Volume 6 Issue 2 CONTENTS
Central Europe in the High Middle Ages: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c. 900–c. 1300. By Nora Berend, Przemysław Urbańczyk, and Przemysław Wiszewski. (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 550 pp.
This book introduces the history of Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries. The first chapter, written by Nora Berend, provides a detailed discussion of what is understood by the phrase “Central Europe,” and how this concept can be applied to the history of the Middle Ages. Passing in review the complex historiography of this term and related terms, including the studies of Oskar Halecki and Jenő Szűcs, who both strongly advocated for the importance of this region in the history of Europe as a whole, and countless others, who outlined the specific features of this historical region, Berend concludes that there are many equally valid and legitimate ways of describing this part of the European continent. However, she notes that the concept of such a region did not exist in the Middle Ages, nor did the three polities form a unity. She nonetheless argues that Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary did share common features in their early development. Berend insists that she and her co-authors do not intend to essentialize the region by describing its unique features, and they are wary of entering the debate about whether or not the region belongs to the West or the East; instead, they are “attempting to evacuate value-judgments inherent in proving that these countries belonged to Western civilization,” and they are not “trying to isolate the region through the use of this term (i.e. Central Europe) from ‘the East’” (p.38). Taking an innovative approach, the authors want to explore in a systematic manner the similarities and differences between the three polities, but not with the intention of defining indicators of a fundamental difference with the rest of Europe.
The book is organized into thematic chapters that follow a chronological framework; each chapter is divided into sections which treat the three principalities side by side, providing an opportunity for comparisons and pointing out similarities and differences. Berend wrote the sections on Hungary; Przemysław Urbańczyk and Przemysław Wiszewski, an archaeologist and a historian respectively, were commonly responsible for the sections on Poland and Bohemia. A chapter describes the state of research regarding Slavic and Hungarian migrations and the connections between early Slavs and the Avar Empire. The subsequent one describes the formation of the three polities and the role of Christianization in this process. The focus then shifts to political developments, social and economic processes, and Church history in the formative period of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The last chapter deals with the “new developments” of the thirteenth century, including social transformations, the impact of the Mongol invasion, urbanization, and cultural changes. Altogether, the book alternates between narrative sections which outline the political framework and thematic chapters which describe cultural and social processes.
The result is a lot more than a mere introduction to the history of this region. Paying attention to details and providing an up-to-date overview of recent research, the book explains often complex subjects in an approachable manner. The bibliography favors publications in western European languages, but it is not limited to them, and thus it provides Anglophone readers with references to easily accessible publications, while acknowledging scholarship which only a smaller subset of the intended readership will be able to consult. This is a very fortunate and balanced approach. Although few (too few) scholars outside of Central Europe might read Polish, Czech, or Hungarian, even fewer (if any) read all three of these languages. Thus, this book, while intended primarily for students or instructors not familiar with the region, will certainly also be useful to many who study one of these three polities, but are less familiar with the other two; it will facilitate access to this historiography for a younger generation of scholars and hopefully inspire some to learn these languages.
The book, however, is much more than a survey of research. The combination of the expertise of Berend, Urbańczyk, and Wiszewski allows for systematic comparisons of medieval Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary with a depth of coverage that is unusual. The systematic parallel presentation of developments in the three polities for each aspect discussed allows the reader to see similarities and differences, which are usually summarized at the beginning or end of each section. For instance, the parallel discussion illustrates that in Poland and Hungary, Christianization and the consolidation of central power were interrupted by pagan rebellions, but this did not take place in Bohemia, where such processes had begun earlier. The relationships between the three polities and Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire were shaped differently: Bohemia was integrated into the latter, while the rulers of Poland and Hungary were involved in varying alliances and were seeking to strike a balance of power with other polities. Similar problems of succession and the role of seniority were dealt with in varying circumstances, but led everywhere in some degree to forms of territorial subdivisions.
If this were not enough, the book also provides an original revision of prevalent ideas and even misconceptions about Central Europe. For example, some readers might find it surprising that no chapter is devoted specifically to “German colonization” (or whatever other terms of phrases might be used), but that a chapter on social changes deals with the integration of immigrants and the appearance of a “multi-ethnic society” (p.465, for Poland). One could argue that this is just a new way of describing the same phenomenon, or that it provides an entirely new perspective, free from the ballast of past ideologies and more relatable to readers of the twenty-first century. Few, however, would deny that there is a lot in this book to stimulate reflection and discussion on a fundamental period of the history of this part of the continent, whatever term one prefers to use to refer to it.
Memorial University Newfoundland and Labrador
Deserting Villages – Emerging Market Towns: Settlement Dynamics and Land Management in the Great Hungarian Plain: 1300–1700. By Edit Sárosi. (Archaeolingua. Series minor, 39.) Budapest: Archaeolingua, 2016. 320 pp.
It is a commonplace that there are “two Hungarys,” one to the west of the Danube and one to the east. Transdanubia is an area with hundreds of small villages, sloping vineyards, hills, a dense network of rivers, and relatively extensive woodlands, while the lowland that falls to the east of the Danube has a rather sparse settlement network, mostly mid-sized towns, and the land between them is dotted by only a few scattered houses. There are hardly any significant rivers between the Danube and the Tisza, and the extent of the woodlands is low compared to the western part of the country or the Northern Hungarian Mountains. This landscape, the so called puszta, the “cultural desert,” became an integral part of Hungarian identity. The book by Edit Sárosi discusses the process during which this landscape came to existence.
As indicated by the title of the book, the goal of the inquiry is to discuss long-term changes in the settlement network and land management strategies in the Danube–Tisza Interfluve area, which covers more or less the central third of present-day Hungary. Sárosi not only provides an overview of the development and the transformation of the settlement network of the region, she also discusses in detail the center of the interfluves area, specifically the town of Kecskemét, and she puts the development of the town and the surrounding villages in the context of the environmental and economic changes of the region. As stated in the introduction, the book aims not only to discuss the specific context of the changes which took place in the settlement network of the region, but also to give a methodological tool for further research into historical landscapes (including human landscapes).
The book consists of eight chapters, including the conclusions. The first presents the main research problem and gives a brief but useful overview of the available sources (documentary evidence, maps, toponyms, and archaeological records). For some reason, the environmental archaeological data was omitted, which however does not mean that Sárosi did not use findings from this discipline.
The second chapter provides a general image of the landscape of the Danube–Tisza Interfluve. The landscape as explained by Sárosi has changed significantly over the course of the last millennia. The process during which the “cultural desert” came into existence can certainly be connected to human activity. It is rather unclear, however, when this landscape became dominant. According to Sárosi, from the foundation of the Hungarian state (around the year 1000) and the intensification of arable farming, the forest steppe started to shrink and gave way to the puszta, a process which was very much accelerated by forest clearance in the Ottoman period. Although there is no question that by the early eighteenth century the region lacked woodlands, as nicely described by contemporaries such as Matthias Bel (whom Sárosi quotes), the extent to which the woodlands were victims of the Ottoman occupation is rather unclear.
The third chapter is dedicated to the study of the network of villages in the surroundings of Kecskemét. This is a critically important issue, since until now it has been rather unclear when the relatively dense network of villages in the period between the tenth and the thirteenth century were deserted and when the lands belonging to these villages became properties owned or leased by the inhabitants of Kecskemét. The author carefully presents the major waves of settlement abandonment based on the written sources and the archaeological data, and she analyzes how the present settlement network was formed. She convincingly argues that the networks of isolated farmsteads between the towns in the region are only partly products of the Ottoman-period economy. The formation of farmsteads the people of which lived off of gardening in the proximity of market towns can be associated with the Ottoman period, but in the case of farmsteads at the sites of former villages, there is no persuasive evidence of any such continuity. This is perhaps one of the most important lessons of the book, and Sárosi devotes more attention to it in chapter seven.
The next chapter is dedicated to the perishing villages themselves. The book provides a detailed morphological analysis and a description of the elements of the villagescape in the late medieval period. Chapter five, however, turns to the discussion of the centers, namely the market towns, as a special type of town, of which Kecskemét is certainly a perfect example. The introduction of this chapter may be a bit longer than necessary, but the second half of the chapter offers a well-written discussion of the role of the town in the urban network of the early modern Great Hungarian Plain. There are references to the other major market towns in the region, such as Cegléd and to some extent Nagykőrös, but more detailed comparisons with these settlements may have been yielded more insights.
Chapter six is dedicated to the topographic development of Kecskemét, of which Sárosi is without a doubt the most important authority. She provides the reader with a very precise analysis of the topographical development and the features of the townscape. The lack of Franciscan friaries in the region up to the eighteenth century, which is a phenomenon peculiar to the area (and mentioned by the author in this chapter), would certainly be worth a detailed study.
As already mentioned, the seventh chapter is probably the most important section of the book, since to some extent it wraps up the preceding chapters. It very clearly demonstrates that agriculture and its major restructuring in the late medieval period and, moreover, in the sixteenth century fostered the development of Kecskemét as a town. Chapter eight summarizes the main findings of the book, which are broken into two categories; settlement patterns, and land-management and settlement morphology.
The book is rich in visual supporting materials, most of which are not simply included but are used and referred to by the author, which makes the book reader-friendly. There are a few terminological inconsistencies, the most important of which is the Great Hungarian Plain, which in most cases is referred to as the Great Plain by Sárosi, and this may be a bit confusing for the international readership. The bibliography is exhaustive, the only possible oversight being the recently published works of Kyra Lyublyanovics on Cuman farming in the Great Hungarian Plain.
Despite these minor shortcomings, the book is unquestionably a major contribution to the settlement history of the Danube–Tisza Interfluve area, but in fact it is much more than that. It is a book which truly integrates different research perspectives and traditions, using English landscape archaeology as a reference point, but also integrating archaeology, landscape history, environmental history, and settlement history. Thus, it offers a path that hopefully many similar monographs will follow.
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Das Reich als Netzwerk der Fürsten: Politische Strukturen unter dem Doppelkönigtum Friedrichs II. und Heinrichs (VII.) 1225–1235. By Robert Gramsch. (Mittelalter-Forschungen 40.) Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 2013. 456 pp.
The original goal of this book by Staufer Prize-winning historian Robert Gramsch was to offer a new look at the history of the German interregnum (1254–73), though both the beginning date of this period and the precise definition of the term itself proved complex, since the interregnum in fact meant a permanent dual kingdom, the prototype of which had already existed in the period between 1225 and 1235. Gramsch focuses in his inquiry on the period in which Frederick II and Henry VII shared power (he considers this the precursor to the interregnum). In his assessment, the renunciation of the crown by Henry VII in 1235, which given the manner in which it took place and the collaboration of the imperial princes seemed to be the high point of the reign of Frederick II and the Hohenstaufen dynasty, in fact was the beginning of the end. However, the emperor had brought down a legally elected king who had wielded power, and this dramatically undermined the institution of the kingdom itself, creating a dangerous precedent (pp.55–56). Since the followers of Heinrich Raspe (1246–47), the later rival king, earlier had been supporters of Henry VII and, according to the earlier secondary literature, Henry’s imprudent politics had played a serious role in the weakening of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Gramsch focuses in his inquiry on Henry himself and his reign.
Perhaps the most distinctive and innovative feature of Gramsch’s book lies in the methodology he has chosen, specifically the sociological study of networks. He strives to uncover the positive, negative, and neutral ties between the Church and secular princes of the Empire and the relationships between its most important towns. This tendency to place local actors in the foreground of inquiries into historical events is not uncommon in the German scholarship on the Middle Ages. However, this method has only been used effectively in studies on the period of Henry the Lion. Gramsch, however, departs down this road, but he offers considerably more, for he has two essential goals: first, he seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of research on networks in the scholarship on the Middle Ages and, second, he offers a reinterpretation of the reign of Henry VII on the basis of information and networks of relationships brought to the surface with this methodology.
The first chapters deal with network research itself, familiar only in recent decades in German scholarship, but quite well-established among Anglo-Saxon historians. The style of this section is entirely comprehensible even to a lay-reader, if perhaps at times a bit dry. This methodology makes it possible for the historian to offer a reconstruction of interrelationships which, because the sources were either scattered or only tangential, earlier had been largely ignored. Thus, it becomes possible to offer a more complex picture. The network models that are thus brought into the foreground are not rigid snapshots, since both the networks and the actors within them influence one another, and the complex new interrelationships that emerge constitute an excellent foundation for historical analysis (though the dynamic processes and individual shifts in values cannot be brought into the discussion).
By examining the politically relevant acts which took place between 1225 and 1273, Gramsch creates his own database, on which his study rests. Of the 153 actors in this database, he focuses on 68 who, because of their influence and their involvement in the various conflicts, are particularly important to his model of the ties between the imperial princes. The book includes 22 color tables, which show year by year the relationships of the individual federative groupings to one another, relationships which were determined by ties of blood and marriage, hostile or friendly acts, the so-called series dignitatum in charters, and the presence of the Hoftag (a kind of informal imperial diet).
The larger section of the book presents the conflicts that arose in the course of Henry VII’s reign, conflicts which played key roles in the development and transformation of the imperial network. In the course of this discussion, Gramsch places in a new light several questions which have been regarded essentially as answered in the secondary literature. Just to mention but a few, the goal of the assassination of Engelbert, archbishop of Cologne, on 7 November 1225, for instance, was not actually to kill, but rather to kidnap him. It was motivated not by envy of the territorial power of the neighboring princes, but rather by the confrontation on several fronts between Herman II, lord of Lippe and his allies on the one hand and Cologne on the other (pp.140–57). Gramsch offers a similar reinterpretation of the persecution of heretics by Konrad von Marburg in 1231–32, which have become infamous for their brutality and which can be tied to the landgrave of Thuringia’s offensives against Cologne and Mainz (pp.290–300).
Gramsch’s examination of the Empire’s networks also casts light on two fundamental reasons for the break between the emperor and his son, reasons which have been largely ignored in the secondary literature. The first was Henry’s marriage, or to be more precise, the decision of the emperor to make Margaret of the House of Babenberg the queen consort of Germany instead of Agnes of Bohemia. The Austrian secondary literature offers no explanation for this decision, but Gramsch suggests that it was perhaps influenced by the machinations of Louis IV, landgrave of Thuringia, and Leopold VI, duke of Austria (pp.104–05). The other neuralgic point was the relationship with the House of Wittelsbach, which was essentially the only serious subject of political discord between father and son. While Frederick II began to pursue demonstrably anti-Bavarian politics in 1225 (p.220)—and the appointment of Louis I as imperial regent in no way contradicts this—with the exception of a short intermezzo in 1229, Henry VII remained pro-Bavarian until 1233.
Though the book focuses on the networks and political turns within the Holy Roman Empire, in the case of some of the events the narrative also touches on the Kingdom of Hungary, though the theories it presents concerning the rule of Andrew II of Hungary are easy to be refuted. The most interesting of these concerns an (alleged) agreement which was reached at the same time as the Graz agreement. Gramsch suggests that, according to this other agreement, Andrew II withdrew his support for his niece, Agnes of Bohemia, and in exchange, Leopold VI withdrew his support for the Order of the Teutonic Knights, which the Hungarian king longed to see driven out. Indeed, Andrew even prevailed on the pope to do the same, as allegedly proven by the passage of the bull which begins “Intellecto iam dudum,” according to which the severed crownlands lying in the territory of Prince Béla could be retaken. Since Prince Béla only came to the fore in Transylvanian politics in 1226 the authorization could not have applied to the estates of the Order in Burzenland. Moreover, in the course of the Austrian–Bohemian–Hungarian conflict of 1233 (which is given considerable emphasis), according to contemporary sources there were two (not one) Hungarian military campaigns, and the notion of an allegedly anti-royalist conspiracy of the Hungarian magnates of 1235 (mentioned in Gramsch’s narrative) cannot be considered plausible, given the testimony of the chronicler Master Roger.
These debatable theories, however, in no way detract from the significance of this monograph as a serious contribution to historical scholarship, for Gramsch offers a fundamentally new and persuasive picture of Henry VII: he emerges as a ruler who knew how to handle the imperial princes, sensed shifts in the networks of relationships, was capable of taking action, and was gifted with political foresight. Thus, his fall was not a consequence of his personality or his political clumsiness, or even bad luck. Rather, Frederick II, having recognized the unviability of the system of a dual kingdom (which he had created), made use of the unusually balanced internal network of relationships in the Empire and deprived him of power. Because of the influence of the imperial propaganda, Henry was seen by his contemporaries and the historians of later centuries as the rebellious son, even though he only “slipped into” revolt (pp.345–52).
Gramsch’s book persuasively demonstrates that research on networks of relationships does indeed have an important place in the (German) scholarship on the Middle Ages, and the book itself will occupy an important place in the libraries of historians interested in the Hohenstaufen period.
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Ritual and Symbolic Communication in Medieval Hungary under the Árpád Dynasty. By Dušan Zupka. (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450–1450, 39.) Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2016. 224 pp.
The introductory part of the book contains a short description of the sources, in which Zupka states that the main source of the book will be the fourteenth-century Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle. Zupka then gives a short historiographical introduction to the Slovak and Hungarian secondary literature. The first chapter of the book gives an overview of the terminology and the general historiography of the rituals, focusing mainly on the German and English scholarship while the second deals with the rituals of power and the royal symbols. This latter chapter contains analyses of the different types of coronations, the laudes regiae (royal acclamation), cingulum militiae (the girding by sword), and court festivities. Chapter 3 focuses on the rituals of reconciliation, which reference to several examples. The fourth chapter focuses on the solemn royal entries (adventus regis) in medieval Hungary and in particular the ritual acts that were performed in Dalmatia. Following the discussion of the royal entries, the fifth chapter focuses on the greeting rituals among royalties. The final, sixth chapter is a conclusion which highlights the roles of rituals, offers some discussion of the ways in which these rituals may have been acquired as well as how they continued to evolve in the late Middle Ages.
Zupka has made a significant contribution to the literature with this book, since it is the first comprehensive work that deals with the royal rituals in Hungary in the Árpádian period in such detail and subtlety. He draws attention to the rituals and the symbolic communication used by the Hungarian kings, and he puts every chapter and topic of the book in a larger European context and interprets the results of his analyses in light of the roles played by the rituals in medieval society. The chapters start with a general introduction based on European history. Zupka then presents the Hungarian cases, and each chapter ends with a short conclusion. The work is well-structured and clearly arranged, and the construction of chapters helps the reader put the Hungarian cases in the European context.
Zupka has examined a topic which, until now, has been neglected in the secondary literature, and this deserves recognition, but I nonetheless must make a few critical observations which highlight the main problems with the methodology and the findings of his study. First, while the author gives a detailed summary of the English and German secondary literature and makes broad uses of Slovak historiography, some crucial Hungarian works, such as Ágnes Kurcz’s research on chivalry and girding by sword and András Vizkelety’s work on the wedding-ceremony of Prince Béla, are conspicuously absent from his discussion. Moreover, while Zupka deals with several Dalmatian and Croatian cases, such as the royal entries into Dalmatian towns, royal acclamations, royal oaths, etc., he completely neglects the Croatian historiography, for example the works of Mladen Ančić on the image and rituals of the Hungarian kings or Ana Marinković’s research on King Coloman’s royal chapel in Zadar, which helps further an understanding of early Hungarian royal symbolic ceremonies and artifacts in Dalmatia.
The other major problem is that the whole book, which deals primarily with the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is based on a single narrative source, the fourteenth-century Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle. The author mentions in the introduction that the dating and the credibility of this source is highly debated, and he also indicates that Hungarian and non-Hungarian historians have reached a fairly widespread consensus that the eleventh-century and twelfth-century parts of the chronicle are based on an older text and are reliable. The author accepts that some parts of the source are probably unreliable for the examined period, and others may be reliable, and then for the rest of the book essentially sets aside the question of source criticism. In my opinion, if an inquiry is based as exclusively as Zupka’s book on one later narrative text, the historian is obliged to examine the credibility of the texts critically, not treating them as if their authors were eyewitnesses to the events. The fact that the earlier parts of the Chronicle are based on an older text and the events described in it are probably factually reliable does not necessarily mean that the descriptions of the rituals are accurate and credible and not simply embellishments crafted by a chronicler which reflect the original author’s aims, but not the actual events. The other problem with Zupka’s use of sources is that he made little use of legal sources. For example, throughout the first half of the twelfth century, the kings of Hungary took oaths when they visited Dalmatian cities, and these oaths were later put in written form that came down to us. However, when Zupka examines these oaths, he uses only the thirteenth-century chronicle of Thomas of Split, instead the contemporary charters from Trogir or Zadar. Some overlooked charters preserved the composition of the royal entourages during the royal entries in Dalmatia, and others provide information about gift-giving rituals which had an important place in maintaining the relationship between the coastal cities and the Hungarian royal court, both in ecclesiastical and secular contexts.
As a minor critical note, sometimes it seems that Zupka aims to show similarities between Hungarian and European rituals, and he fails to emphasize the uniqueness and distinctiveness of some acts which were customary in Hungary. For example, he does not appear to realize that the structure of the Hungarian royal visits in Dalmatia had changed by the end of the twelfth century, and the royal oaths were no longer part of the ceremonies. He also fails to deal with the rituals of the dukes of Slavonia in the thirteenth century, who had rituals similar to the rituals of the kings. The dukes of Slavonia, who were the royal governors of the territory and often the crown princes of Hungary, made solemn ducal entries in Dalmatian towns (for instance, Duke Andrew in 1200 and Duke Coloman in 1226). Their visits to their territory were marked by shows of great pomp, and they probably had symbolic first visits too, along with gift-giving rituals. They also had their own entourages, which resembled the king’s company in many respects.
As a second smaller critical note, it should be mentioned that Zupka uses toponyms inconsistently: the cities and places that are in present-day Slovakia are mentioned in their Slovak version in the case of Bratislava and Nitra. When a city is outside the border of modern Slovakia or is not in Hungary, Zupka sometimes mentions the cities by their Hungarian names and sometimes indicates also the city’s official name today, but sometimes he mentions only the modern, non-Hungarian toponym (e.g. pp.43, 58, 63). I also do not understand the distinction he draws between Hungarian and “Magyar” history (p.191).
In conclusion, Zupka has produced a well-structured supplementary monograph which highlights several issues which have either been forgotten or simply neglected in the secondary literature on Hungarian and Central European history. Zupka exhaustively knows and uses the international secondary literature on the rituals and acts of symbolic communication in Hungary of the Árpádian period, and he successfully puts the Hungarian cases in a wider European context. However, the use of sources, the complete lack of source criticism, the failure to take into consideration the Croatian secondary literature, and the failure to address the uniqueness of certain Hungarian rituals leaves unanswered questions for the reader and throws into question the reliability of the author’s findings.
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Székesfehérvár története az Árpád-korban [The history of Székesfehérvár in the Árpádian period]. By Attila Zsoldos, Gábor Thoroczkay, and Gergely Kiss. Székesfehérvár: Városi Levéltár és Kutatóintézet, 2016. 365 pp.
In November 1490, after having captured the town of Székesfehérvár as part of the campaign he had launched in order to acquire the Hungarian crown, the king of the Romans, Maximilian I recounted the events of the conflict in a pronouncement that was highly propagandistic in nature. In his account, he referred to the town as the capital and strongest town of Hungary (“la principalle et plusforte ville dungrie”). Without throwing into question the merits and might of Maximilian’s military, as it so happens, in the late Middle Ages Székesfehérvár was not considered the capital of Hungary, the ruler’s claim notwithstanding. Indeed, it was not even considered a particularly well-fortified settlement. The town was significant at the time first and foremost because it was the site of coronations. Thus, as was by then established Hungarian tradition, a ruler was only regarded as legitimate if he had been crowned in the basilica in Székesfehérvár, the royal church which had been founded by the first Hungarian king, Saint Stephen of Hungary, and which was under the direct authority of the Apostolic See. The prestige of the town rested not simply on the role it played during the reign of Saint Stephen, but also on the acts of his descendants and successors, who added to its fame. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the town enjoyed the most prominence under the rulers of the Árpádian dynasty, i.e. in the period between 1000 and 1301. Hungarian scholarship has something of an outstanding debt, in that it has failed to devote sufficient attention to the history of the town during the Árpádian period. Attempts have been made over the course of the past few centuries to offer a narrative of the history of the town in the Middle Ages, i.e. from the earliest times until the Ottoman occupation in 1543. These forays, however, do not bear comparison with the current undertaking of Attila Zsoldos and his co-authors, neither from the perspective of their methodologies nor from the perspective of their use of sources. Fejér vármegye története [The history of Fejér County], a several-volume narrative written by János Károly at the end of the nineteenth century, focuses on Fejér County. Only the second volume is dedicated to the county seat, Székesfehérvár. Károly’s narrative thus focuses on the history of a region, in which the history of the town is only a little more than a chapter. Gyula Lauschmann’s Székesfehérvár története [The history of Székesfehérvár], which was written in the first half of the twentieth century, focuses exclusively on Székesfehérvár, but in the narrative of the history of this town, which obviously stretches over the better part of a millennium, only a small section is devoted to the Árpádian period. The work of Attila Zsoldos, who is an internationally renowned scholar of the Árpádian period, situates the history of the town under the Árpádian dynasty in the larger political history of the age. Zsoldos adopts a methodology, in his study of the first three centuries of the town’s history, which breaks with the accepted approaches to urban history in Hungary. Only two of the five chapters are devoted to a chronological presentation of the events which influenced the development of the settlement and which can be reconstructed on the basis of the available written sources. Zsoldos narrates these events like a chronicler presenting the history of the town. He divides his linear account of the history of the town, which relies strictly on written sources, into two parts. The pivotal moment comes in 1241 with the Mongol invasion, which constituted an important turn in the development of Székesfehérvár. As a consequence of the Mongol invasion, which swept aside almost everything in its path, the privileges which had been enjoyed by the people from Western Europe who had settled in the suburbs (“suburbium”) and moved to the walled town (“castrum”), first and foremost Walloons (the so-called Latins) became privileges of the entire town. The two narrative parts of the book are found between four chapters which focus on specific questions in the history of the town in the Árpádian period. In these chapters, Zsoldos sheds the garb of chronicler and dons instead the robes of the researcher, examining in each a question that was decisive from the perspective of the development of the town. In the first chapter (“The Beginning”), he attempts to identify the geographical, economic, and historical factors which played a role in the decision to found a town on a site at which there had been no earlier settlements in Antiquity. Zsoldos places considerable emphasis on the fact that, at the time of the Hungarian Conquest, the area around what would later become the town was part of the tribal occupation territories of the Árpáds. In connection with this, the question of the origins of the name of the town, which literally means “white castle” and which was used very early on, comes up. Zsoldos takes time in this chapter to refute myths concerning the town, for instance the notion that Grand Prince Géza, Saint Stephen’s father, was buried in Fehérvár. Zsoldos also explains in this chapter the essential (in his assessment) difference between the center of castellany, which came to constitute the inner town of the medieval town, and the center of principality, a term which is more generally known. The third chapter (“The Capital”) examines the ways in which contemporaries considered Székesfehérvár the capital in the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. Unquestionably the most important factor from this perspective was the fact that the town was the holy center of the Árpáds, since it was home to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary and the Provostry, both of which had been founded by the first Hungarian Christian king. Two younger scholars, Gábor Thoroczkay and Gergely Kiss, present the history of the royal basilica, its privileges, and its estates. The town was important in the Árpádian period not simply as a religious center, but also as the site of coronations and royal burials. Furthermore, some important institutions functioned from the outset in Székesfehérvár, and this added to the role of the town as a seat. These institutions included the royal assizes of Fehérvár sometime around 15 August, which were first held in the twelfth century. At the royal assizes it was the ruler himself who adjudicated on the matters of his subjects. While the king saw to his responsibilities in the administration of justice, inevitably events of national significance arose which created opportunities for the passage of new laws, which the ruler did with the cooperation of his prelates and notabilities. Thus, Székesfehérvár also served as the site of the “congregatio generalis”, a form of assembly which was the precursor to the later national assemblies. As the “loca credibilia”, the cathedral chapter in Székesfehérvár continued to enjoy national jurisdiction, which makes it even more likely that the royal archive was also held in the cathedral chapter. In contrast with the third part, the fourth, entitled “The Town of the Bourgeoisie,” examines not what the town was able to give to the kingdom, but what it was able to give its own denizens, first and foremost the settlers from Western Europe, who must have been present, alongside the center of castellany, as of the middle of the eleventh century. It is worth asking how the privileges of the Latins became the privileges of an entire community, in particular since this later served as a kind of legal precedent in other towns of the Hungarian kingdom. The more interesting question in the scholarship, however, is not which rights and privileges the people who came to and lived in the town were able to obtain and assert in the course of time, but rather whether or not the contents of the original charter, which did not survive, can be determined on the basis of the privileges that were later confirmed or strengthened. Zsoldos carefully examines whether the denizens of the town who lived either in its suburbs or in various parts of the inner town actually were under the jurisdiction of the town or rather were under the authority of the chapter or in some cases some other Church institution. The privileges which gave economic advantages to people involved in commerce and crafts were an important subset of the privileges of the town burghers, as were the privileges which applied to the properties they acquired with the wealth they had obtained. The last chapter of the book, the title of which is not terribly informative (“Fehérvár at the End of the Árpádian period”), presents the topography of the town in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Zsoldos moves from the “castrum”, that is the center of the settlement in the direction of the suburbs, which means that he moves from the parts of the town about which we have the most information and sources to areas on which we have almost no information at all. He redraws the map of the town in the Middle Ages, since he persuasively shows that the suburb given the name Nova villa was connected to the town not from the south (as has been contended in the secondary literature). Rather, it joined the area of the earliest “Budai suburb” from the south. Zsoldos takes into consideration the religious, administrative, and economic institutions and public spaces of the settlement, and on the basis of the number of office-holders and the order in which the various suburbs figure in the documents issued by the town in the late Middle Ages, he establishes a hierarchy among the various parts of the settlement. This part of the inquiry unquestionably goes beyond the history of the town in the Árpádian period. Zsoldos, Thoroczkay and Kiss have placed the genre of the urban history monograph on new foundations. Moving from national political events, the defining social changes of the period, the general historical trends and tendencies of the Árpádian period, and the general sources on which historical inquiries have relied, they arrive at the distinctive features of the town of Fehérvár itself. The chronologically arranged history of events and the interpretive sections of the narrative are complemented with relatively substantial summaries in German and English, which follow the structures of the chapters and subchapters. The book, which is indeed impressive as a work of fine scholarship, also contains an array of arresting visual materials, and familiar illustrations are presented to the reader in images of very high quality.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Das Wiener Stadtzeichnerbuch 1678–1685: Ein Bettlerverzeichnis aus einer frühneuzeitlichen Stadt. By Sarah Pichlkastner. (Quelleneditionen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 12.) Vienna: Böhlau, 2014. 417 pp.
Contemporary social and political problems and questions almost always raise questions concerning history, and historians, when dealing with the problems of the present, strive to respond appropriately, searching in the past for answers to the problems societies face today. This is particularly true of questions and issues connected to social and economic history. The question of social welfare, the fate of the poor, and people living on the border of poverty has been one of the more prominent of these issues for a long time now. Clearly, this question is made even more pressing by the crisis of the welfare state, which has emerged as the states of Western Europe have found themselves increasingly unable to sustain the social network that was developed and financed in the decades following World War II and the state’s role in the provision of social welfare has diminished.
Sarah Pichlkastner agrees that there are important links between historical scholarship and the social problems we face today. In her introduction, she insists on the relevance of this question by examining the measures taken in the European Union and, more narrowly, Austria to address poverty. Pichlkastner and her work in the publication of sources form an integral part of the research that has been underway in the Institute of History of the University of Vienna, since under the leadership of Herwig Weigl and with the participation of historians from the countries neighboring Austria several conferences have been held and conference volumes and sources have been published.
The sources which Pichlkastner has published were originally compiled when state relief for the poor was being institutionalized, a process which reflected medieval and (perhaps more palpably) early modern attitudes concerning beggars and the indigent. In her introduction, Pichlkastner offers a detailed presentation of this process, i.e. the institutionalization on the municipal level of relief for the poor, one of the most important aspects of which was the classification of the poor, or in other words, the decision concerning whether or not someone deserved succor or not. One of the most important criteria in this process was whether or not the person in question was a denizen of the city. Similarly important was the question of what lay at the cause of the person’s indigence and whether or not he or she was capable of working. The Wiener Stadtordnung of 1526, which brought an end to the revolt of the Vienna City Council, introduced regulations similar to the regulations in other major European cities. These regulations established limits on begging and a more organized form of providing for the poor. Sources on the basis of which a separate volume of records was kept in Vienna are essentially tied to this. A volume based on these sources from the period between 1678 and 1685 survived among the documents of the Vienna general hospital. A “Bettelzeichen” was essentially a form of identification indicating that the person who bore it was worthy of (i.e. eligible for) the support of the burghers of the city and the municipal government. As was usually the case in questions of municipal administration in the Habsburg Monarchy, the changes moved in the direction of increased state authority and oversight. Pichlkastner makes no specific mention of this, but the issue of relief for the poor was one of the aspects of administrative and governmental life in the city that the commissioners who were delegated to oversee the elections (earlier the so-called Eidkommissar, later the Wahlkommissar) had to audit and oversee. According to the instructions they were given, they were expected to inspect the alms houses and paupers’ asylums maintained by the city and audit their management. They were also expected to examine the conditions in which the indigent lived and determine who the people were for whom the city provided support. The decrees of Leopold I (1693) and Joseph II concerning the poor limited the provision of relief for the indigent to care given in alms, houses and hospitals under state supervision and regulation. In these institutions, in compliance with the earlier principles, care could only be provided for people who, according to the state regulations, had been classified as worthy of support.
The source materials that Pichlkastner has now made available are based for the most part on the inspections and audits concerning the poor and measures taken to provide relief for the poor. The reader is presented with the visitations that were conducted by the commissioners. The information in the Vienna source consists of these inspections. Pichlkastner has done a superb job with this source publication, and the source itself is unique in that one rarely if ever finds so much information in one place. The published documents of the inspections contain 1,100 entries, which would be sufficient as the foundation for a complete social history inquiry. The “Wiener Stattzaichen” does not simply offer the reader a mechanical publication of the source (though accompanied with excellent notes). Rather, it offers a complete analysis of the information published. The documents clearly show the relationship between the state and society on the one hand and the issue of the indigent on the other. They also shed light on the determinations that were made concerning who was eligible for the support of the community. The most frequently cited justifications for providing someone with support included advanced age, many children, various illnesses, and a disability which prevented someone from working. As the capital of the Habsburg Monarchy, a demographically large city with 50,000 inhabitants and a wealthy settlement, Vienna was an attractive destination for people who for whatever reason found themselves on the margins of society. The pivotal events of the period also played a role in this, as illustrated by the fact that the number of people who received care grew dramatically in 1663, when the Austro–Turkish War broke out, and during the siege of Vienna in 1683. Since archival sources deal for the most part with people who were in the highest echelons of society (since in general only people belonging to higher social strata were involved in the legal cases for which written sources were created and kept), the group of sources published here sheds light on a social stratum on which historians heretofore had very little data. The information contained in this source material will be useful from the perspective of social history, for instance the information included alongside the names, such as place of origin, place of residence, age, reasons for needing assistance, denominational affiliation, general health, and family status. One finds no comparable plethora of data concerning a relatively coherent social group anywhere in the region.
Making excellent use of the materials at her disposal, Pichlkastner presents the group of sources she has made available. Her analysis sheds light on the circumstances under which the sources were created, the administrative system which oversaw the social welfare system at the time, and the system of oversight and inspection that emerged. Though her analysis focuses first and foremost on the issue of relief for the poor, one can nonetheless find parallels in it that are interesting from the perspective of municipal politics, since one finds traces of the controlling role of the external council in the case of Vienna, much as one finds signs of its influence a few decades later in the case of the Hungarian royal free cities. The map indicating the institutions where the indigent were taken in (mostly churches and monasteries) also shows the situation of relief for the poor in the seventeenth century.
The second large chapter contains an excellent analysis which sheds light on the reasons for the creation of the “beggar’s identification paper” (“Bettelzeichen”), the ways in which the information included in these identification papers evolved over time, and the distinctive features of other kinds of sources that were also related to the issue of relief for the poor. Pichlkastner also presents the antecedents and secondary literature connected to this group of sources. This is followed, in the third section, by a presentation of the published archival sources. Pichlkastner makes excellent use of the approach characteristic of the younger generation of Austrian archivists. These researchers consider the “Quellenkunde” and “Aktenkunde” analyses found primarily in German scholarship important, first and foremost from the perspective of methodology. Pichlkastner’s analysis presents the emergence, evolution, and distinctive features of the identification papers used in Vienna (the “Stadtzeichen”), as well as the circumstances and timing of their inclusion in the archives. In other words, she provides a description of the source materials she has made available that adheres to the guidelines for a General International Standard Archival Description set by the International Council on Archives. In her analysis, she presents the entire series (not just the published volume) in detail, indicating which kinds of source we are dealing with and whether the series can be considered a municipal book or not. Pichlkastner then presents the content of the group of sources and draws attention to the shifts in their structure. This is followed by a brief presentation of the source critical characteristics. In the fourth part, we find a codicological analysis of the published volume, which presents its external and internal characteristics. Pichlkastner separates and offers a detailed analysis of the handwritings in which the notes from the different parts (which to some extent were compiled separately) were written, and she tries to determine the identities of the people who wrote the notes.
The clarification of the fundamental principles of the publication reveals that there was no standard Austrian practice, since had there been, it would have sufficed to refer to a given norm. The basic principles of the publication strive rather for comprehensibility, using letter for letter transcription, but also noting abbreviations and corrections. Adhering to the basic principles established, Pichlkastner provides an excellent source publication with an appropriate quantity and quality of notes. Given the nature of the source, these notes concern primarily the settlements mentioned. The people identified were usually regiment owners or members of larger families. When identifying place names, in general Pichlkastner uses today’s administrative and state borders, though she is not consistent in this, since in the case of territories outside of the Habsburg Monarchy, she also refers to the administrative units that existed at the time. In the case of Vienna, she briefly identifies the sites of the municipal buildings, hostels, and churches mentioned. The source critical notes are given in alphabetical order beginning anew page by page, and they are clearly separate from the notes concerning content.
The last chapters contain a source analysis stretching to some 70 pages. Pichlkastner provides a comprehensive analysis of the circumstances of the creation and publication of the source. Her analysis clearly demonstrates that a source can indeed provide important information on a social stratum that is otherwise almost absent from the typical sources used by the historian. This information allows us to map both individual life stories and common characteristics, as well as the circumstances that caused people to fall into poverty. It is particularly worth noting, for instance, that in general the assessments were made concerning women, women who remained, either alone or with their children, without support in Vienna. In contrast, many of the men were either married or no information was provided concerning their family status (this confirms our knowledge of the family model in the early modern era). The difference between men and women living in poverty is also clearly illustrated by the fact that almost every man lived together with children, while in the case of women only 40 percent lived with a child or children. In many cases, external reasons had brought about the fall into poverty: the Swedish war, the currency depreciation in the 1620s, various epidemics, and the Ottoman siege of 1683.
The data also makes it possible (and Pichlkastner takes excellent advantage of the opportunity) to glean insights into the livelihoods of people who had fallen into poverty before their fall. The picture she draws reveals that most of the people who had become impoverished had been day-laborers or vine-dressers. The other notable groups were soldiers and servants. 14 percent of the people fallen into poverty were artisans and 2 percent were peasants, which shows that in general skills as a craftsman or peasant land holdings were enough to ensure someone a living. In addition to the analyses noted above, which are particularly important from the perspective of social history, Pichlkastner also provides a discussion of place of residence (the 1683 Ottoman siege of the city can be considered the dividing line in this), and we also learn of the begging nodes in the city (which are indicated in the identification papers), information which makes the analysis of the cities spaces distinctive and interesting.
In summary, this volume constitutes a remarkable source for the study of institutional relief for the poor in the early modern era. From the perspective of social history, it is unique in the region, since one does not find any comparably informative or comprehensive sources on the stratum of people who had fallen into poverty.
István H. Németh
National Archives of Hungary
A test a társadalomban: A Hajnal István Kör Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület 2013. évi sümegi konferenciájának kötete [The body in society: Proceedings of the conference of the Hajnal István Circle – Hungarian Social History Association, Sümeg, 2013]. Edited by Emese Gyimesi, András Lénárt, and Erzsébet Takács. Budapest: Hajnal István Kör Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület, 2015. 435 pp.
The annual conferences of the Hajnal István Circle, a prominent association of social historians in Hungary, always revolve around a theme which offers a variety of opportunities for reflection on and discussion of topical problems and issues in history and society. The 2013 conference, organized in Sümeg, focused on a theme which is paramount to our understanding of historical narratives, as each human experience is strongly shaped by it: that of the body. The proceedings of the conference, organized into six main thematic units (customs, norms, beliefs; body images; body narratives; body politics; the healthy body – the sick body; sexuality) were published as a collection of essays in 2015.
Though the editors of the collection kept this structural organization more or less (the book consists of six main chapters under the same headings), however arbitrary it might be, the book begins with an oversight. While the book is a conference publication, so the background information could be found on the Internet (for example, the theoretically well-supported call for papers), an introductory paper would have been useful. Such an introduction could have been used not only to inform the reader about the goals and the results of the conference, but also to prompt reflection on the broader theoretical background and the current trends in body history, in which these findings could be contextualized. The first article (which may well have been strategically selected as the first) by Gábor Klaniczay offers some compensation for this oversight. Klaniczay begins with a few critical remarks, and he reflects precisely on this issue of theoretical background and current trends. As part of the Body-narratives – Body-images chapter, his article deals with the question of the human body and stigmatization. Klaniczay aims to give a short theoretical-historiographical overview of the most seminal works in this field. These theories then reappear in the articles throughout the book.
The first chapter deals with textual and figural representations of the body in a variety of contexts, from, for example, stigmatization and body metaphors to transsexuality. It highlights the diversity of readings and approaches that could be taken to the central theme. This multiplicity of readings remains something of a background issue in the subsequent chapters as well. Above, I mentioned the arbitrariness of the structural organization, since most articles could be put into several categories (not simply representation, health–sickness, or sexuality). Nevertheless, in this instance, this arbitrariness should be emphasized as a merit, since it puts in the foreground the multilateral approaches to the different themes. For instance, Franciska Dede’s treatment of her topic is exemplary in this sense. She focuses on the figure of Zsigmond Justh (1863–94), a young late nineteenth-century writer who suffered from tuberculosis. Approaching Justh’s illness from several possible interrelated readings, she gives a complex image of the perception of the self in the contexts of health and sickness, as well as in a variety of social settings and networks of relationships. Tibor Takács has chosen a more or less similar method of exploring the murder case of a party functionary; the afterlife and treatment can be clearly traced in a number of disparate documents (indictments, reports, verdicts, autopsy reports) which provide possible understandings and perception(s) of the body.
The subsequent chapter, under the heading The Healthy Body – The Sick Body, focuses on a rather traditional and indispensable theme in body history. However, the inquiries do not approach the issue exclusively from the perspective of medical history, but also from the perspectives of historical demography, social history, and sports history. Several of the authors aim to give an overview of their topic in a broader timespan. Ferenc Tar, for instance, summarizes the development of healthcare at Hévíz, and Szilvia Czingel reflects on the hygienic culture of Budapest at the turn of the century, though the articles often fail to maintain their focus. Miklós Zeidler’s article on the interrelated issues of sports, health, and ideals of beauty, however, gives a rather balanced image of the transitions in the connections between exercise and ideals of beauty between the eighteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.
Sexuality, which by now is another traditional perspective from which to consider the history of the body, is central to the third chapter. Most of the authors, however, managed to find a less-discussed context or angle from which to consider it. Boldizsár Vörös approaches it from the viewpoint of representations: the use of nudity in Hungarian advertisements at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, showing both sides of the coin (the supporters and the counter-arguments), along with the functionalist application of nudity and the changing legislation. Emese Gyimesi’s treatment of the marriage of Júlia Szendrey and Árpád Horváth is an investigation into the separate discourses on the sexuality of husband and wife that served as a basis of conflict in their marriage, and Orsolya Völgyesi, also focusing on a marital conflict from the first half of the nineteenth century, examines a criminal act (adultery culminating in homicide) through the filter of judicial documents and the letters of Ferenc Kazinczy. Gábor Szegedi discusses a probably less known chapter of the history of marriage and sexuality in Hungary, the history of sexual counselling in the first half of the twentieth century, embedding it in the theoretical context of Foucault’s ideas on biopolitics. Szegedi argues that sexuality can be both a punitive and controlling instrument of the authorities, and he also highlights that the Hungarian example underpins another component of Foucault’s theoretical approach, notably the role of racism, especially “scientific” racism in the management of modern (bio-politic) states.
The authoritative control of the human body forms the bulk of the subsequent two chapters, which examine the question from two main angles: the control of and the punitive or injurious measures against the body. One of the obvious examples of body control is abortion, the legislation of which often carries ideological underpinnings. In his article, Gábor Koloh examines the increasingly strict legislation and the criminalization of self-induced abortions in the interwar period, while Henrietta Trádler discusses the “fetal politics” of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in the context of socialism, feminism, and psychoanalytic theories.
Another often emphasized approach to the theme of authoritative control is the workings of the secret police in dictatorial states. Rolf Müller, however, examines the operation of the State Protection Authority (Államvédelmi Hatóság, ÁVH) from a quite unusual angle—not from the viewpoint of the victims of state violence, but on the basis of the documentation produced by the authorities. He differentiates between the separate levels of violence (demonstrative, direct, and hidden), and he emphasizes that the secret police were anything but secret. Because of its means of operation (measures carried out against the “enemies of the state”) and the lack of sufficient infrastructure to hide its activity, the so-called secret police gained symbolic importance in everyday language. Though spatially and temporally farther, the article by Veronika Novák also discusses the logic of state violence (in this case, executions), linking the intensifying focus on deviance and criminal activity in fifteenth-century and sixteenth-century Paris to the changing perception and use of space by authorities.
Taking violence and the possible injuries suffered by the body to the level of individuals, several of the articles explore the actual consequences of state control and violence. Within the framework of punitive and transformative institutions (the prison and the military), the human body is exposed to deterioration and injuries, as a consequence either of punishment or self-mutilation. This issue forms the focus of the inquiries by Tamás Dobszay and Julianna Erika Héjja. Tamás Dobszay examines the stages of physical-mental deterioration in the context of the deprivation model, drawing on the example of Ferenc Kazinczy’s captivity narrative, and Julianna Erika Héjja shows, by examining military recruitment, how state control can lead to self-mutilation as a means of avoiding compulsory military service in the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century.
The last chapter deals with the customs and traditions connected to the human body, though with the exception of Tamás Bezsenyi’s article showing the (urged) change in Turkish women’s fashion as the catalyst of social transformation, the treatment of the topic seems a bit unilateral. Of all the customs and traditions which could have a bearing on the human body (customs surrounding marriage, birth, etc.), only the questions of death and burial are discussed in traditional (though a bit outdated) contexts and approaches, for example by Tünde Noémi Farkas. Farkas examines the transformation of the approaches to death on the basis of Transylvanian funeral orations and obituaries between the Early Modern and the Modern periods, partly within the context of Philippe Ariés’ disputed theory on changing attitudes to death.
My critical remarks notwithstanding, I find this volume a very important contribution to the writing of body history in Hungary. Although the articles vary in quality, the reader can gain valuable insights, for example, into the use and applications of some of the seminal theories in Hungarian source material, or into ongoing or nearly completed research initiatives, and also into the possible further directions for study in body history. Furthermore, one significant merit of the volume is that it gives voice to the younger generation (MA and PhD students), as their ongoing projects (MA theses, PhD dissertations) will shape in part the agenda for further research in this field.
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Metternich: Stratege und Visionär. Eine Biografie. By Wolfram Siemann. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2016. 983 pp.
Metternich has long served as a bugbear and whipping-boy. Victor Bibl’s books Zerfall Österreichs and Metternich: Der Dämon Österreichs with their German-nationalist agenda supplied blunt and salty invectives, while Heinrich von Srbik’s massive biography from 1925 and Hanns Schlitter’s useful collection on pre-1848 Austria were more appreciative of Metternich’s self-conception as “rocher d’ordre”. Wolfram Siemann’s massive Metternich: Stratege und Visionär makes a new case for a nuanced understanding of Metternich, who, Siemann suggests, needs to be liberated from the clutches of his detractors. The best way of rescuing Metternich from liberal and nationalist vilification is an extensive source-based biography, and Siemann succeeds admirably well in tapping fresh material from the Vienna Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv and from the rich collections of Metternich’s papers at the Prague National Archives.
Wearing his erudition lightly, Siemann manages to cover his ground in elegant and highly accessible prose. It is in the area of international relations that his narrative reaches full stride. His findings parallel Miroslav Šedivý’s splendid Metternich, the Great Powers and the Eastern Question (2013), which demolishes many clichés about Austria’s allegedly stolid and reactionary politics towards the Ottoman Empire. Siemann also sheds rich new light on Metternich as paterfamilias, admirer of the arts, lover, and entrepreneur, discussing his manorial governance and the establishment of ironworks on his land at Plaß/Plasy (the chapter heading Frauenversteher und Majoratsherr is a gem of historical prose). Siemann offers a very valuable discussion of Metternich’s 1819 Italian journey in Emperor Franz’s retinue and adduces a striking letter in which Metternich highlights that pagan and Christian art were irreconcilable in late Antiquity. The early Christians, Metternich argues, had to “extirpate” the superior pagan arts “root and branch” (mit Stumpf und Stiel auszurotten, p.621). Strikingly, this contention harmonizes with the perceptions of Franz Grillparzer, who also was in the emperor’s retinue, yet Grillparzer was reprimanded by Metternich for calling for the removal of the cross from the Coliseum in his poem Campo vaccino. Metternich’s abolition of feudal dues on his domains, his modernization of harvesting and viticulture, and his advocacy of the Monarchy’s participation in the Zollverein have been overlooked by previous historians, and Siemann provides a superb discussion of these matters (pp.751–63, 786–91).
Siemann’s book is highly remarkable because it offers a reappraisal of Metternich as a conservative Enlightener: Siemann ably reconstructs Metternich’s early experience of the Revolution, bringing to life the ransacking of the Straßburg town hall by the urban crowd, which included young Metternich’s tutor Johann Friedrich Simon, and Metternich’s experience of his father’s management of the riot-riven Austrian Netherlands from Brussels. In this key, Siemann convincingly analyzes Metternich’s 1794 sojourn in London as a formative period. Having experienced Edmund Burke’s oratory skills in the House of Commons during the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings, Metternich also purchased and devoured the first edition of Reflections on the Revolution in France while in London.
After having provided a novel and nuanced account of Metternich’s diplomatic achievement at the Vienna Congress, Siemann goes on to discuss the fields of policing, political repression, and surveillance after the 1819 Karlsbad decrees. Here Siemann provides an excellent foil to Andrew Zamoyski’s glossy and gesticulatory Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty, 1789–1848 (2014). He carefully reconstructs the horror of violent conspiracies, plots, and planned coups that made Europe tremble in the 1820s; Karl Ludwig Sand’s 1818 murder of playwright August von Kotzebue appears as part of a proto-Salafist killing spree of prim fanatics which was directed against lax ancien régime morals as much as it was against political repression (p.662). Siemann highlights the social hardships of a young academic precariat which drove its members into radicalization. In connection with this, Siemann also dismantles the verdict of Gentz and Treitschke, according to which Metternich, obsessed as he was with the machinations of diabolic “demagogues,” refused to connect the rise of new liberal and radical political forces to tangible transformations in society. Siemann tries to determine the real threat conspirators posed, and he seeks to show that Metternich, while fighting rabble-rousing “demagogues,” also sought to quell radicalism by ensuring prosperity: Metternich was convinced that a rising living standard would diminish the appeal of nationalism across Europe.
Refreshing as readings like these are, they also clearly indicate the limits of Siemann’s study. Metternich emerges from Siemann’s book as something of a “genius” of statecraft, so much so that Alexander Cammann, in his review for Die Zeit (“Gerechtigkeit für ein Genie,” 3 March 2016), suggested that the volume would make good bedside reading for Angela Merkel. Metternich’s credentials as a peacemaker and prescient, responsible critic of modern nationalism seem impeccable here, but Siemann’s treatment of Metternich as a benign advocate of a Europe of multilingual and multi-religious empires remains strangely lopsided. Siemann’s account should be compared with older Austrian post-imperial literature on Metternich’s benign role in the nationality conflicts of the old Monarchy (e.g. with the writings of Hugo Hantsch), many of whose basic premises it shares. Siemann makes much of Metternich’s moderate “liberalism” (p.166), but his hero’s general politics in the Germanies contradict this assessment (one need only think of his thwarting of Hardenberg’s constitutional scheme for Prussia).
Siemann’s overall argument suffers from a serious weak spot: Metternich’s role in the internal workings of the Habsburg Monarchy is surprisingly absent from the book. Siemann does provide a helpful, fresh account of Metternich’s rivalry with Franz Anton Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky. He debunks Kolowrat’s self-fashioning as a “liberal” as mere window-dressing designed to denigrate Metternich as “reactionary.” Siemann argues that this served to disguise Kolowrat’s system of patriotic patronage, which cemented the dominance of the Bohemian nobility in the higher bureaucracy (pp.819–24). In March 1848, Kolowrat posed as one of the heroes who brought down the “system” Metternich, with the prince serving as a welcome scapegoat for the old regime (pp.832–40). Siemann reminds us that this “system” was an effective myth created by Metternich’s adversaries and that the powers of the prince in domestic affairs were much more limited than critics and admirers would concede. This is a point Metternich himself repeatedly made after 1848: “Mit meiner Allmacht muß es wohl übel gestanden haben!” But this cannot justify the omission of Metternich’s role in the internal workings of the Empire, an omission that effectively undercuts Siemann’s account of Metternich the “liberal.”
Since Siemann chooses to say rather little about Metternich’s domestic activities, he remains unable to establish whether there was any solid timber under the beguiling veneer of Metternich’s “reformism” and “federalism” (pp.623–27). What reformism, what federalism? Given that the book only briefly discusses Lombardo-Venetia, but completely neglects Galician and Hungarian affairs, Siemann fails to produce tangible evidence in support of his assertions. Quite surprisingly, István Széchenyi and Palatine Joseph are barely mentioned, and the relevant literature in Western languages is completely absent from the bibliography. No reference is made to the works of Gyula Szekfű (for instance État et nation; Iratok a magyar államnyelv kérdésének történetéhez, 1790–1848, which contains a highly valuable primary source material in German and Latin), Erzsébet Andics (Metternich und die Frage Ungarns, the appendix to which contains the rich correspondence between Metternich and Palatine Joseph), or Sándor Domanovszky’s edition of Palatine Joseph’s political writings, not to mention the older studies by Eduard Wertheimer, Franz Krones, and Mihály Horváth.
Siemann’s remarkable and eminently readable book will remain an indispensable point of reference for Metternich’s political life and intellectual profile up to 1815, as well as for the key role he played in the unmaking of the Napoleonic empire. It shows that Metternich’s worldview was shaped in the crucible of the Revolution, and it sets new standards for the study of his activities as manorial lord and industrialist. It is in these domains that the study breaks rich new ground. Here Siemann’s achievement is massive, but his omission of Metternich’s role in the internal affairs of the Monarchy is equally glaring. Given this imbalance, Siemann’s claims about Metternich’s moderate “liberalism” and “federalism” remain ultimately inconclusive. The Metternich that emerges from Siemann’s monumental study is quite simply too good to be true.
Franz L. Fillafer
University of Konstanz
Experten und Beamte: Die Professionalisierung der Lehrer höherer Schulen in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Ungarn und Preußen im Vergleich. By Márkus Keller. (Studien zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Ostmitteleuropas 24.) Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015. 276 pp.
The publication under review is the German translation of a dissertation originally published in Hungarian in 2010. Keller worked on the dissertation at the Berlin College for Comparative European History, and further support, encouragement, and contacts were provided through an Immanuel Kant Scholarship and through close cooperation with the graduate program in social history at the Eötvös Loránd University.
The dissertation offers a comparative study of the professionalization of the teaching profession in secondary schools in Hungary and Prussia. The temporal framework is the second half of the nineteenth century, and the focus is on the last third of the century.
Keller provides a detailed chapter on theory and methodology in which he offers an overview of the most important social science theories concerning professionalization in the German and Hungarian science of history (regrettably, he does not offer a more detailed overview on this subject). He does, however, quite accurately note the different terms used in the German and Hungarian social historiography (“Bildungsbürgertum” versus “intelligencia”), and he discusses the most important German literature on the comparative method in the science of history. He thus justifies, more or less convincingly, the selection he made of the things compared and presents the sources on which his inquiry is based (for the most part, print publications of teachers’ associations, union statutes, the corpus juris, notices, statistical data, and newspapers). In the case of Hungary, the most important source was the newspaper of the National Association of Secondary School Teachers (Országos Középiskolai Tanáregylet, or OKTE), which was most active from the 1870s onwards. In the case of Prussia, where at the time similar teachers’ associations emerged as bodies representative of the interests of people in the profession, Keller draws heavily on Zeitung für das höhere Unterrichtswesen, in which the proceedings of the union assemblies were published.
Another chapter is devoted to the foundation of this interest in the comparison of the situation in Hungary and the situation in Prussia. One learns with astonishment that the Prussian union law, which was in force as of 1850, was more liberal than the Hungarian law “in the time leading up to the Compromise” (p.77). As a source, Keller refers to the state lexicon (Staatslexikon) published by Julius Bachem in 1904. He seems completely unaware of the research found in the eighth volume of Habsburgermonarchie (“Politische Öffentlichkeit und Zivilgesellschaft,” second sub-volume, Vienna, 2006), which is an essential source for any research on this subject.
The most informative chapters are the next two (chapters four and five), in which Keller presents the findings of the comparative research on two important questions, the “self-image” of pedagogues and their relationship to the state.
The “self-image” of pedagogues in Hungary, we learn, differed significantly from the “self-image” of pedagogues in Prussia. In Hungary, teaching was an increasingly self-confident profession which, thanks to a vibrant sense of solidarity, was able to assert its moral and material social value (and autonomy). In Prussia, teachers constituted a professional group with considerably less solidarity. Moreover, this group was divided into “humanist” and “natural sciences” (Realfächer) factions, and this division prevented teachers from effectively adopting a unified stance and thus left the profession itself in a weaker social position. The treatment of the subject of “nationality problematics” in Hungary in this chapter merits attention. According to Keller, by the 1870s the question of nationality played only a secondary role, since within the profession people were (Keller claims somewhat uncritically) essentially in agreement with the necessity of “Magyarization” policies through education and schooling. Keller offers no discussion of this subject in the case of Prussia. He focuses more on the internal division and the less successful efforts of teachers to achieve financial and social recognition.
Keller examines the relationship between the teaching profession and the state, which is closely intertwined with the question of “self-image” in the long last chapter. The focus of the discussion is first and foremost on the contributions of teachers to education policy and to the reforms in education policy in the late nineteenth century. Here too, one finds parallels and differences. In Hungary, only later was there an increase in the “power advantage” of the state with regard to the requests and reform ideas of the people in the teaching profession although from the perspective of professional level they were equal in rank. Beginning in the 1970s and lasting until the important law for secondary schools of 1883, there was a growing rift between the Ministry and OKTE which, contrary to what one might expect, made it possible for the teaching profession to attain a certain autonomy. In Prussia, in contrast, schooling had been a state matter for a considerably longer time as was reasserted by the school supervisory law of 1872. But even in Prussia, state intervention grew in the last third of the century, which the teaching profession welcomed since it hoped thereby to achieve a better place, both materially and from the position of social standing. This also explains the process of making teachers in Prussia civil servants, which stood in stark contrast with the situation in Hungary where this was not possible, in particular given the influence of non-state (i.e. Church) schools.
Keller provides a short summary in which he contends that his inquiry refutes an all too familiar view concerning teaching and education according to which the professionalization and modernization of teaching in Hungary and East Central Europe was a “belated development.” His refutation of this view is unquestionably one of the merits of his work.
One cannot avoid noting the numerous editorial oversights and failures (typos, grammatical errors, passages that are poorly translated, etc.). The book does not include a register of persons nor a list of abbreviations (the reader is left to her own devices to learn the meaning of the frequently used acronym OKTE, for instance). Some “professional” assistance, both from the perspective of the underlying scholarship and from the perspective of the editing, would have been helpful.
University of Innsbruck/Austrian Academy of Sciences
Habsburg neu denken: Vielfalt und Ambivalenz in Zentraleuropa. 30 kulturwissenschaftliche Stichworte. Edited by Johannes Feichtinger and Heidemarie Uhl. Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2016. 261 pp.
At a time when flows of immigrants across borders, the experiment of European unification, and other developments have called forth furious national reactions in parts of formerly Habsburg Europe, the publication under consideration here reminds us that modern nations and nationalism are comparatively recent historical phenomena. Consisting of 30 short essays each subsumed under a keyword (from Auswanderungen [Emigrations] to Zerfall [Disintegration]), this volume enquires into the historical experiences of plurality, difference, and ambivalence in Central Europe with an eye to the challenges today’s societies face. In an opportune way, it documents the attempts by scholars to overcome the national perspectives that long dominated and still influence understandings of late Habsburg history. Until not so long ago, the Habsburg Monarchy was thought of as having been inhabited by a relatively small number of discrete, often mutually hostile nations (whose outlines conveniently corresponded to the conceptions of nationalists and the national power structures that emerged in the twentieth century). This volume reveals that the self-understandings of Central Europeans and their views of one another and the larger world were more ambivalent and conditional, even well into the twentieth century, than nationalists would have us believe.
A short review can hardly do justice to the abundance of essays in this book, which are from a range of disciplines, including literature and languages, anthropology, and the history of music and theater. The few contributions highlighted here seem to me to offer especially promising or interesting samples of current work. Where nations (or their construction) remain at the center of historical interest, the findings of recent scholarship continue to call the old nationalist “master narratives” of political emancipation and progress into question. In an article on “Democrats” (Demokrat/inn/en) written from the standpoint of gender history, the historian Heidrun Zettelbauer shows that a nationalist commitment did not necessarily entail a commitment to the expansion of democratic rights—paradoxically even among women. A prominent German nationalist activist in Styria such as Lina Kreuter-Gallé, for example, did not regard the achievement of women’s suffrage as a primary political goal: “Democracy as an objective aside from nationalist visions was and remained suspect for many female players [Akteurinnen] on the political right until well into the twentieth century” (p.48).
In recent years, the study of the use of language(s) has become one of the most promising ways of approaching the difficult question of perspective and self-understanding among those subject to Habsburg rule. This is especially notable given that the spoken and written word have traditionally been regarded as crucial markers of nationality. As the contributions on “Antagonisms” (Feindschaften), “Historical Representations” (Geschichtsbilder), “Multilingualism” (Mehrsprachigkeit), “Pluriculturality” (Plurikulturalität), and other topics suggest, the inhabitants of Central Europe were far more flexible in daily language practices than historical and popular accounts of clearly distinguishable “peoples” continue to allow. In large urban agglomerations as well as in small towns and villages there were “areas of crossover, of cultural hybridity, and multilingualism” (Simon Hadler, p.59). In the real social world, as Elena Mannová and Jozef Tancer point out, there were “no essentialist linguistic communities, as nationalists imagined them, but rather groups of speakers who made up intended and situational communities of communication” (p.136). Anil Bhatti usefully distinguishes what is labelled “pluriculturality” from “multiculturalism,” a term which implies closed parallel societies (such as those imagined by nationalists) existing side by side with little meaningful contact. The pluricultural world refers, by contrast, to “complicated nets of similarities which overlap and cross” (p.175).
Several of the contributions, such as those on “Orientalism” (Orientalismus) and “Austrian Islam” (Österreichislam), draw highly topical attention to a phenomenon which was apparent in the relationships among other groups in the Central and Southeast European area: the long experience of living side by side or in close proximity bred familiarity which did not necessarily set aside strong elements of strangeness or foreignness. The form of “frontier orientalism” (as opposed to “classical colonial orientalism” p.161) which Andre Gingrich suggests prevailed in Central Europe brought about the transfer from the Near East of themes and motifs in all manner of both high and popular culture, from architecture to figures of speech and place and street names. Franz Fillafer’s article reminds us that the Habsburg Monarchy was a legislative pioneer (1912) in the treatment of (Bosnian) Muslims among its subjects. The “Islam law” passed in 2015 by the Second Austrian Republic improved on the earlier achievement, even as it built on the Monarchy’s “confessionalizing” (p.167) strategies with respect to religious groups.
Pieter Judson’s contribution offers a helpful introduction to the term “national indifference,” which thanks to his efforts and those of other scholars has become one of the most promising analytical tools with which to move beyond dominant nationalist historical discourses. The notion of “national indifference” was in fact a contemporary one employed by nationalist activists as of the 1880s “to describe the behaviors, attitudes, [and] choices of people who appeared to live their daily lives ignorant of nationalist concerns” (p.151). Nationalism was the tool activists then employed to combat indifference, and it therefore should be understood, according to Judson, as a question of “political practice” rather than “cultural authenticity” (p.152). Hence, if we accept linguistic-ethnic-cultural reductionism, then we also accept the premises of nationalism. This is a valuable insight for future scholarship.
Though the book under review is entitled “Re-thinking Habsburg,” the Habsburg Monarchy as a discrete polity composed of distinct territories and existing for a long time as one of Europe’s leading powers is oddly absent from most of the contributions. What did its existence mean to its subjects and citizens, and how did these meanings change over time? To what extent did its existence evoke a (cultural) sense of belonging among its people(s)? How might this sense of belonging have differed from place to place? In a volume devoted to questions of culture and forms of belonging, one might note with some regret the absence of keywords such as “religion” and “Catholicism” or “territory” and “locality.” If people were indifferent to nation, then what influences might have induced affinity? Even after 1900, affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church must still have constituted the most frequent form of culturally conditioned belonging. Precisely in the case of the Habsburg Monarchy, with its long and intimate association with Catholicism, the question of this affiliation needs to be added to the cultural-historical research agenda. Werner Telesko’s fine essay on the widespread revival of the “Baroque” in the nineteenth century recalls the link between this “dynastic-supranational style” (p.30) and the Counter Reformation, which was one of the formative experiences in Habsburg history. Thus, Telesko suggests ways in which the early modern and later history of the monarchy might fruitfully be reconnected.
William D. Godsey
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Eugenics and Nation in Early 20th Century Hungary. By Marius Turda. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 343 pp.
For a long time, eugenics remained a largely under-researched subject within the scholarship on Hungarian intellectual history and the history of science. The topic was rarely discussed, and its controversial nature led to a series of misunderstandings. However, the last 15 years have seen a significant increase in the number of contributions to this field in the form of numerous journal articles and book chapters. The most active author behind this growing body of literature is Marius Turda, and Turda is also the author of the first monograph on the subject reviewed here.
The lack of comprehensive secondary literature on Hungarian eugenics meant that Turda could not follow or challenge any historiographical interpretations; he was forced to develop a new historical narrative practically from scratch. When doing so, he laid down the following three guiding principles: first, “to identify the most important Hungarian eugenicists and to contextualize their arguments within their discursive cultures” (p.12), second, to analyze the connections between eugenics and nationalism, and, finally, to discuss “eugenics in Hungary as part of an international movement of social and biological improvement” (p.12).
Turda´s narrative begins at the turn of the century and ends in 1919, after the demise of Austria-Hungary. These two moments in time could not be more different. The chapters themselves focus on the abovementioned aspects while following the history of Hungarian eugenics chronologically. Some of the milestones in this account are world events like the outbreak of World War I, while other significant turning points are related to the development of the eugenics discourse.
Fin de siècle Hungary and especially Budapest, which at the time was an emerging metropolis with a vibrant intellectual life, were hotbeds of new ideas. They formed the world in which Hungarian eugenics first appeared. Turda convincingly argues that the Hungarian version of eugenics should be classified as a social science (p.16.) Although many eugenicists came from scientific or medical backgrounds, eugenics still enjoyed a position comparable to that of the emerging sociology of the time. It is therefore unsurprising that it was roughly the same circle of intellectuals who showed interest in these two disciplines. These intellectuals were receptive to new ideas and eager to learn about the latest scientific developments, but they were also very keen on using the new theories to understand and critique contemporary Hungarian society. The book demonstrates how eugenic concepts gained influence in Hungary’s intellectual and scientific circles and how the participants in the debates were up-to-date on the latest literature on eugenics from the outset.
Turda is not only a scholar of Hungarian eugenics, but also a historian of Romanian and South East European eugenics who has even published on the general history of the movement. Thus, his description of the international context, including the intellectual influences on the Hungarian eugenicists, is especially intriguing. Similarly captivating are the passages in which he discusses the thoughts and impact of Géza Hoffmann, the only Hungarian eugenicist who managed to gain international recognition.
The book also explains the dissemination of eugenic thought in Hungary and its later institutionalization. According to Turda, from the beginning, these ideas were not considered obscure and they were regularly given attention in various public forums. For instance, the topic was extensively covered in the influential journal Huszadik Század from the mid-1900s onwards. Still, over the years, eugenics became more and more influential. By the time World War I had broken out, eugenics enjoyed considerable significance in wartime health and welfare policies and in a widespread infrastructure of different associations and publications. It even enjoyed recognition in Hungarian officialdom as illustrated by the appearance of eugenic arguments in parliamentary debates.
The influence of eugenics is also indicated by the number of prominent figures who endorsed such ideas. As is commonly known, Count Pál Teleki, who served twice as prime minister (for under a year in 1920–21 and then again in 1939–41), had an avid interest in eugenics. However, it is not common knowledge in Hungary today—and it is to the credit of the book that it draws attention to this—that the similarly influential and equally controversial Bishop Ottokár Prohászka, the leading intellectual behind political Catholicism and Christian socialism, also shared such interests (p.90). But right-wing or conservative intellectuals were hardly the only people to participate in the eugenic discourse. Left-wing intellectuals, socialists, and feminists saw in eugenics a method of social progress (if one accepts a pliable definition of progress, of course).
While most historians who specialize on early twentieth-century Hungary tend to concentrate on the political divisions between left and right, according to Turda, this was only one of the important dividing lines between eugenicists. Dichotomies like the one between the followers of the classical Galtonian interpretation of eugenics and those advocating the German school of racial hygiene were crucial too. Similarly, the nurture vs. nature debate and the debates concerning state intervention further divided eugenicists. These positions cannot be explained merely with reference to the political leanings of the people who espoused them. For instance, József Madzsar was a strong proponent of state enforced eugenic measures despite his firm leftist sympathies.
Perhaps the most interesting and thought-provoking aspect of Turda’s analysis concerns “the problem of nationalism and eugenics.” Initially, the main problems discussed by Hungarian eugenicists paralleled the problems faced by their Western European and North American colleagues, i.e. social issues and public health concerns, such as alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases. However, Turda argues that in the context of the ethnic tensions of late dualist Hungary, nationalist eugenicists attempted to redefine the Magyar race in a biological framework and develop their study into a bio-political project that combined the eugenic concept of heredity with Hungarian nationalism.
The monograph on this previously understudied topic is not only an important step towards a better understanding of early twentieth-century Hungary’s intellectual landscape. It will also further our understanding of some later developments, such as important aspects of Hungary’s interwar nationalist discourse. In addition to the main body of the volume, the appendices will also be of great benefit to future scholars. Since no similar list of works by Hungarian eugenicists has ever been published, Turda’s 25 page-long bibliography makes it not only useful but downright necessary for anyone planning to do research in this field in the future. The biographical information is similarly helpful, since many of these people remain unknown to historians even today.
University of Pécs
Etnicitás, identitás, politika: Magyar kisebbségek nacionalizmus és regionalizmus között Romániában és Csehszlovákiában 1918–1944 [Ethnicity, identity, politics: Hungarian minorities between nationalism and regionalism in Romania and Czechoslovakia, 1918–1944]. By Gábor Egry. Budapest: Napvilág, 2015. 560 pp.
Until recently, historians in East Central Europe have analyzed the fates of Hungarian minorities in the various successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy separately, with a focus on the political parties of minorities and ethnic conflict. Gábor Egry, director-in-chief of the Budapest-based Institute of Political History, has embarked on a comparative investigation of Hungarian minorities in his recent 500-page monograph, Ethnicity, Identity, Politics. Hungarian Minorities between Nationalism and Regionalism in Romania and Czechoslovakia 1918–1944. The book brings two welcome innovations: it is comparative in nature and Egry resists the temptation to analyze Hungarian minorities in a vacuum. Slovak, Czech, and Romanian reactions to Hungarian identity politics feature prominently in his monograph. His extensive use of Romanian archival records concerning the German, Hungarian, and Romanian populations is especially remarkable.
Based on years of in-depth archival research in Bucharest, Budapest, Cluj-Napoca, Timişoara, and Târgu-Mureş and other cities in Transylvania with important archives, Egry offers crucial insights into the history of Hungarian minorities and the study of national identity in East-Central Europe more generally. He confidently draws on the so far less thoroughly studied records of the Directing Council (Consiliul Dirigent), reports of provincial agents of the state security police, the mandatory Romanian language exams taken by minority state and municipal officials, and personal correspondence, along with other sources.
Ethnicity, Identity, Politics analyzes the networks among the Budapest, Bucharest, and Prague governments, as well as Slovak, Transylvanian Romanian, and Transylvanian Hungarian political elites. The monograph focuses on how these elites attempted to influence the national identity of Hungarian populations in Transylvania and Slovakia, with particular emphasis on the activities of the administration in Budapest. For Slovakia, Egry overwhelmingly relies on the rich collection of the Hungarian National Archive, which is understandable given that a substantial portion of the book is devoted to a reconstruction of the “Felvidék” [Slovakia] policies of Budapest governments. The author concentrates on policy makers who wielded considerable power in their efforts to influence the ethnic identities of Hungarians and he pays less attention to alternative attempts at identity politics coming from the marginalized political left, liberal writers, and the press. Egry concludes that it was impossible to create a homogenous Hungarian national identity out of the various Hungarian ethnic identities and identifications in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania between 1918 and 1944.
Egry asks how Hungarian identities evolved in the interwar period and during the Second World War in Slovakia and Northern and Southern Transylvania, and how changes in these Hungarian ethnic identities contrasted with the identity politics promoted by Budapest governments. The analysis of policies aimed at shaping national identity, which is broken into two parts entitled “Identities” and “Policies and Ethnic Categories,” takes up two-thirds of the book. The third part, which focuses on “Everyday Life,” examines how populations reacted to policies concerning ethnic identity by complying with, ignoring, or selectively conforming to them. While Ethnicity, Identity, Politics compares Hungarian ethnic identities in Romania and Czechoslovakia, it avoids any affirmation of simplistic conceptions of Transylvania or Slovakia as homogenous regions with solid boundaries, and it draws attention to variations in forms of ethnic identification city by city and sub-region by sub-region (p.65).
The geographical and social differences in Hungarian ethnic identity serve as a background to explain both the divergent impact of the Treaty of Trianon on Hungarian populations and the difficulties of Hungarian state-building during the Second World War. In both Slovakia and Transylvania, Hungarians opted for definitions of “Hungarianness” that differed sharply from the one promoted by Budapest, and these initial differences became even more pronounced between 1918 and 1944. Transylvanian Hungarian elites promoted a regional national identity that radically differed from Budapest’s homogenizing and centralizing agenda. This Calvinist-inspired “theological” narrative of ethnic identity stressed differences between Hungarians in Trianon Hungary and Transylvania by pointing to the importance of ethnic community building and community service (népszolgálat) in the latter, for instance. Hungarians and Hungarian elites in Slovakia, on the other hand, represented a geographically, socially, and politically more fragmented group, which did not develop a unified narrative on Hungarian ethnic identity in Slovakia (pp.156–67, 196–204).
Although Hungarian crowds cheered Miklós Horthy during the re-annexation of Southern Slovakia and Northern Transylvania, Egry argues that the buildup of differences in ethnic identity since 1918 threw into question the extent to which the re-annexation actually united minority Hungarians with those in Trianon Hungary. Finally, Egry points out that the territorial revisions of the Treaty of Trianon produced traumas and shifts in national identification comparable to the dissolution of historical Hungary, partially because the nationalizing Hungarian state pushed forcefully to readjust the national identities of Hungarians in the re-annexed territories (p.489).
Egry’s work also serves as a contribution to currently popular debates in Hungary concerning the so-called “Trianon trauma,” which centers on the impact of the demise of Greater Hungary on Hungarian populations. Importantly, Ethnicity, Identity, Politics situates the disintegration of historical Hungary in the history and recent historiography of the “Long First World War” in East Central and Eastern Europe (Heather Jones, Jennifer O’Brien and Christoph Schmidt-Supprian, eds.: Untold War. New Perspectives in First World War Studies ; Jochen Böhler, Włodzimierz Borodziej, and Joachim von Puttkamer, eds.: Legacies of Violence: Eastern Europe’s First World War ). Egry marshals case studies in support of his contention that Hungarian populations went through a series of “traumas,” such as World War I and the subsequent revolutions in the 1910s and 1920s. This argument ultimately questions the uniqueness of the “Trianon trauma” in our understanding of modern Hungarian history. In addition, he points out that the dissolution of the pre-1918 Hungarian state had sharply different impacts on various social groups and in different parts of the former Kingdom of Hungary.
Egry oscillates between arguing that the period of the Second World War marked an important turning point in the national identities of ordinary people and between showing that Hungarian populations had indeed comparably flexible attitudes towards ethnic identity in the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s. This ambiguity partially stems from the methodology and source base: the analysis is driven by a series of case studies, some of which clearly represent outliers, such as the story of one Hungarian-Jewish railway operator who decided to move to Moldova in Greater Romania at a time when Hungarian populations from Transylvania were fleeing to Trianon Hungary (pp.466–69). Nonetheless, these case studies show that it was possible to go against the current of ethnic nationalism well into the period of the Second World War.
Given the persistence of flexible ethnic identities and flexible uses of ethnic identity (labeled “everyday ethnicity”) throughout the period under study, it is nonetheless difficult to prove that the ethnic identities of Hungarian populations solidified during the Second World War. While case studies in this book do not allow for sweeping conclusions, they nevertheless persuasively point to the persistence of flexible ethnic identities in the first half of the twentieth century. The inclusion of voices from small town pubs, crowded train carriages, and middle-class dining rooms enriches our understanding of interwar East Central Europe and questions the extent to which Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Greater Romania managed to nationalize populations.
Egry convincingly stresses the importance of East Central European middle-class cultures for both the mediation of ethnic identification and as non-ethnic venues of identity politics, an often overlooked aspect of the interwar history of this region (pp.444–62). The legacy of Austro-Hungarian middle-class culture in Transylvania managed to create bonds among Transylvanian Hungarian and Romanian bourgeoisies vis-à-vis “outsiders,” such as Romanians from the pre-1918 Kingdom of Romania after the collapse of the Monarchy (p.459). Egry shows that an important impact of middle-class sociability in Transylvania was the performance of cultural superiority by educated Transylvanians (both Romanians and Hungarians) against “intruders” from the pre-1918 Kingdom of Romania. At other instances, however, middle-class sociability and the performance of social difference towards majority peasant populations served as a tool with which to erase boundaries between the Hungarian and Romanian bourgeoisie of Transylvania and the Old Kingdom of Romania (pp.457–62).
One of the many important insights Egry offers is that Hungarians and Slovaks in interwar Czechoslovakia had fewer venues for shared middle-class sociability or the construction of joint fronts in identity politics. One reason for this was that the cultural superiority of Hungarians and Slovaks in Slovakia vis-à-vis “petit-bourgeois” Czech culture or the “oligarchic” society of post-1920 Hungary was questionable; Hungarian, Slovak, and Czech ethno-political entrepreneurs were inheritors of Austro-Hungarian “middle-class culture” and thus could not be “stigmatized” as “Balkanic,” unlike the Romanians from the prewar Kingdom of Romania (p.460).
Whereas works published in East Central Europe rarely draw on English-language scholarship on the theory and practice of nationalism, Egry’s work stands out in its unique contribution to both English-language historiography on the region and debates among historians in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Through the integration of Czechoslovak, Hungarian, and Romanian perspectives on ethnic identity, Egry rethinks Rogers Brubaker’s 1996 “triadic nexus,” which described the interplay of “nationalizing state,” “the national minority,” and the “external national homeland” as relational fields which explain ethnic mobilization (Rogers Brubaker: Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe ). Egry adds to this nexus regional non-minority elites, in this case, Slovaks and Transylvanian Romanians, an addition which draws attention to the fact that within “nationalizing states” there were important internal divisions; these divisions allowed for more agency for minorities (pp.18–29). Moreover, Egry argues that the boundaries between regional minority and non-minority elites were often blurred. His addition of regional minority elites to Brubaker’s “triadic nexus” stresses that the binary opposition between Hungarian and Romanian or Slovak and Hungarian national histories can be overcome, and that the history of populations in Slovakia and Transylvania was often “entangled” and impossible to understand from the perspective of national histories (pp.29–30).
Egry’s confident narrative voice connects the dots among the often disparate case studies: the reader should expect a series of brief stories of the manifestations of ethnic identity rather than detailed case studies, which are common in works of this kind (Pieter M Judson: Guardians of the Nation. Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria ; Jeremy King: Budweisers into Czechs and Germans. A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848-1948 ; Tara Zahra: Kidnapped Souls. National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948 ). The voice of ordinary people is mediated by both contemporary state officials who produced the sources and often by Egry himself, who mostly resorts to paraphrasing rather than directly quoting this rich material—an understandable approach given the breadth and depth of his monograph. A divergence from this approach comes mostly in the third part of the book on “Everyday Life,” in which “freely speaking individuals” come to the fore (pp.362–84).
The main focus on political elites as the people who crafted politics aimed at influencing ethnic identity is less convincing, especially given that Egry shows how even interwar states believed that literature and popular culture (de)formed ethnic identities, which led to the censorship of even inane operettas such as Imre Kálmán’s Countess Maritza in Transylvania (p.451). Writers, left-wing and liberal journalists, and editors of literary journals (even of papers with limited circulation, such as Cluj’s Korunk) likely impacted the ethnic identity of broad middle-class audiences, despite the lack of their direct impact on policy making; more attention to Hungarian Jewish identity politics in Czechoslovakia and Romania could have strengthened Egry’s point that Hungarian ethnic identities were far from homogenous and contradicted the Budapest government’s expectations.
What needs to be stressed is that the breadth and depth of Ethnicity, Identity, Politics makes it one of the most significant contributions to Hungarian historiography in recent years. This monograph is a crucially important reading for historians interested in the politics of ethnic identity in East Central Europe, and it is also useful as an in-depth survey of the history of Hungarian populations in Romania and Hungary between 1918 and 1944. Graduate students will find inspiration in Egry’s use of archival material, while Ethnicity, Identity, Politics will hopefully inspire future comparative studies of the region.
Két évtized: A kolozsvári zsidóság a két világháború között [Two decades: The Jewry of Kolozsvár between the two world wars]. By Attila Gidó. Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület, 2016. 356 pp.
Attila Gidó is a skilled and successful young Transylvanian historian associated with the Cluj-based Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities. In recent years, he has conducted several valuable research projects involving research in the major Romanian, Hungarian, and Israeli archives. Dealing with the interwar history of the Jewish community in Cluj (Kolozsvár in Hungarian), one of the major cities and cultural centers of Transylvania, his new book is an expanded version of his doctoral dissertation, which was first published in Romanian (Două decenii: Evreii din Cluj în perioada interbelică ).
The Jews of Cluj were proud Hungarians before 1920, and they were almost fully integrated into the society of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. Later, under Romanian rule, they tended to refer to the previous period as the Golden Age of the Hungarian/Transylvanian Jewry. After acquiring Transylvania, the Romanian authorities did practically everything in their power to dissociate Transylvanian Jews from the Hungarians, promote the dissimilation of the community from its Hungarian language and culture, and force the assimilation of the Jewish inhabitants of the region into the Romanian state. At the time, this strategy was an essential demographical and political matter for the young nationalizing state of Greater Romania.
Gidó is convinced that without a full understanding of the identity strategies of the Transylvanian Jewry, one cannot understand the anti-Semitism of the 1930s or the Hungarian reproaches and anti-Jewish accusations of the early 1940s. Neither, according to Gidó, can one comprehend the post-Holocaust Jewish disillusionment with anything and everything connected to Hungarian identity and culture. Accordingly, Gidó states already in the introduction that the period under scrutiny is of key importance in the history of the integration of Jews. This is probably why he extended and contextualized his research period: to analyze first the situation of the Jewish community of Cluj before the First World War and to conclude with a presentation of the situation of the community after 1940, when under the provisions of the Second Vienna Award the city, together with the northern and southeastern parts of Transylvania, became part of Hungary again, followed less than four years later by the deportation of the Jews in these territories to Auschwitz.
Gidó adopts an unusually complex approach: in addition to using classic historical research methods, he also employs a variety of anthropological and sociological tools. Consequently, his work is not simply historical writing, but rather an interesting experimental attempt at a comprehensive monograph of the Jewish community of Cluj. It is therefore not surprising that the author examines his topic with particular focus on the questions of identity strategies and social integration.
The book is divided into ten chapters, each analyzing the history of the community from a different perspective: historiography and sources; the frames of the research; the history of the community before the First World War; demographic and settlement structure; occupational structure and economic potential; exclusion and restrictions of rights; internal organization of the community, including religious and secular institutions; education and schooling strategies; various identity policies; and the fate of the Jews of Cluj after 1940.
The author offers a clear description and in-depth analysis of the condition of the Jews of Cluj after the First World War, when their history, together with that of the city, went through many dramatic changes, affecting most of all the economic environment and behavior, but also political, social, and cultural relations, as well as religious and minority institutions. Demanding more and more space for themselves in the city and in Transylvania, the Romanians used a wide array of tools to expel Hungarians and Jews from public institutions, prominent places in economic life, liberal professions, and in many cases even from their own homes. The existence of Jewish institutions was also greatly impeded or made impossible. For example, in 1927, the Tarbut, the only Jewish high school of the town, was closed. The institution was accused of being “the nest of Hungarian irredentism,” and it was not permitted to function because the Romanian administration sought loyalty from the Jews to the new state. Furthermore, they also questioned the citizenship of Jews, and this condemned many families in the community to poverty, because there were several occupations which one could only pursue if one had Romanian citizenship.
An intriguing part of Gidóʼs work is his presentation of the activity of the Romanian student movements in support of the introduction of the numerus clausus principle (already adopted by Hungary) as a defining expression of anti-Semitism in interwar Romania. He describes the psychological and the physical acts of aggression against Jewish students, intellectuals, merchants, craftsmen, village barkeepers, and simple citizens during the first years after the Trianon Peace Treaty. He elaborates on the most severe instances, such as the student protests of December 1927, which culminated in the so-called “traveling pogrom,” during which the Romanian students of the Old Romanian Kingdom, traveling by a special train, vandalized and set to fire numerous Jewish religious and secular institutions and businesses on their way through Oradea (Nagyvárad), Huedin (Bánffyhunyad), and Cluj.
An unspoken question seems to run through the book: did the Jews of Transylvania in some sense betray the Hungarians during the interwar period, as alleged by some Hungarian contemporaries and historians, or did they simply try to find workable personal solutions in order to adapt to the new realities and conditions of Greater Romania? Gidóʼs analysis is not confrontational, he does not argue for or against these anti-Jewish accusations. Rather, he tries to exploit and parse an impressive amount of press, archival, and bibliographical information to reveal historical facts, influences, conditions, traps, and, ultimately, the historical truth.
Based on the results of the Romanian census of 1930 and his own approximations, Gidóʼs conclusion is that around 1930 more than half (54 percent) of the Jews of Cluj declared themselves to be of Jewish ethnicity, while the rest of the community continued to identify as Hungarian. Although the author notes that the great majority of the Jewish population of Cluj continued to speak Hungarian at home and in public, consumed Hungarian cultural products, and had many ties with the Hungarian minority society (and thus continued to act as a kin-minority), he is somewhat reluctant to admit that such a dramatic change could not have take place in the period of one decade. In fact, the Jews of Cluj, like many other members of the Transylvanian Jewish community, realized that the political options of the Hungarians and of the Jews living in Transylvania were not always convergent, and by establishing a Jewish Party, an important part of the community started to cast “Jewish votes” instead of Hungarian ones. Otherwise, when for example the non-Jewish Hungarians were supporting the party of Octavian Goga in droves, Jews would have been forced to vote for a political party with an anti-Semitic program.
Nonetheless, Gidó provides an excellent and highly suggestive example how impossible far-reaching dissimilation proved in a short period of time: that of Mór Deutsch, who in November 1918 filed a request to change his last name from Deutsch to Dévényi. The Hungarian Ministry of the Interior informed him on January 30, 1919 that his request had been approved, but by then Mór Deutsch was already living under Romanian rule, and the Romanian authorities did not recognize the decision of the Hungarian administration. We know from other sources that eventually Deutsch changed his name to Dévényi, probably sometime between 1940 and 1944, because in October 1943 his son was enrolled as András Gábor Dévényi in the Jewish High School of Kolozsvár. Beginning in 1953, András Gábor Dévényi lived and worked as a renowned physicist in Bucharest, and when he passed away in December 2015 he still bore the same last name: Dévényi. The Deutsch-Dévényi example may illustrate how advanced the Hungarian assimilation of the Transylvanian Jewry was.
Gidóʼs well-documented book, which contains some 1,260 footnotes and an exhaustive bibliography, offers us a good opportunity to clarify the origins of many clichés and stereotypes, and to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the complicated history of the Jewish community of Cluj and, through it, of Transylvanian Jews as a whole as part of Hungarian and Romanian history.
Zoltán Tibori Szabó
Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj
Căpitan Codreanu: Aufstieg und Fall des rumänischen Faschistenführers. By Oliver Jens Schmitt. Vienna: Paul Zsolnay, 2016. 288 pp.
While there is a plethora of biographies on Hitler and Mussolini, the life of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the founder and leader of the Legion of the Archangel Michael (also known as the Iron Guard), is less known. Apart from Codreanu’s autobiography For My Legionaries or hagiographic works like Ion Banea’s Căpitanul, so far there are no other attempts at a comprehensive portrayal of the leader of the third biggest fascist movement in interwar Europe. This is why Jens Oliver Schmitt’s biography Căpitan Codreanu – Aufstieg und Fall des rumänischen Faschistenführers [Captain Codreanu – Rise and Fall of the Romanian fascist leader] is a novelty on a variety of grounds. Schmitt, professor of South-East European History at Vienna University, seeks to provide a meticulous account of Codreanu’s political, ideological, and private life, drawing on a variety of source documents from Romanian archives, contemporary writings and theoretical works on comparative fascism. Crucially, too, the author attempts to place Codreanu’s life in the broader political context of the interwar period. The biography spans the period beginning with Codreanu’s birth in Huşi in 1899 and ending with his violent death in 1938. It is divided into 48 short chapters which are grouped thematically, a chronological table, and an index of names.
While Schmitt’s volume is at first glance a comprehensive narrative of Codreanu’s political life, its real strength lies in its examination of how Codreanu’s closest allies shaped his ideology and leadership. Schmitt focuses on Codreanu’s immediate circle of friends and family, aspects of his life which until now have been neglected, yet which Schmitt argues are significant for an understanding of his political career. There is much to support this assumption, as nationalist narratives were intrinsically tied to the Codreanu family’s self-image. In 1902, Codreanu’s father, Ion, a German teacher from Bukovina, changed his family name from the Polish Zelinski to the Romanian-sounding Zelea. “Codreanu” referred to the Romanian broad-leafed forest (codru), an element of the national imaginary. By making the national myths part of his family’s identity, Codreanu’s father expressed his devotion to the Romanian nation, and this was to shape his son’s political convictions. (It is hardly surprising that the family’s genealogy later became the subject of anti-Legionary propaganda, which claimed that the Codreanus were of Slavic ancestry). According to Schmitt, even Codreanu’s military ideals, which were to shape the organizational structure of the Legionary Movement, stemmed from his father and, to a lesser extent, from his education at the Mănăstirea Dealu military school. As for Codreanu’s allies, the author claims that historians have tended to overstate the impact of Bucharest-based intellectuals such as Mircea Eliade or Emil Cioran on Codreanu and his movement. Instead, Schmitt directs his reader’s attention to members of the aristocracy, such as Prince Nicholas of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and members of the Cantacuzène family, such as Gheorghe (Zizi) Cantacuzino Grănicerul, the leader of the Legionary party All for the Fatherland [Totul pentru Ţară]. Their connections to the royal house were to become Codreanu’s life insurance after 1933. At the same time, Schmitt manages to debunk many of the more lurid stories which emerged concerning Codreanu by noting the lack of evidence.
The middle chapters offer many insights into Codreanu’s personality and beliefs. Schmitt depicts the founder of the Legionary Movement as a disciplined mystic who regularly withdrew to a hermitage in the Rarău mountains, as a leader who emphasized silence over the loquacity of the political establishment, and as a person who preferred pictures over words. This was indeed a novelty in Romanian politics which stood in sharp contrast to how the satirist Ion Luca Caragiale depicted Romanian archetypical characters. For Codreanu, the promotion of moral rigorousness as a Legionary virtue went hand in hand with the sanctification of violence. He raved about medieval knights and placed more emphasis on chivalric honor than the code of law. These findings are supported by recent research on Codreanu’s charismatic leadership and his and the Legionaries’ religious activism. Schmitt argues that Codreanu’s charisma was not simply a product of his own ostentatiousness, but rather was also sustained by his devotees, who occasionally regarded Codreanu as a demigod or reincarnation of the Archangel Michael. Likewise, Codreanu’s own Christian Orthodox faith was not merely metaphoric or instrumental, but rather constituted a promise of transcendental salvation to the Romanian people. However, his messianism and religious mysticism came increasingly into conflict with his role as a fascist leader. Codreanu’s inability to bring these contrasting identities in line resulted in an irresolute leadership and led to the movement’s collapse in 1938. Correspondingly, Codreanu failed to arbitrate between the different factions which emerged in the 1930s within his organization. Schmitt refers to a “moderate” royalist faction represented by intellectuals like Nae Ionescu on the one hand and a social-revolutionary faction represented by various violent-prone groups and the Legionary Worker Corps on the other. By shedding light on the role workers played within the Legionary movement, Schmitt applies findings from recent studies on this group, which until now has only rarely been made the subject of historical inquiries.
Schmitt’s biography provides new insights into a person who has come to be regarded as one of the most notorious and charismatic fascist leaders in interwar Europe. One strength of the book is that it explores the life of the Legionary leader in settings and from perspectives often overlooked by scholars of fascism. Moreover, it is stimulating to see emphasis placed on the persons and the networks whose impact on Codreanu have been overlooked in the earlier secondary literature. For those less familiar with politics and personae from interwar Romania, the volume is at times less accessible. Some chapters introduce numerous politicians, parties, and places and are so dense that readers may lose track. A slight tendency occasionally to depart from Codreanu’s development in order to incorporate broader historical events notwithstanding, Schmitt’s biography is balanced and well-written, and it presents enough strong arguments to make it worth a read for any scholar of comparative fascism or East European or Romanian history. Overall, Căpitan Codreanu can be regarded as the first authoritative account of the life of the Romanian fascist leader, an account which has been long overdue.
Radu Harald Dinu
Demokrácia negyvenötben [Democracy in 1945]. By Éva Standeisky. Budapest: Napvilág, 2015. 247 pp.
Éva Standeisky has written an unusual account of circa two crucial years in Hungarian history. Unlike most authors who have dealt with the delicate issue of immediate post-World War II Hungary and its Sovietization, Standeisky does not start from or devote much space to politics, parties, or the intricacies of diplomacy. Nor is the book focused on the rapid social changes that swept through the defeated country. Similarly, the horrors of war and the abusive Soviet occupation only linger in the background. Instead of dwelling on these already familiar aspects of the period, Standeisky attempts to further a nuanced understanding of the elusive concept of democracy in a fluid historical context, and she studies how this elusive concept impacted the trajectory of the country.
These choices do not make the book less politically charged. Connecting 1945 to the topic of democracy is a political statement in today’s Hungary, in which the country’s so-called Basic Law made “constitutional” one specific understanding of national history by declaring that the country’s sovereignty was lost on March 19, 1944 and the subsequent years did not constitute part of “authentic” national history. Neither is Standeisky deterred by such legal “niceties,” nor is she willing to swim with the current of the recent wave of research eager to uncover dictatorial tendencies in all areas starting as early as 1944. Instead, she boldly attempts to reveal people’s agency, a crucial prerequisite of functioning democracy. While a single academic definition of democracy would be difficult to arrive at (the book provides ample illustration of this through the example of intellectual discussions in 1945), Standeisky argues that after the collapse of the old regime and with the slow crystallization of the new, a space for individual agency appeared (köz in the original). Standeisky defines this concept not simply as a social sphere in which people could act and interact, but rather as a view of society beyond its individualist understanding, a view which creates the opportunity but also the moral obligation for everyone to act in the defense of the common good and public interests. In 1945, due to the collapse of the state, she argues, people not only had a chance to engage with the public, this engagement was a necessary precondition of social reconstruction.
In the course of these attempts, democracy was the main guiding principle for most people, understood as a clean break with the undemocratic past (and the cornerstone of reconstruction). But, as Standeisky shows, democracy was as elusive and contested seven decades ago as it is today. One of the most important disagreements unfolded between an egalitarian understanding of the concept (democracy as a system that strives for the greatest possible equality between people in material terms) and an interpretation of democracy as the guarantor of individual liberties (a system that tries to defend individual freedom from the intrusion of others and the state). It was this contestation that enabled the Communist party to divide and weaken its opponents, because the egalitarian interpretation was more popular than the individualistic (which was chiefly represented by intellectuals), and this enabled the Communists to curtail individual liberties.
Intellectuals and ordinary people are both in the focus. However, given the huge difference from the perspective of the paper trails they left, it is hardly surprising that the former’s presence is more prominent. Standeisky does not provide an all-encompassing narrative. Rather, she uses meaningful episodes to illustrate her point: democracy was contested, often elusive, but a powerful idea that defined Hungary for a short period when it was equally important for politicians, intellectuals, and ordinary people. Thus, the book includes chapters on a lecture series at the Budapest Pázmány Péter University that provided a platform for politicians and intellectuals to discuss democracy. The views expressed ranged from a communitarian/egalitarian perspective (Péter Veres from the National Peasant Party) to the idea that democracy is a form of government based on consensus building to provide freedom for individuals (professor of law Gyula Moór). In another chapter, Standeisky examines the views of intellectuals concerning the moral foundations of democracy. She shows how sober and generally pessimistic the evaluations by contemporaries tended to be who felt that Hungarian society neither had the necessary democratic experience nor had properly come to terms with its own responsibility for the tragedy that had befallen the country in 1944. These themes recur in a later chapter that presents the views of Gyula Szekfű (of whom Standeisky has an unusually positive opinion) and Imre Kovács from 1945–47.
Standeisky connects her discussion of democracy and morals with politics, demonstrating how instrumental the debate about democracy and the lack of democratic experience was to the success of the Communists. In this context, they were able to “hijack” the debate and position themselves close to the center. Another chapter is devoted to Világ (1946–47), a short-lived journal edited by Lajos Kassák and published by the Hungarian Council of Artists, which was the home of Western artistic Modernism in a country rapidly sliding towards dictatorship. Finally, a sadly all too brief chapter is dedicated to a local emanation of the “public,” the so-called Republic of Dévaványa, a spontaneous popular attempt that exemplifies how local society could be reconfigured in the absence of the state and would be dominated by a strong figure, but also how the new state gradually compelled these local attempts to submit to its will.
The framework connecting these disparate examples is the concept of the public and democracy as an idea embraced by all of the actors permitted to participate in public life. It is certainly a promising approach, although the book remains a somewhat traditional work in the history of ideas. This lack of methodological innovation becomes especially visible in the case of the analyses of debates on democracy, as Standeisky does not use any of the more recent analytical concepts, such as populism or communitarianism, which would have meaningfully complemented her take on the dichotomous interpretation of democracy. Her argument that brief periods like 1945–47 can offer new insights into prior and subsequent periods is an appealing one, but it remains to be more fully explored in further case studies on ordinary people. Nonetheless, Standeisky largely succeeds in presenting a refreshing perspective on a short period that is often too easily lost amidst the large-scale processes of Sovietization. She thereby aptly demonstrates that emphasis on the anti-democratic politics of the Communists from late 1945 onwards should not necessarily lead to a general condemnation of 1945 or its erasure from the history of democratic traditions.
Institute of Political History
A magyar irodalomtudomány szovjetizálása: A szocialista realista kritika és intézményei, 1945–1953 [The Sovietization of Hungarian literary studies: Socialist realist criticism and its institutions, 1945–1953]. By Tamás Scheibner. Budapest: Ráció, 2014. 314 pp.
Tamás Scheibner’s book does not seek to map the ways in which literature functions on the basis of literary historical and aesthetic contexts which focus on the oeuvres of individual authors, nor does Scheibner seek to understand how the aesthetics of Socialist Realism functioned on the basis of poetical analyses of individual works. He works from the presumption that in the given era, critical judgement was held captive by individual institutions which were dominated by politics, not literature. He approaches the subject first and foremost from the perspective of interrelationships in cultural history, thus adopting the approach of the current international (primarily Russian and Anglo-Saxon) theoretical literature. Following in the path of Evgeny Dobrenko and Katherina Clark, Scheibner writes about the discourse of Socialist Realism, which as a complex communicational system contains the critical language with which the single accurate narrative concerning external “reality” can be produced. As an aesthetic ideology, Socialist Realism constitutes an unusually closed system, and the symbolic universe which reigns within it determines the single language with which the ideological problems of the era can be discussed and examined and the political and cultural strivings can be expressed. Furthermore, the political, linguistic, and power technique of Socialist Realism was not so much the distinctive property of the people who were actually involved in the practice of literature (in other words, not an internal requirement) as it was a technique of the representatives of political power. In Hungary, József Révai played this role, even as György Lukács assumed a similar role in the field of theory.
Before diving into the substance of the work, it is worth offering some brief discussion of the term Sovietization, which figures in the title of the book. Drawing first and foremost on the works of American scholars (though also taking into consideration the views of some Hungarian authors), Scheibner comes to the conclusion that the notion of Sovietization can only be used in a limited sense. His stance is nuanced, since he does not treat Sovietization as a practice that was implemented on the basis of carefully developed plans, but rather as a technique of domination that evolved and was implemented gradually. The linguistic and methodological nuances of his inquiry notwithstanding, he nonetheless dates the beginning of Sovietization to 1945, and in my assessment he finds himself on “thin ice” in this because he bases his conceptualization on the views of political historians. By this, I only mean to suggest that the scholarship on the era is hardly sufficiently detailed or nuanced to allow us to venture holistic views concerning the entire country on the basis of political decisions, particularly when it comes to social sub-systems.
Given his conceptualization, Scheibner logically begins by examining the institutional steps that were taken by the Hungarian communists in order to seize control of literature. One of the most important ideas took root in Szeged before the liberation of the country from the occupying German forces. Essentially, the idea was that—regardless of any and all financial or infrastructural problems that might arise—the party should have its own printing press, which would be called Szikra (Spark). Scheibner uses all of the tools in the toolbox of the cultural historian to provide a detailed reconstruction of the tasks that the leadership of the printing press would have to address concerning material culture, organization, circulation, and delivery. He then examines the publication politics of the Szikra printing press and comes to the conclusion that – in contrast to the ideologically motivated success stories told in the Kádár era and in spite of the fact that at its launch in the wake of the war it enjoyed a tremendous advantage – it proved a failure. As the author shows, this was due, above all, to logistical blunders and mistakes in publication policy.
The second chapter of the first part of the book examines the cultural and diplomatic background of the establishment of the Hungarian–Soviet Cultural Society, which was created in order to win the sympathies of the urban middle class or at least to temper some of the hostility to the Soviet Union. The Society was emphatically not political in nature. Its primary purpose was to spread knowledge of the culture, sciences, language, and value system of the Soviet Union among the Hungarian citizenry. In the actual activities in which it engaged, however, the Society made clear that the communist elite not only had no desire to nurture any notion of cultural continuity with non-communist and partly even communist left wing initiatives of the inter-war years, it actually sought to dismiss them as a kind of heterodoxy or misunderstanding— separate paths to be scorned. At the creation of a new literary canon and the new intellectual elite, neither political commitment nor artistic calling was the primary question. What mattered, rather, was whether or not the person in question would be able to accommodate and fit into the frameworks of the new system, and also whether or not, with his or her name and reputation, the party might be able to gain some legitimacy.
One of the key questions of the literature of the era concerns what Scheibner—drawing on György Lukács—refers to as the “unity” of Hungarian literature, a symbolic goal that was intertwined with the fashioning of a new literary canon. In my assessment, this question makes vividly clear the difficulty of drawing boundaries between historical eras. It would be problematic and perhaps impossible to understand the emergence and crafting of this canon if one were to take into consideration only trends and events after 1945. Scheibner continuously alludes to the activities of Lukács before the war and outside the borders of Hungary, and indeed he situates all this in the context of the debates concerning Soviet literature and cultural politics. In my view, however, it still would have been worthwhile to have offered a more detailed analysis and discussion of the historical context and nature of Lukács’s vision of canon formation. After all, so-called workers’ literature or the literature of the working class included a significant body of theoretical literature even in the interwar period, which offered critical assessments of potential aesthetic and ethical dilemmas.
Scheibner devotes considerable attention to the so-called Lukács debate (1949–51). He presents the context in which the debate took place, both from the global and the domestic perspectives, and then offers a detailed analysis of the individual standpoints. These events were discursive in nature, much as the political and sociological positions of the individual participants and their places in the party hierarchy played a role in the debate. From this perspective, even Lukács, who is treated as an institution, was not an exception. At the same time, one might well ask, if there was in fact a fixed plan to dismiss or marginalize him (and there may well not have been any such plan), then why the need for a debate at all? In my assessment, which concurs with that of the author, the debate was needed because (though we often forget, in our efforts to understanding the communist concept of politics, that the exercise of power was centered on text and interpretation) the Lukács debate had a function: the introduction of the Socialist Realist discursive style and the establishment of this style as a matter of routine. If we put the whole affair in a larger context and we string the debates together to form a kind of chain that seems reasonable, then—in the shadow of the Rajk trial—we have the Lukács debate (1949–51), the big architects’ debate (1951), and the debate concerning Felelet [Answer] (1952), the first two volumes of a novel by writer Tibor Déry which was initially intended to be a trilogy. As Scheibner argues, on the one hand, these de-bates concerned the accurate interpretation and the introduction of Socialist Realism, while on the other, they also signified a kind of changing of the guard within the party – the communist intelligentsia that was educated in the professional sense was being pushed out of the party.
In the last two chapters of the book, Scheibner logically takes his analysis further in this direction: the First Hungarian Writers’ Congress, which was held in 1951, was essentially the last phase of the process described above. It was a ritual of acceptance, in that Hungarian literature was significantly reorganized and was given a new central forum in the form of Irodalmi Újság [Literary News] and, in the person of Béla Illés, an unusual past master. The long-term goal of all of this was the creation of a new literary and critical language: what was the role of Soviet literature and sentimental evocativeness, and how should the attitudes of writers and readers be transformed? The final chapter before the conclusion deals with the transformations in the structure of the Hungarian Society of Literary History and the content of its journal Irodalomtörténet [Literary History]. This was a move that took place on the level of politics of the profession, and the essential question was how to introduce the aesthetic ideology of Socialist Realism (which in theory was in use) and Marxism into a traditionally Humanist branch of the sciences and how to assure that work would begin and progress in a manner that was acceptable from a political point of view.
In Hungary, after the change of regimes, very little emphasis was placed on the importance of critical self-examination in the individual branches of the sciences, in spite of the fact that there is a great deal in the recent history of the disciplines of philosophy, history, literary history, and of course several other branches of the sciences that would merit rigorous examination. Scheibner’s book is an example of the new modes of thought of a new generation, and if one takes into consideration, alongside this book, the work of scholars like Gábor Rieder, Dávid Szolláth, Gábor Reichert, Ádám Ignácz, and András Ránki, it seems this new generation has a marked interest in (and is making a demand for) a critical reassessment and rethinking of the era in question. Scheibner’s book is based on a well-developed methodology, a serious study of sources, and rich international scholarly references. It is to be hoped that his scholarly efforts will be continued – by himself and many others.
Zsolt K. Horváth
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
The Emergence of Historical Forensic Expertise: Clio Takes the Stand. By Vladimir Petrovic. New York–London, Routledge, 2017. 258 pp.
Over the past century, the number of legal proceedings in which historians have been called on to provide expertise has grown significantly. Depending on the nature of the case, judges and representatives of parties have sought answers to all kinds of questions, such as the history of a particular community and its presence in a geographical space, the ideas that have driven the adoption of legal documents, and the functioning of various institutions which were involved in the oppression or extermination of a particular ethnic, national, racial, or religious group. Practitioners needed answers concerning history and, in particular, political and social history. Historical forensic expertise has thus been called on to contribute in legal settings, and it has done so, with varying levels of success. In this book, Vladimir Petrovic traces the development of this inclusion of historical expertise in a setting to which it had previously largely been foreign: the courtroom.
The book begins with a question: is there a role for the historian in court? The issue of historians participating in proceedings has been controversial and has caused heated debates, even if, by now, it is hardly a practice without precedent. Scholars strongly disagree with one another, and they tend to treat the question as a zero-sum game. For some in the field of historical research, historians should not participate in courtroom proceedings at all, while for others, the contributions of historians are both valuable and necessary to the desired outcome, i.e. a fair legal decision. For the former, law and history are simply fundamentally incompatible methodologically, epistemologically, and in purpose, while for the latter, they are based on similar principles and can work together. After all, historians and judges do, fundamentally, establish truth based on evidence (p.6). Disagreements aside, history is inevitably brought into the courtroom, in criminal and civil cases, in numerous jurisdictions, when the courts are called upon to decide on claims that simply cannot be addressed without reference to history in one way or another.
To help address this problem of the role of the historian in the courtroom, Petrovic turns to the past, investigating “history on trial,” “history of trial,” and “history in trial” (p.4). These three themes run through the book, and Petrovic presents the intriguing aspects of each to the reader. By approaching the subject through these themes, he manages to map successfully the different ways in which history and law have interacted. When he began his research, Petrovic found that, somewhat ironically, the story of historical expert witnesses was largely obscure, even though some of the cases in which historians were involved were exceptional and impacted the societies involved strongly. In many ways, some of these legal proceedings influenced how events from the past are remembered and talked about. In Petrovic’s view, a monographic overview of the evolution of historical expert witnessing was needed to help resolve some of the lingering questions on the roles of historians in the courtroom. Petrovic studied sources on several key cases in countries such as France, the United States, Germany, and Israel. Many of the cases aimed to provide a measure of justice for some of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, such as the murder of Jews in Europe and the oppression and segregation of black Americans. The various types of proceedings were conducted in both civil law and common law jurisdictions, which differ considerably from the perspective of how proceedings are conducted. Insights presented in this book on cases as iconic as Brown v. Board of Education (decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954) or the Eichmann and Auschwitz trials in Israel and Germany in the early 1960s greatly enrich the reader’s understanding of legal history.
The book is structured largely chronologically, analyzing the shifting relationships between history and law in six chapters organized in three parts: one focusing on the preconditions for the emergence of historical forensics, the second part on experiments with this expertise in court, and the third on institutionalizing the practice. These three phases began to become significant in legal practice in the late nineteenth century, and they are not neatly separated. The process of including historical expertize in courtroom proceedings was gradual and multifaceted. In the chapters, important questions concerning the purpose of legal proceedings are raised, especially in criminal cases involving individuals charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Do these trials have only the narrow purpose of establishing the guilt or innocence of an individual, or do they have a broader social function, such as to inform, educate, and even reconcile populations? These questions are still passionately debated in academia and in legal and policy circles, especially those working in the field of transitional justice.
Given this, some discussion of the experiences of the international, hybrid, and domestic tribunals that have conducted criminal trials would have greatly enriched Petrovic’s inquiry. Ever since professor James Gow of King’s College in London provided testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its first ever trial (that of Dusko Tadic), historical expertise has been both heavily relied on in investigations and included as expert testimony. Scholars like Robert Donia have appeared in the courtroom in The Hague dozens of times over the course of the past two decades, and this emerging tradition of relying on experts in the courtroom, which present the conclusions of historical research, continues to the present day at the International Criminal Court. Richard Ashby Wilson’s 2011 book Writing History in International Criminal Trials was important in bringing to light the relationship between history and law in international trials, and Petrovic’s contribution is important in that it expands on this broad theme. These trials, after all, also produce an incredible amount of records which are themselves subjects of historical inquiry.
Petrovic succeeds in his efforts to depict the evolution of the use of historical forensic expertise in legal proceedings over the course of the past century. The book is incredibly rich in detail, describing individuals who took part in the inclusion of historical expertise in legal proceedings and the struggles they faced on this path. This in-depth study is, by all means, a significant contribution to scholarship. It establishes a foundation for even better-informed discussions on the still controversial questions: do historians “belong” in the courtroom, and when their expertise is used, how can this practice be improved? Historians are now regular participants in proceedings in the courtroom, and they are likely to remain there. Therefore, the task is now to improve their contributions, and this process of improvement begins with an increasingly subtle understanding of past experiences, the experiences so eloquently presented by Petrovic. Beyond this vital purpose, the book discusses the crucial question of the social role of historians, which in these turbulent times seems even more pertinent.