon the country, is little more than a gross repetition of the academic policy of the Rákosi regime, which sought to equate the whole Horthy era with Fascism. Valuch’s book shows that it is possible to include competing narratives in a book on national history while also fostering real academic debate about the meaning and content of state socialism and the change of regime.

Eszter Bartha

1 To be sure, some authors already speak of post-postsocialism.

pdfVolume 5 Issue 2 CONTENTS

FEATURED REVIEW

The Past as History: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe. By Stefan Berger, with Christoph Conrad. (Writing the Nation series). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 570 pp.

 

In 2003, a research program entitled Representations of the Past: The Writing of National Histories in 19th and 20th Century was launched by the European Science Foundation. The scholars in the program sought to explore the intellectual and cultural contexts in which national historical narratives emerged and the extent to which these narratives proved durable as cultural phenomena. Stefan Berger launched the project, and he had the support of Christoph Conrad and Guy P. Marchal in the international research that was done up until 2008. The goal of the program was the publication of a series of eight volumes, and these volumes were indeed published between 2008 and 2015. The book under review is the concluding volume of the series. The books, which altogether come to some 3,700 pages, contain the writings of almost 150 authors from more than 20 countries. Time and space do not allow me to present the results of the Representations of the Past project in its entirety. Berger and Conrad have written a work that provides a synthesis of the entire initiative and thus offers a glimpse into the project as a whole.

The book is divided into seven chapters offering a chronological presentation of the entire history of national historical narratives in Europe. In the introduction, the authors examine the concept of the historical construct of nation, touching on the roles that national histories have played in European Modernity. They do not, however, deal with theories of nationalism. In and of itself, this is not a problem, but it does contribute ultimately to the failure to clarify the precise meaning(s) of the term “national history,” which plays a key role in the train of thought of the entire book. A choice between the constructivist or the ethno-symbolic theories on nation and nationalism and the analytical perspective this would have given would have offered some compensation for this shortcoming. However, with regards to the concept of national history, we are informed only that its function was the creation and maintenance of the nation: “National history has [thus] been one of the main instruments with which to construct collective national identity. […] It is important in our discussions of collective national identity to remain aware of the political functionalisation of this idea in historical writing and beyond” (p.8). The writing of history itself is only the subject of the book to the extent that it contributed (or is seen as having contributed) to the historical process of the construction of national identity. It is thus hardly surprising that the authors see the European narratives of history in the Modern era as, without exception, “national.” One justifiably would have preferred a more subtle understanding of the writing of history that took its other uses and functions into account.

This narrowly focused definition defines the trajectory of Berger’s and Conrad’s inquiries, which in principle strive to offer an account of all of the European history writing in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus, the conclusion of the story is hardly a surprise: “No reader of this volume will be able to escape the sense of the sheer power and longevity of national histories and their influence on national identity formation across Europe” (p.373). The authors know, of course, that national identity was not (and is not) the only form of group identity, but they contend that in Europe of the Modern era no other identity construction was able to displace or play a similar role to that of national identity. According to them, “what was striking everywhere was the extent to which national history subsumed other spatial and non-spatial forms of history writing” (p.365). Yet the fact that, as they concede, “[t]here never existed a ‘one size fits all’ national history in Europe” (p.371) might at least have prompted them to consider possible typologies of national identities (or histories). They dismiss this, however, with the contention that “the construction of such typologies [is] ultimately more burdensome than helpful, especially as they tend to reify the national units of comparison” (p.372). However, Berger and Conrad are endeavoring to show how general and transnational the phenomenon of national history writing was all over Europe.

While on the one hand I am sincerely impressed with the quite possibly unprecedented breadth and depth of the authors’ scholarship and their striking ability to compose a coherent synthesis on the basis of this scholarship, on the other hand I remain a bit skeptical about their operative definition of national history. Before touching on my reservations, however, I will present the essential narrative and its logic.

The notion of historical writing as a presentation of the history of the nation stretches back to the Middle Ages. Berger and Conrad use the term premodern to denote the “national” historical narratives that were prevalent during the time of the rule of dynasties and kings, and they use the term “protomodern” to denote the national narratives of the Enlightenment. In the Age of Enlightenment, the scope of historical inquiry broadened and became European and even global, but the holistic approach did not sever itself completely from the notion of the national past, and for the most part history and historians put the leading nations of Europe in the foreground of their inquiries and narratives. The Göttingen historians (Schlözer, Gatterrer) did a great deal to promote the spread of the English concept of universal history. At the same time, they also favored the perspectives of national history over the universal history approach.

The writings of Herder and the Romantic approach to history (which was influenced by Herder) lessened the tension between national and transnational history simply by making the concept of history more national. Thus, nothing really stood in the way of the triumph of the national paradigm. Berger and Conrad draw a distinction between the first half of the nineteenth century and the second half, which led up to World War I. At the prompting of the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, national historiography, which was imbued with the ideas and ideals of Romanticism, passionately championed the permanence, authenticity, and homogeneity of the national past, and it used the metaphors of growth and development to describe the gradual emergence of characteristics that were allegedly intrinsic to the nation. The people or “Volk” were given a particularly prominent role in this vision, as the “Volk” was seen as the social actor of national history.

German Historicism gave history the prestige and status of a generally accepted discipline. This took place in the roughly half-century between 1850 and 1914. As most of the nations or peoples of Europe embarked down the path towards the capitalist development and political organization based on the concept of the nation state, politics and the academic writing of history entered into an enduring and increasingly close relationship with each other. The canon of methodologically rigorous history writing gained both widespread currency and institutional form all over Europe. Historians began to have some voice on issues concerning contemporary politics, and the canon of a given national history became complexly intertwined with the aspiration for national sovereignty. History acquired a new role and justification as a form of national scholarship, and thus a tradition took root which historians have had to confront ever since.

What should the post-nineteenth century era do with this intellectual heritage? The historiographical nationalism that rose to the fore in the interwar period can justifiably be seen as a kind of logical (if also lamentable) culmination (or devolution) of the national histories of the nineteenth century. World War I played a considerable role in the direction history as a discipline took, both during the war and in its wake. The borders that were drawn at the end of the war did a great deal to stir nationalist sentiments, both among the victors of the war and the losers. However, the immoderate and extremist regimes that ruled in the interwar period indisputably also bore responsibility. Even Bolshevik historians, who allegedly and even vociferously were internationalists, nonetheless were not exceptions in this regard.

How did the writing of national histories evolve after World War II? According to Berger and Conrad, there were three successive waves of national histories. The first wave came in the first 15 or so years after the war, when in both halves of a newly divided Europe (divided by the Iron Curtain) efforts were made to restore the national historical consciousnesses and identities that had only recently been tearing one another to pieces. Not surprisingly, historians contributed to this process. In the 1960s, however, new winds began to blow. The social science school of history, which emerged in large part because of the influence of the many (primarily French) historians who published in the journal Annales, was hardly a convinced adherent of the national history paradigm. However, even this school did not dispense entirely with the concept of national history. This may have been due in part to the fact that, when the communist regimes in Central Europe began to fall and Europe was no longer divided by the Cold War (and indeed a bit before this), the concept of history began to become “re-nationalized” across Europe. True, this was not simply the reemergence of the familiar national historiographies. Rather, more reflective and far less apologetic master narratives told from national perspectives began to gain ground.

As they reach the end of their book, Berger and Conrad must address the following question: is there any chance that at some point in the near future the national historiographical paradigm will be displaced? Berger and Conrad are not terribly optimistic in this regard. Their pessimism stems from the conviction that the original function of the writing of history is the creation, cultivation, and maintenance of national identity. At the same time, however, they do not contest the notion that national identity is itself a historical construct, which could be replaced with another kind of communal identity in time. Furthermore, Berger and Conrad note, national identity is not created exclusively by the writing of national history, though most of the historians of our time continue to cling to a methodological nationalism, and very few would eagerly abandon it. And what other kind of (a territorial based) collective identity could replace national identity? And yet, as Berger and Conrad observe, “[n]ational identities have, after all, been based on essentialised understandings of ‘self’ and ‘other’. [… Their] aggressive and destructive potential is therefore high” (p.378).

This work is a remarkable scholarly achievement. The methodologically consistent examination of the fundamental concept and the empirical substantiation—which is unparalleled in its extensiveness—are deeply impressive. However, with respect to its genre, it does raise some questions concerning the coherence of the notion of a master narrative.

Even if we accept the postulate according to which the scholarly writing of history necessarily takes form as a historical narrative of a national past we still cannot shirk the task of identifying precisely what actually counts as national in a “national” history. According to the answer that Berger and Conrad have given to this question, what only counts is the specific function played by the national histories of a given nation in the creation and continuous strengthening of political (nation state) integration. This is true even when the historiography in question is not emphatically nationalist in its approach, since “the pervasiveness of national history guarantees the propping up of collective national identities and national master narratives” (p.376).

Is this explanation adequate justification for assigning the attributive “national” to all of the histories in Europe of the Modern era? I rather doubt it. If this is the case, then does a history that simply accepts the national borders (the borders of the nation state) as the concrete geographical coordinates of its inquiry and yet deliberately avoids proffering any master narrative of the country’s history still qualify as “national”? This is an important question, because it is more the latter that narrates the past of a people in the form of a national narrative in order to give expression to its alleged historical distinctiveness. I very much doubt that we can regard these two very different historiographical endeavors as similarly “national.”

History is a kind of empirical science, which given its very subject is closely tied to a given “national” site that is essential simply from the perspective of obtaining information (archives, libraries, and the knowledge of a locality). No historian can ever free herself from this “national” constraint entirely. The image of the past that is composed—a past that is necessarily observed, described, and analyzed within national frameworks—thus does not serve the issue of national identity in the same way, though it can never be indifferent to this issue. “Thematic nationalism” (Berger and Conrad do not use this term), which is what we are actually dealing with here, is the methodological path that the historian is compelled to take in order to give expression in historical narrative to a national and even sometimes a transnational vision. Then, when the epistemologically naïve Realist credo beloved of Historicism begins to lose its authority—and this is happening today—the ground also slips out from under national histories, which were founded on this epistemological conviction. When it begins to become clear that “[t]he capacity of the nation to frame time and space is not inherent; it is a historical variable” (Thomas Bender: Introduction: Historians, the Nation, and the Plenitude of Narratives. In: T. Bender, ed.: Rethinking American History in a Global Age. [2002], 11), the truths of national histories become relative. One finds numerous signs of the influence of this insight in the historiographies of all of the countries of Europe today.

It is regrettable that Berger and Conrad do not take this into account. In an ambitious overview such as theirs, there is always the danger that, given the pressure to incline towards some homogeneity in order to fashion a coherent and persuasive master narrative, differences between emphatically nationalist histories on the one hand and more narrowly national histories on the other will be blurred. Berger and Conrad fail to offer any closer interrogation of the plural nature of the premises and functions of national histories, and this makes their use of terminology reductionist.

Anyone who at least to some extent knows his or her national historiography from the “inside” also knows how very heterogeneous this historiography is, even from the perspective of its “national” contents. Hungarian historiography is also rife with such examples. The Geistesgeschichte that was dominant in the interwar period and its rival, ethno-history, both bore national messages, and yet each threw into question the validity of the other’s conception of “national.” The decisive difference between the two approaches lay in their divergent conceptions of the nation. To cite an additional example, the Marxist endeavors of the 1960s and 1970s to de-nationalize historiography also bore affinities with the similarly Marxist national canon of the national master narrative. In addition, the most prominent representative of both was Erik Molnár, a political and Marxist ideologue who, after 1956, for a time was the decisive figure of power in Hungarian historiography. Molnár launched the debate among historians in which he sought to replace the dominant notion of national history that found manifestation in the struggles for independence with the concept of class and class warfare. At the same time, he organized the composition of the first Marxist master narrative of national history.

The examples I have mentioned suffice to show that without any attempt to address concept history, the distinct function of the concept of the “national” and the concrete meaning of the term in the “national” historiography of a given era cannot be adequately analyzed.

The book includes an appendix (National Historians in Europe) with short biographies of 765 historians. The individuals in this appendix seem to have been included simply because they are mentioned by the authors at some point in the book. The principle on which the selection appears to have been made is incongruous with the title. Thus, the appendix includes people who are neither historians nor Europeans, as well as individuals whose inclusion is entirely unwarranted simply for professional reasons. The appendix also includes many people who are not “national historians” strictly speaking, though of course they are citizens of some country and members of some national community. The appendix is perhaps useful, but it hardly fulfills the role intended for it by the authors, as it sheds no light on the question of how one should understand the notion of national historiography and how to determine who the practitioners of this form of historical inquiry actually are.

The book by Berger and Conrad came into being thanks at least in part to the shared intellectual efforts of many historians. Thus, it offers a faithful mirror of the Writing the Nation research project. As a groundbreaking work of transnational historiography, it is a genuine pleasure to read, and it also provides persuasive proof of the symbiotic relationship between the writing of history and modern politics.

Gábor Gyáni

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