Towns and Cities of the Croatian Middle Ages: Image of the Town in the Narrative Sources. Reality and/or Fiction? Edited by Irena Benyovsky Latin and Zrinka Pešorda Vardić. Zagreb: Croatian Institute of History, 2017. 412 pp.
As a sort of successor volume to Towns and Cities of the Croatian Middle Ages: Authority and Property, this volume is the result of the second triennial held at the Croatian Institute of History in autumn 2013. It consists of 17 papers on images of medieval towns in the region of present-day Croatia. More precisely, these papers deal with the many complex ways in which urban spaces were depicted in narrative sources from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period and how these sources can enrich our understanding of medieval urbanity. With regards to the subtitle, the term “image” is not limited to one rigid conceptual framework. Rather, it includes a wide range of topics, such as the formation of urban settlements and topographies, the constitution of certain civic identities and memories, and even historical-demographic calculations on the basis of noble genealogies (see the article by Nenad Vekarić).
Except for the article by László Veszprémy (pp.253–63), which examines historiographic accounts of medieval Buda, all of the papers in the volume focus on cities on the northeastern Adriatic coastline and in Dalmatia, especially Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar. This is due in no small part to the fragmentary nature of medieval sources which have survived on these areas and cities. Nevertheless, it is a bit surprising that Zagreb is mentioned only by Marija Karbić (pp.241–52), who compiles descriptions of the free royal town from chronicles and narratives in some of the charters of the Hungarian court.
Rather than offer summaries of the individual papers, I seek here to emphasize some significant guidelines of the volume by way of example. The introduction (pp.13–60), which was written by Irena Benyovsky Latin (one of the editors), provides a detailed history of the research on the subject and also addresses the varieties and intersections of the narrative sources, which have been considered in a primarily comparative way throughout the volume. In other words, legends of local saints and bishops, annals and universal chronicles, and various histories of primarily clerical and monastic institutions are all important sources on the appearance and perceptions of high and late medieval Croatian towns. As far as images of towns in narrative sources are concerned, communal histories (be they preserved as chronicles, laudatium urbium, or poems) are an important sources and objects of research. Furthermore, expanding the timespan up to the eighteenth century (i.e. well beyond the traditional border of the European Middle Ages) allows us to take into account travelogues and even diaries from well-known Italian humanists and pilgrims. This provides useful complementary information as well as an external point of view (see the articles by Donal Cooper, Zoran Ladić, and Dušan Mlacović).
The merits of the conference proceedings can definitely be ascribed to a constant reference to the primary sources and a distinctive approach to source criticism. This is especially true when it comes to different provenances, intricate channels of tradition, and depictions of how the prevailing circumstances were perceived at the time. The authors analyze, more or less meticulously, the respective social contexts of the chosen sources for their case studies by taking into account the medieval authors’ intentions, methods of writing, and self-perceptions. Readers of this volume are given an opportunity to refresh their insights by comparing various aforementioned narrative sources with contemporary pragmatic written records, e.g. notarial documents, charters, and municipal codifications. Zrinka Nikolić Jakus (pp.123–36) reconstructs genealogies of Dalmatian urban elites, using both diplomatic sources and information provided by Thomas the Archdeacon of Split (1200–1268) in his famous Historia Salonitana. Other examples of this include examinations which focus on the communal histories of Dubrovnik (see the articles by Zrinka Pešorda Vardić and Zdenka Janeković Römer), Trogir (see the article by Ana Plosnić Škarić), and Zadar (see the articles by Ivan Majnarić and Sandra Begonja). These literary and historiographical works contain descriptions of urban structures and topical accounts of peaceful and adversarial interactions among social groups in the cities and their hinterland. These descriptions provide (again in correlation with administrative sources) a vivid picture of everyday life and multi-faceted medieval urbanity. Apparently, the military and political conflicts with Venice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were a trigger for the construction of narrative models of urban community which shed light on utopian ideas of cohabitation and social order in major Dalmatian cities.
In addition to the intertextual comparisons, the contributors to the volume also took into consideration material and visual sources. Starting with De Administrando Imperio, a kind of “manual” for adolescent emperors written by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in the mid-tenth century, Ivan Basić, for instance, sheds light on the etymological confusion of the town Spalatum and its suburb Spalatiolum (pp.61–115). He connects linguistic investigations based on contemporary chronicles with results from archaeological excavations, and he also takes epigraphic sources into account. He thus succeeds in giving a more precise picture of Split’s urban structure during Late Antiquity. This structure provided the foundation for the early medieval development of the town and its surrounding area. In his iconographic investigation, Tripimir Vedriš (pp.179–212) focuses on the cult of Zadar’s patron saints and how they became symbols of communal identity and instruments of societal differentiation among local elites. He therefore discusses how changes to their visual depiction (in shrines and on seals, coins, mural paintings, etc.) within the urban space were connected to times of struggle against the maritime republic of Venice in the fourteenth century.
The editors’ aims have certainly been met from the perspective of interpreting narrative sources not just as “histories,” whose reliability is to be determined, but rather as “historical facts in themselves” (p.58). Beyond the diversity of topics and sources brought up in combination with refreshingly comparative analyses, this volume presents matters of intensive research concerning medieval narrative sources, and it lays emphasis on Croatian cities which so far been have neglected in the secondary literature. Given the simple fact that all the articles were written in English and even short titles of Croatian sources are given in translation, the volume is accessible to a broad, international readership. It thus constitutes a crucial step towards more spatially balanced approaches to the study of medieval urban history.
University of Vienna
Nova zraka u Europskom svjetlu: Hrvatske zemlje u ranome srednjem vijeku (550–1150.) [New ray in the European light: Croatian lands in the early middle ages (550–1150)]. By Zrinka Nikolić Jakus. Biblioteka Povijest Hrvata 1. Zagreb: Matica hrvatska, 2015. 656 pp.
Nova zraka u europskom svjetlu is the first volume in a new series in Croatian of Biblioteka povijest hrvata published by Matica hrvatska and launched in 2015. The series of seven volumes is the latest Croatian narrative of the history of Croatia and the Croatian lands from late Antiquity to the late twentieth century. The first volume is the work of eighteen authors who are among the most prominent scholars of Croatian historiography, art history, legal history, literary history, archaeology, and many other fields. They belong to the younger or middle generation of Croatian historians, and they adopt modern approaches to the study of history, dealing with topics that have been comparatively or entirely neglected according to Zoran Ladić, the editor of the series, and Zrinka Nikolić Jakus, the editor the volume under review. The volume begins with two prefaces, in which the two editors note that the volume aims to follow in the wake of two earlier Croatian projects, Hrvatska i Europa and Povijest Hrvata, and also drew inspiration from the New Cambridge Medieval History in its aspiration to address a wide range of topics, including spiritual life, environmental issues, economy, art history, archaeology, law, written culture, everyday life, society, and the institutions and formation of the state. The volume can be divided into three major parts. The first unit offers a general overview from different perspectives on and approaches to the history of Croatia and the Croatian lands (meaning territories or regions which were not parts of the Medieval Kingdom of Croatia but which belong to the present-day country, such as Istria and Slavonia). The first study, by Hrvoje Gračanin, narrates the history of the lands of present-day Croatia in late Antiquity (pp.3–36). It is followed by Ante Birin’s chapter on the history of Croats in the early Middle Ages (pp.37–72). Neven Budak then discusses the Early Medieval ethnogenesis of the Croats (pp.73–88). In the next two chapters Damir Karbić, analyses the formation of the Croatian state, royal power, society, and cities (pp.89–122, 123–32). Florence S. Fabijanec then examines the economic aspects of Early Medieval Croatia, such as trade, commerce, and agriculture (pp.133–158). In the next chapter, Ante Nazor discusses the Early Medieval Croatian army (pp.159–72), and Trpimir Vedriš summarizes formal practice of baptism, Christianization (he separates the two), and the ecclesiastical life and practice of religion in the Croatian lands (pp.173–200, 201–36). Damir Karbić and Branka Grbavac present legal life and legal written culture in Croatia (pp.237–54), Mirjana Matijević-Sokol examines literacy in Latin (pp.255–72), and Tomislav Galović presents the literacy in Cyrillic and Glagolitic (pp.273–96). Magdalena Skoblar summarizes the most important aspects of the art history of the region (pp.297–322), and as the final part of this unit, the study by Jakus examines everyday life of Croats (pp.323–42). The second main part of the volume reflects the historical and cultural regionality of Croatia. The first two chapters deal with northwestern and northeastern Croatia separately, and both were written by Hrvoje Gračanin, who was joined by coauthor Silvija Pisk for the first study (pp.345–66, 367–84). In my opinion, probably it would have been preferable not to have divided the two chapters, as they deal with similar topics and territories which belonged together at some point of the period in question. The subsequent chapters, which were written by Maurizio Levak and Ante Birin respectively deal with Istria and the Kvarner Gulf (pp.385–414) and Gorski kotar, Lika, and Krbava (pp.415–26). The narrative of the Early Medieval history of Dalmatia is also divided into two parts according to geographical region. Ivan Basić deals with northern and central Dalmatia (pp.427–62), and Ivan Majnarić and Kosjenka Laszlo Klemar focus on southern Dalmatia (pp.463–78), but unlike the first two chapters, in this case historical circumstances and differences could justify this division. In the final chapter of the second part, Goran Bilogrivić deals with the territory of Bosnia and Hum (pp.479–91). The third unit of the book offers international, geopolitical context, as it deals with the countries and empires that either had close relationships with the Croats or the territories of present-day Croatia or held any parts of these territories. Hrvoje Gračanin provides a short summary on Byzantium (pp.495–516), and Ivan Majnarić then presents the Ottonian, Frankish, and Holy Roman Empire’s role in Croatia (pp.517–32) and the relationships with the Papacy (pp.533–48). Lovorka Ćoralić analyses Venice’s role in Croatia (pp.549–62), and Jakus examines the southern Italian territories and their relationships with Croatia, highlighting the Normans’ activities (pp.563–80). Trpimir Vedriš presents Bulgaria and other Slavic states in the Balkans (pp.581–608), and finally Nikolić Jakus deals with Hungary (pp.609–29). The volume is the first outcome of a huge project, and it is one of the finest modern syntheses in the historiography in Croatian. Apart from some minor, distracting editorial choices, such as the unnecessary division of some territories, the volume presents wide range topics many of which had been largely neglected earlier but now are part of contemporary trends in the study of history. The emphasis is not on the traditional, political history at all, and the variety of areas of focus makes the volume unique. The importance of the book as a contribution to the existing scholarship lies also in the targeted readership. While the book offers rigorous studies for scholars, it is also useful and accessible to students and the wider public. The volume reflects the regionality of Croatia and highlights the uniqueness and the different social, economic, and political evolution of each territory. The third unit of the book puts Croatian history in international context, which is inevitable, since most of the present-day Croatia was under the rule of another country in some part of the period in question. Its minor shortcomings notwithstanding, the volume is a modern historical synthesis and a motivating example for new projects on the histories of other Central European countries.
Eötvös Loránd University
Textilvégek védjegyei: A textilkereskedelem régészeti emlékei a Magyar Királyság területén [Lead seals of cloth rolls: archaeological remains of the textile trade in the Kingdom of Hungary]. By Maxim Mordovin. Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2018. 355 pp.
The new book by Maxim Mordovin addresses an important lacuna in the secondary literature. The focus of the monograph is lead seals (used as trademarks), which is an interesting topic in part simply because very few historians have dealt with it. This is not entirely surprising, given that lead seals are among the findings which remain the most concealed in the course of excavations (like coins). Thus, it should not come as a surprise that research on this subject is only now beginning to take off, at a time when metal detectors are popular not only among “treasure-hunting” amateurs, but also (quite understandably) among archeologists. Mordovin was inspired to pursue research on this less trodden path a few years ago, when in the course of the excavation of the main square of the city of Pápa in western Hungary a surprising number of textile permits were found, in part with the use of metal detectors.
Mordovin focuses first and foremost on lead seals, though inevitably he often must touch on issues related to the textile industry which made use of them, since at the time textile permits functioned a bit like brand names do today. They modestly accompanied textiles which were once splendid or less splendid. For this reason, the European textile industry of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era constitutes a particular focus of the book, which sometimes is a bit uneven in the attention devoted to a particular period, though this is due to the nature of the sources, i.e. the unevenness of the information available to Mordovin and the simple question of how many such seals actually survived from a given period. Mordovin was bold with his choice of temporal framework. He does not use 1526, which is commonly regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in Hungary (because of the defeat of the Hungarian army by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács), as the end of the period in question for his inquiry. Rather, he uses sources dating from as late as the second half of the sixteenth century. This decision was wise, since the subject which is the focus of his study should be examined independently of political-historical periods. The theme, after all, should be studied from a European perspective, and indeed it offers a European perspective. One odd irony of the research on which Mordovin embarked is simply that, given the lacunae in the secondary literature, the scholar must embark on journeys as extensive as the journeys once taken by textile merchants. However, the curious traveler is rewarded with a multitude of diverse lead seals, which clearly constitute only a tiny slice of the actual seals once in use. Objects in state collections and private collections which are often almost inaccessible can be invaluable as sources, as indeed can items sold in online actions. Mordovin has clearly exerted a considerable amount of effort to explore these kinds of repositories, motivated perhaps by the pleasure of the hunt.
Mordovin relies on archaeological, historical, and visual sources concerning material culture, as clearly one would expect of a scholar of Medieval and (Early) Modern archeology, though in differing amounts depending, of course, on the available sources. True, he makes particularly strong use of archaeological sources. In the first chapter, he subjects the contentions in the secondary literature concerning lead seals found both in the Kingdom of Hungary and beyond its borders to intense scrutiny. As he shows, with the exception of a few early Italian reports, the first works to be published in Western Europe on the subject appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the textile industry which had flourished before the industrial revolution still subsisted as a memory at the very least. In contrast, by the advent of the Modern Era, lead seals in the Kingdom of Hungary, which for the most part had been a market for the textile industry, had essentially been forgotten and only became familiar again in the course of excavations. After having introduced the historical frameworks of the scholarship, Mordovin familiarizes his reader with the practical areas in which lead seals were used, for the most part on the basis of Western European examples, beginning with a discussion of the evolution of the designation and its further development. It might have been worthwhile to have provided some discussion of the basic principles of the use of lead seals, which served as a clear, visible way of designating a product of high quality (and not just textiles, but also other wares), even if there is already a fairly substantial body of secondary literature on the subject. The short third chapter, in which Mordovin discusses forgery as a means of circumventing legal restrictions, offers a picture based for the most part on written sources. It is worth noting that Mordovin has included in his book not simply the “basic materials” on the subject of forgeries, but also additional archeological data (pp.231–51). In the fourth chapter, he divides the seals into groups on the basis of their formal features and then deals with them from the perspective of the functions.
These four chapters comprise roughly 20 percent of the first section of the book. They offer a general overview of the subject, and the aforementioned contingencies have little influence on what Mordovin writes. This is not true, however, of the fifth chapter (roughly the remaining 80 percent of the book) or the collection of data in the appendix, to which additions will undoubtedly be made in light of later findings and which, indeed, may well undergo a shift of emphasis because of one or two exceptional sites. One should note, however, that these “dangers” are always present in the case of a groundbreaking study which deals with data from primary sources. As far as the fifth chapter is concerned, in which Mordovin examines regions and cities in which textiles were produced (arranged geographically), in my assessment it would have been preferable to have used the names of the political-geographical units that were in use at the time instead of the names in use today (the contemporary names are used in the collection of data in the appendix), though of course I concede that the terms in use today may make it easier for the reader to orient him or herself. The subchapters, which are divided up on the basis of regions, contain a wealth of maps as well as several charts in which Mordovin has organized the specimens known in larger numbers from the same city. Alongside the archeological information, in order to offer the reader some sense of context, Mordovin draws heavily on the secondary literature in the discipline of history. One finds, in the sea of data, a few striking gems. For instance, Mordovin makes a fascinating suggestion concerning the seal of the city of Szeged, which was redesigned in the eighteenth century (p. 148). People had already noticed the strong resemblance between the Nuremberg coat of arms and the Szeged coat of arms, and scholars have also known that the seal on which the new Szeged coat of arms was based allegedly was fished out of the Tisza River. Mordovin, however, contends that the Szeged coat of arms cannot have been based on a classical tiparium. Rather, it must have been based on a lead seal found in the waters of the river, and indeed he gives examples of this.
And yet the most significant contribution Mordovin has made with his study lies not in this finding or his similar insights, but rather in the fact that he has stumbled, upon the archeological remains of an area in southeastern Hungary (Békéscsaba, Gyula, Orosháza) in which, until the late sixteenth century, the textile industry flourished or at least was active, an area to which historians have already called attention (pp.231–51). This area, furthermore, did not market its products under its own “brand name” domestically, to the soldiers in the border fortresses, but rather used the Tudor rose lead seals of English textiles or imitations of these seals to mark its wares.
The book concludes with a collection of data, a bibliography, and indexes, all of which are indispensable given the subject. In the collection of data, the production sites of the textiles belonging to a given seal are listed in alphabetical order with separate sections on each individual seal illustrated with high-quality black-and-white photographs.
Given the strengths of Mordovin’s monograph, it would be worth publishing in good English translation. As the first few pages of the book make clear, both the subject and, more narrowly, this inquiry would be met with considerable attention in international scholarly circles. It is regrettable that until a longer summary is published in translation, historians potentially interested in the subject but unable to read Hungarian will have to make do with this review, as there is not even an abstract of the book available in English translation.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
New Home, New Herds: Cuman Integration and Animal Husbandry in Medieval Hungary from an Archaeozoological Perspective. By Kyra Lyublyanovics. Central European archaeological heritage series 10. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017. 337 pp.
Archaeozoology is the science based on the study of faunal remains from the past, so archaeozoological records reflect the meat-eating patterns of the contemporary inhabitants of the settlements under investigation and also animal husbandry practices, which is seen as an economic activity, a lifestyle, and part of the socioeconomic integration. Considering the quality and quantity of the available data, in her book, which is based on her PhD dissertation, Kyra Lyublyanovics has made a substantial contribution to this science. She has provided an overview of the delicate process of the integration of the Cumans as seen through the mirror of animal husbandry, animals use, and meat consumption patterns.
In the first section of the book, the reader is given a short but thorough overview of the history of the Cumans, from the Eurasian steppe (their place of origin) to their migration to the Carpathian Basin, which is followed by a short history of the Hungarian scholarship on the Cumans at the end of the chapter. Lyublyanovics then summarizes the aims and questions of her research and clarifies the methodological concerns of the work. While she notes the problems in the scholarship and points out the limits of the research on Cumans in Hungary, she also clarifies main definitions, including for instance what the term Cuman actually means from an archaeological point of view and what the main problem of nomadism in archaeology is.
The main part of the volume is the third chapter, which includes a very impressive description of the archaeological sites investigated. Lyublyanovics precisely summarizes the available data, both written sources and archaeological and archaeozoological records. Altogether, 11 sites are compared from Greater and Lesser Cumania (Central Hungary) and their periphery and one site from Transdanubia. She provides a historical introduction to each larger geographical territory, illustrated with maps, from the arrival of the Cumans till the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These summaries precisely show the social and economic structures of this ethnic group and their ability continuously to adapt to historical shifts.
Some of the archaeozoological data comes from earlier published research, but the other part of bone find has been analyzed by the author herself. Although in some cases very little material was available, Lyublyanovics follows her methodological intentions consistently and productively in her analyses. Perhaps due to this consistency, some disproportions can be seen in the archaeozoological interpretations. When reading these section of the chapter, one has the feeling that it came to an end, but it was not finished.
Lyublyanovics uses some statistical and osteometric comparisons to demonstrate the ratios and size-variability of the main domestic species from different archaeological sites from the period in question, using colorful graphs and diagrams. These diagrams clearly demonstrate the homogeneity of the distribution of animal bone fragments from different species, and these distribution patterns fit the trends prevalent in the medieval rural settlements. In almost all osteometric comparisons only two metric dimensions of the bones were used. Although there are strong correlations between the used metric dimensions proved by statistical methods, sometimes they did not provide precise answers to the research questions. It is possible that Lyublyanovics would have done better to have used some multivariate methods to demonstrate her findings.
The conclusions reached in this rather long chapter, however, are methodologically flawless. Step-by-step, Lyublyanovics compares the taxonomic richness, the structures of the herds, and the ratios of the main domestic species (cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, and horses) from the Cuman sites and places them in the animal husbandry economies of medieval Hungarian villages. She claims that the key factor in the characterization of Cuman animal keeping is the ratio of the triumvirate of the horse, the pig, and sheep, which has been proven by statistical tests. However, as she writes, while the “Cuman and Hungarian samples are statistically different from each other,” (p.165), the archaeological material does not clearly demonstrate the presence of distinct breeds, and “domesticates kept by Cumans fit into the medieval domestic populations of Hungary in general” (p.171).
In the subsequent chapters, Lyublyanovics examines the exploitation of the environment and the management of resources. This short section is an introduction to the significant factors of animal keeping. Pastures and water resources, forests, wetlands, and grazing rights all influenced the everyday lives of the contemporary animal keepers. On the other hand, hunting and fishing were ways of using wildlife as a resource.
Lyublyanovics dedicates an entire chapter in the second half of the book to the processing of an animal carcass. She identifies two different approaches to this process: the functional type, which includes the consumption patterns and the utilization of the non-edible parts of the animals (e.g. bones), and the ritual type, when the body of an animal is given a role that differs significantly from its conventional roles. As she rightly states, “the arbitrary dichotomy between ‘ritual’ and ‘functional’ deposits threaten arguments with circular reasoning as it involves an inherent interpretation in itself” (p.191). In this chapter, she examines similarities and dissimilarities in the butchering techniques and the preferred body parts of the main domestic species. For the purposes of classification, she uses Uerpmann’s meat categories: low, medium, and good quality.
One functional aspect of her observations is the analysis of the worked bone tools. The animals, after all, weren’t simply sources of meat, but were also sources of many potential raw materials (bones, hides, and wool, for instance). Numerous tools made out of bone, which were discovered in the settlements under investigation, indicate the importance of bones as a raw material.
Lyublyanovics also presents the reader with a short summary of the animal bodies from Cuman ritual contexts. In this section, she examines burial customs involving animals (e.g equestrian graves, dog burials, food offerings, etc.). The last chapter is dedicated to discussion of the observed osteopathological lesions on the bones, which reflect the health conditions of the contemporary domesticates.
Finally we can say that Lyublyanovics is leading us through the book with a secure hand, and no doubt that her work is an important contribution to Hungarian zooarchaeology. She persuasively shows the complexity of the Cuman socio-economic integration in medieval Hungary from a neglected perspective, that of animal husbandry.
Eötvös Loránd University
A 18. századi Magyarország rendi országgyűlése [The feudal parliament of eighteenth-century Hungary]. By István M. Szijártó. A magyar országgyűlések története. Budapest: Országgyűlés Hivatala, 2016. 331 pp.
The book under review is part of a series on the history of the Hungarian Diets and National Assemblies which is published by the Office of the Hungarian National Assembly. The aim of the series was to create an introduction to the history of Hungarian diets until 2014 authored by respected researchers. István M. Szijártó (associate professor at Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Economic and Social History) is the author of the second volume in the series, which focuses on the history of Hungarian diets between 1708 and 1792. The book is based on two previous works by Szijártó, which offer a more thorough treatment of the topic (A diéta: A magyar rendek és az országgyűlés 1708–1712  and A politikai elit társadalom- és kultúrtörténeti megközelítésben: Emberek és struktúrák a 18. századi Magyarországon ). In recent decades, numerous books have been written about the diets from various approaches, such as social and cultural history. Historians have analyzed the diets, the political debates and decisions, and the roles of different political groups like the clergy and the nobility. In the book under review, Szijártó comprehensively examines the changes and developments of the diet as an institution, as well as the political power of county representatives and other participants. He thus sheds light on the ways in which this institution functioned in the eighteenth century, while also outlining its workings in the nineteenth.
The book consists of four parts. The first part presents the workings of the Hungarian diets, the second focuses on debates and conflicts, and the last two analyze observable changes in the diet and contextualize parliamentary phenomena.
This suppletory monograph opens with a detailed description of the diets’ workings from convocation to closure. The reader learns about the members of the Upper and the Lower House and their functions and the relationship between the king and the estates. The book also offers sketches of the political groups within the houses. This overview includes negotiations and agreements, the work of commissions, the drafting of articles, the question of precedence, the presence of adolescents in the diets, the sites and duration of assemblies, and the Latin terms used in the documents. Szijártó analyzes political languages, and he also discusses how the different sources (contemporary diaries and official documents) came into being. The first section sums up the workings of the Hungarian Diet in the eighteenth century, which though shaped by custom, was at the same time complex and shifting.
The second part of the book is about debates and conflicts in the assemblies, and the Szijártó divides the period under examination into two parts based on the themes of the debates. In the first period, negotiations were dominated by confessional debates. Calling into question the persuasiveness of earlier hypotheses found in the secondary literature, Szijártó points out that the king and the Catholic estates were not always in opposition to Protestants, and sometimes Protestants applied successfully to the king for support in different conflicts. From 1728 onwards, the estates were not allowed to discuss confessional matters, so deputies belonging to different religions were able to cooperate with one another when defending their nobiliary privileges.
There were also heavy debates concerning taxation. The Hungarian diet had had the right to vote about raising taxes, but it could not assert this right from the second half of the seventeenth century until the beginning of eighteenth, i.e. the end of the rebellion led by Francis II Rákóczi. In connection with the rate of the war tax, Szijártó analyzes the king’s income from Hungary and the costs of maintaining his army stationed in the kingdom. He points out that war taxes on which votes were held in the diet represented only a small fraction of the king’s income, and the army’s maintenance costs were several times that sum. The government repeatedly wanted to impose a tax upon the nobility, but the noblemen successfully defended their exemption from taxation.
The disputants in the diets could be divided into two sections, the government party and the opposition, but an individual’s membership in one of these two groups was neither unambiguous nor continuous. In general, the members of the Upper House were in the government party, and the members of the opposition sat in the Lower House. Szijártó emphasizes that the chairman of the Lower House was appointed by the king, so this chairman tried to influence the estates to support royal interests. To achieve this aim, he had many means, but this did not always guarantee success. The clergy and the deputies of royal free boroughs supported the king, while the county representatives and deputies of absent magnates tended to defend the interests of the estates.
The third part of the work examines changes in the diet from the perspectives of social, cultural, and institutional history. The first chapter of this section starts with analyses of the careers of important political figures. Szijártó adopts an innovative method by examining different motivating factors behind both parties’ political practices. He identifies thirteen kinds of career, depending on religion, county, being an office-holder or not, and the success of the career. Szijártó offers thirteen examples of the professional lives of deputies as illustrations of these careers. He refutes the widespread view according to which the leaders of the opposition were Protestants and, in the eighteenth century, came from the counties through which the Tisza River passed. With regard to political practices (including taxation), Szijártó makes it clear through statistical analysis that the attitudes of the members of the opposition and the government party cannot be simplified according to religion, because Protestant deputies occasionally supported the ruler’s standpoints, while many members of the opposition were Catholic. Szijártó arrives at the conclusion that in the first half of the eighteenth century important politicians were still able to express an oppositional opinion in one matter while voicing a loyal one in another. This situation, however, changed in the second half of the century.
Szijártó analyzes political debates which were held in the diets at the end of the eighteenth century from the perspective of cultural history. His inquiry concerning confessional debates in 1790–1791 reveals that disputants used argumentation looking back at the past as well as towards the future. Thus, Szijártó challenges the view according to which the estates embodied “backwardness” in the diets. The research drawing on ceremonial speeches is important as an introduction to the political languages in use in these contexts. However, only a few speeches have survived in full, and so they offer only fragments of information, while the speech summaries which survived in diaries present the views of contemporaries concerning the speeches.
The realignment of the estates is observable in the decision-making process at the diets. The advocatory deputies made suggestions concerning emerging problems. There were several ways of reaching agreement, and there were no precise regulations, and this resulted in changes in the balance of political power.
Szijártó’s significant analysis of the instructions given by the county assembly is the subject of the fourth part of the work. He points out that while these instructions were general and short at the beginning of the eighteenth century, they became detailed and long by the end of the century. Furthermore, by that time, even lesser noblemen had started to take an interest in national politics, and they elaborated their own political programs.
The book includes several illustrations, and the maps show where county deputies from the opposition came from in the eighteenth century. The references are listed at the end of each section as endnotes, and additional information about the examined topic can be read at the bottom of the page, so the text is easy to follow. At the end of the book, the literature and list of sources are presented according to the four main parts of the book. The monograph ends with an index. The book’s sectioning is clear, and the topics are logically built and full of relevant information. The reader can follow Szijártó’s analyses, because he gives several examples to support each of his statements.
This work is the fruit of several decades of research by Szijártó. It is based on a wide range of sources and thorough methodological knowledge that is in line with European trends. Szijártó relies on the methodological works of several foreign scholars, and thus he has studied the history of the Hungarian diets from several viewpoints, and he has provided a great deal of valuable information. Scholars, students, and any one curious about the political history of the region will find this monograph of great use. They will also find it a pleasure to read.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
National Széchényi Library
Apácaműveltség Magyarországon a XV–XVI. század fordulóján:
Az anyanyelvű irodalom kezdetei [The education of nuns in Hungary at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: The beginnings of vernacular literature]. By Sándor Lázs. Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2016. 460 pp.
The monograph by Sándor Lázs is the continuation of and a significant supplement to one of his earlier works (“A nyulak szigeti domonkos apácák olvasmányainak korszerűsége,” in “Látjátok feleim”: Magyar nyelvemlékek a kezdetektől a 16. század elejéig, ed. by Edit Madas ). The aim of the book is to explore the effects of the monastic reform on the convents of the Dominicans, Poor Clares, and Premonstratensians at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries through a comprehensive examination of the existing vernacular codices. However, while introducing the codices, Lázs also touches on the roles of the monks, who wrote the codices, in shaping and establishing the education of the nuns. An important strength of the book is that it situates its topic in an international context by continuously pointing out well-elaborated parallels with monastic reforms in the monasteries in southern Germany and their effects.
In addition to the short preface and the conclusion, there are six chapters in the monograph. The first five can be regarded as an introduction, i.e. a sort of short but detailed guide which helps the reader better understand the topic. The architectural surroundings of the nuns (pp.15–31) and the monks (pp.33–57), who were at the head of the monastic reforms and provided pastoral care for the convents, are briefly described. The Latin and vernacular literature in the German convents is discussed in a separate chapter, and through this analogy, Lázs introduces the situation in Hungary, which is less known in secondary literature the sources (pp.59–83). The relationship between the monastic reform and literature is elucidated in a separate chapter (pp.85–103); the scriptorium, which created the codices in the early vernacular (already Hungarian) literature, is also introduced, as is the library which housed the volumes of the monastery and the two stages (public and private) for the use of the codices (pp.105–38).
The most important chapter in the book is the sixth (pp.139–389), which analyses the 44 examined codices (not all of which were used by nuns) in detail according to different genres. In his analysis of certain genres (catechismal texts, legal texts, liturgical texts, Bible translations, periscopes, sequences, hymns, cantios, examples, legends, preaches, treatises, passions, and private prayers), Lázs often quotes certain codices, and this enables his reader immediately to check his argumentation and his characterization of the codices. It would have been preferable to have provided short summaries at the end of the subchapters clarifying the content.
Certain codex-extracts are analyzed on the basis of the circumstances in which they were used, such as in a community of nuns or during a private devotion of certain nuns. Where the place of use of certain codices could be determined, Lázs separately examines the source-collection practices of the various monastic orders, and he offers a comparison. He thus is able to draw further conclusions about the veneration of saints among various orders and the private prayer practice of certain nuns.
In the conclusion (pp.391–403), Lázs summarizes the subchapters, and he then explains the necessity of his genre-based analysis. In his assessment, a proper comparison of the Hungarian and southern German monastic codex-literature can only be done on the basis of such an analysis. In the second half of this final chapter, Lázs challenges two concepts (“church society” and “monastic culture”) that are familiar to medievalists. His aim is to call attention to the fact that neither “church society” nor “monastic culture” can be regarded as discrete units: they were in constant interaction with the secular world and its culture.
Finally, Lázs draws an important conclusion concerning the education of the nuns living in convents in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. He contends that the sources suggest that in the convents of the Poor Clares in Pozsony (Bratislava) and Nagyszombat (Trnava) an independent vernacular literature did not develop at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, because in the seventeenth century the nuns did not use their own vernacular books: they read the codices that had been brought by the nuns of Margaret Island, Óbuda, and Somlóvásárhely, who were fleeing the advancing Ottoman forces. In his view, there were two reasons for this: first, the daughters of the citizens of Upper Hungary lived in these convents, and they laid no claim to codices in Hungarian since their mother tongue was German; second, the monastic reform was not implemented in these institutions. In these convents, the abovementioned situation changed only at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Hungarian nuns who had fled the Ottomans took their books and the monastic reform finally took hold.
The conclusion is followed by a list of sources, consulted literature (pp.405–37), and a detailed index (pp.447–59), which will make the use of the bulky volume easier for researchers and for anyone interested in the topic. The charter in the appendix (pp.439–45) further adds to the value of the monograph; it contains the pericope signs of the Codex of Munich, which may have served as a model for the Hungarian periscopes, and the sketches and reconstruction plans (related to the topic of the first chapter) of an ideal monastery building and the Convent of the Blessed Virgin of Margaret Island.
In conclusion, the volume meets high scholarly standards and will be useful to historians and literary historians interested in this topic. The abundant footnotes testify to a comprehensive knowledge of the Hungarian and international secondary literature. The topic of the monograph is important, and it raises questions for further research, so it may well motivate other scholars to reflect on its findings, undertake further research, and launch fruitful debates on the topic.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Pázmány Péter Catholic University
Felvilágosodás és babonaság: Erdélyi néphiedelem-gyűjtés 1789–90-ben [Enlightenment and superstition: The collection of Transylvanian folk beliefs from 1789–90]. Edited by Ambrus Miskolczy. Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2016. 297 pp.
In a circular letter written in the spring of 1789, Michael Brukenthal, commissioner of the Fogaras (Făgăraş) district, sought answers to the question of what superstitions and rites existed among the people of the region. Three Saxon Lutheran and three Hungarian Calvinist pastors, one Hungarian Unitarian minister, and one Greek Catholic priest sent their reply to Brukenthal’s request. The book reviewed here has taken on the task of publishing this rather unique source. Although this source material has already known to scientific researchers, it has been only partially published, and thus the source value of this full publication is enormous. Furthermore, the diversity of the respondents already hints at the fact that the source introduces the folk beliefs of multiconfessional and multiethnic Transylvania in the late eighteenth century.
As one can see in the very detailed introductory study of Ambrus Miskolczy (pp.13–130), covering a long list of secondary literature, he situates the source in the relevant academic discourse, and then discusses in detail how the manifestation of folk belief was judged by the masterminds of the Enlightenment and why superstitions were paid remarkable attention. This train of thought is clearly summarized as follows: “superstition played the same role in the Enlightenment’s world of ideas as the evil in religious views that was condemned by the same given ideas. The Enlightenment’s image of superstition – due to its character as a substitute for evil – almost took on a transcendent character; however, it was present everywhere in its true countenance – according to everyone’s own standards” (p.18). Miskolczy mainly relies on the radical thinkers of the French Enlightenment, yet, later on we see that the thinkers of the Enlightenment living in the (Catholic and Protestant) ecclesiastical milieu and having more moderate views condemned with the same vehemence the superstitious behavior occurring among their fellow members of the congregation.
Thereafter, by following the themes present in the source material, the study deals with the concepts relating to witchcraft and vampires. Concerning witches, it states that in the folk belief of the early modern period, the belief in the existence of witches was present irrespective of denomination, although the Catholic and Protestant interpretation of witches differed in many respects. While the former relied on the famous Malleus Maleficarum, the latter focused mainly on the punishments for wizardry and oracle seeking in the Old Testament. “Witch-hunting is a crisis phenomenon. The community that became unbalanced searched for and found a scapegoat accompanied by an ideology and a proper background. It all happened when it was struck by an epidemic or a weather catastrophe, the concomitant phenomenon of which was the political world’s upheaval,” states Miskolczy, in harmony with the results of the historical and ethnographic research dealing with the belief in witches (p.21).
Following Descartes and Spinoza, the philosophers of the Enlightenment the belief in witches among superstitions against which one had to show determination in the same way as against other harmful beliefs. However, the “disappearance” of the witches was followed by the “occurrence” of the vampires. Although the belief in vampires was rare in the earlier centuries, at the beginning of the eighteenth century it became a mass phenomenon. Miskolczy blames the media for this change, and then on the basis of vivid examples he shows how belief in vampires became an exotic belief coming from the East among the contemporaries. “Our vampires came in useful for the Enlightenment, since they were needed for the cult of light. Light does not exist without darkness; the self-worship of the Western civilization needs the barbaric East” (p.32). The introduction discusses many Hungarian cases in detail and refers to the fact that contemporary administrative leaders considered the belief in vampires to be a danger to national health due to the exhumation of corpses. They mainly wanted to counter it with the help of medicine and to restrain it with measures taken by the authorities. The author touches upon the stance of the Orthodox Church by calling attention to the conduct of Orthodox bishops in the Romanian voivodships, who also intervened in the exhumation of corpses from the second half of the seventeenth century. Besides, in Transylvania, due to the closeness and interdependence between the Orthodox and the Calvinist churches, the heads of the former church were especially encouraged to keep a distance from superstitious customs.
The second large thematic part of the introduction draws conclusions based on the sources. On the one hand, Miskolczy emphasizes Joseph II’s determined actions against superstitions, on the other hand he clearly refutes the idea that the published sources were written by the order of the monarch. He names Michael Brukenthal, commissioner of the Fogaras district, as the initiator of the inquest, and describes him as an official who talks many languages, has links to the Freemasons, and has far-reaching connections.
Following this, and relying on the available information, the reader is introduced to the pastors who answered Brukenthal’s questionnaire. Sámuel Köpeczi Bodos, a Calvinist pastor, is highlighted due to the more detailed information that could be collected about him, mainly owing to his memoirs. It appears that similarly to Brukenthal, Köpeczi was also interested in the question of superstitions, which augmented his most detailed report to the commissioner. The villages where he was a parish priest are regarded as good sources due to their mixed ethnicity and denominational constitution. In his memoir, Köpeczi mentions Joseph II many times, from which it becomes clear that in the early days, much like the majority of Protestant intellectuals, he too belonged among the staunch adherents of the monarch. However, after the radical reforms were initiated, he gradually deserted him. Miskolczy could gather less information about the other respondents; it is known that Ioan Halmaghi, the Greek Catholic episcopal vicar of Fogaras, opposed religious superstitions in his circular letters.
According to Miskolczy, the parish priests who presented these reports can somehow be considered as “anthropologists living in the field” (p.84), since by living among the people, they had firsthand information about the superstitious acts. Nevertheless Protestant and Greek Catholic priests, who generally had a more in-depth theological education, were separated from their congregations to a greater extent than the Orthodox priests, who only occasionally received such education, and thus more greatly resembled their flocks in terms of living standards and beliefs. According to Miskolczy, herein lies the border between the West and East, which explains why many of the superstitious occurrences – listed as a catalogue – were confessed with shame by the pastors, or they did not detail them due to the same feelings of shame.
The introductory study also presents examples of superstitions mentioned in the source. He draws the following conclusion from them: “The details of the superstition inquiry form an overall picture that we have not known so far; besides, the true-life reports bring the surviving reality of the past nearer” (p.95). Indeed, there are magical texts written on a slip of paper, beliefs relating to witches, various alliances made with evil powers, and cases relating to vampires. Finally, the reader can get to know Joseph Karl Eder, a Transylvanian Saxon learned official, with whose assistance Brukenthal’s collection made it to the National Széchényi Library.
The introduction, which constitutes almost half of the volume, is followed by the source material. It starts with Brukenthal’s questionnaire, which was addressed to the pastors in Hungarian as well as in German (pp.131–36). Then, there are the answers, written either in Hungarian or in German, but with one exception (pp.136–293). Ioan Halmaghi worded his answer in Latin, which is published in its original form, as well as the original translation made by István Fazekas (pp.187–208). Explanatory notes to the sources are provided by Miskolczy and he also compiled notes for the foreign and dialect words and abbreviations occurring in the Hungarian texts (pp.294–97).
In conclusion, it can be stated that Ambrus Miskolczy has excelled at presenting this rich collection of Transylvanian folk beliefs from the eighteenth century. The lengthy introduction, which could stand on its own as an independent monograph, uses the specific topic of the questionnaire only as a starting point: it discusses the question of superstition in the early modern era in a European context by covering English, German, French, and Romanian secondary literature. The analysis of secondary literature is a much-needed addition to the Hungarian historical literature. This publication brings the reader much closer to the folk beliefs of this multiethnic and multiconfessional region.
University of Pécs
Peasant Violence and Antisemitism in Early Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe. By Irina Marin. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. xvii+304 pp.
This thoroughly researched book explores the causes of the 1907 peasant uprising, which was the most violent episode ever to occur in Romania during peacetime. Within a few weeks, the riot had spread all over the county, causing massive destruction of property and a death toll that climbed to 11,000 according to the bleakest estimates. Although the international community considered Romania the most stable and flourishing country in southeastern Europe, the revolt revealed that the young state was utterly dysfunctional. Irina Marin unpacks several paradoxes that undergirded notions of Romania’s spectacular accomplishments. For instance, the country proudly displayed its new industries and transport facilities, while 82 percent of the population was still employed in agriculture. Moreover, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the country’s main exports were agricultural products. Furthermore, Romania could only become one of the main grain exporters in the world because big landowners extended cultivation surfaces and exploited peasants’ labor. This system of exploitation was kept in place by a political system that had no interest in implementing checks and balances in the conflict between peasants and landlords. As Marin aptly puts it, the Romanian land reform and the emancipation of the peasantry were implemented by the great landowners for the landowners (p.110). This situation further proves that Romania’s much praised constitutionalism functioned only pro forma, because it failed to establish neutral arbiters to balance social conflicts.
The great strength of the book is that it takes as its point of departure a series of singular events which took place in the spring of 1907 and paints a panoramic view of the Romanian political, economic, social, and legal system at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Furthermore, it places the uprising within the larger context of the triple frontier, explaining why Romanian villages caught fire while those in the borderlands of Austria-Hungary and Tsarist Russia remained peaceful. Thus, it provides an in-depth analysis of the social relations in the three neighboring states. The argument it follows is twofold. First, Marin proves that although the border provinces seemed fairly similar (sharing the same big latifundia, a recently emancipated peasantry, and a moderate level of investment in agriculture), the Romanian rural system was the most oppressive of all. Second, although state authorities in all borderlands were constantly on the alert (fearing the spread of unrest from one state to the next), social ferment had its own localized source and did not occur by imitation (p.280).
Faced with the endemic spread of violence in their own rural areas, Romanian state actors were the most blinded by contamination theories, looking exclusively for external factors that allegedly had inflamed the local peasantry. This paranoid attitude shows that the country’s elites were utterly disconnected from the majority of the population, with little or no concerns for their fates. When the riot broke out, authorities were ill equipped to contain the violence and restore order. Passivity, negligence, absenteeism and ignorance were endemic to the entire state apparatus, from the prime minster to local employees and policemen. And even amidst the social crises, their only response was to shift blame to minority groups, for instance Jewish leaseholders, for allegedly imposing exploitive contracts on the Romanian peasantry and on Russian émigrés for bringing anarchism to the countryside. Antisemitism and xenophobia were the answers of a weak and unstable state whose biggest fear was that foreign powers and aliens might interfere in its internal affairs.
While the authorities resorted to self-delusion and deflection, the peasants used different tactics to make sense of their deeds. In a country in which the rural poor were systematically disregarded by those in power, they found unexpected ways to express themselves, resorting to mythologies and rumors. In line with the recent historical literature on the meanings of rumors, Marin does not discard these stories as fantasy, but sees in them an act of self-empowerment by a community that had previously lacked a voice. Thus, Marin gives agency to this oppressed group, which had been written off by all other social groups. One recurring trope used by the peasants to justify violent behavior was antisemitism, which they used differently than the authorities. Peasant rage directed against the Jewish leaseholders was rarely ethnical or religious, but had social and economic motivations directed at the exploitive nature of the social contracts in the Romanian countryside. Thus, the peasants understood what the elites could not or chose not to see.
The comparative framework in which Marin analyzes the events in the spring of 1907 ultimately confirms the localized socio-economic causes of the uprising. It also explains why the violence was contained to one side of the border. The post-emancipation land reform in Romania did not enable peasants to become self-sufficient. Rather, it forced them to sell their labor to the landlord. All across the triple frontier, the transition from a manorial to a capitalist system was far from ideal, but in the other provinces either legal or political provisions protected the rural population. For instance, peasants in Bessarabia profited from the conflicts between the local elite and the Tsarist government, and peasants in the Habsburg Monarchy benefited from various modernization schemes. And if everything else failed, peasants could always choose emigration, except for Romanian peasants, who were cut off from relevant travel networks. In other words, the comparison revealed structural differences among the borderlands, emphasizing the unique combination of factors that led to the conflagration. Land laws and rural practices established a system of exploitation in Romania that put all pressure on the peasant, leaving him without any protection or proponents. Thus, Marin rejects an ethnical or “national” explanation of the conflict, showing that Romanians along the border acted differently because they lived under different social and economic conditions. Herein lies the book’s major contribution to historiography, namely Marin’s observation that national and social emancipation did not automatically improve the fate of the peasantry, but on the contrary led in this case to more oppression.
Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies
A nyomor felfedezése Bécsben és Budapesten: Szociális riportok a 19–20. század fordulóján [The discovery of poverty in Vienna and Budapest: Social reports at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries]. By Roland Perényi. Budapest: Napvilág Kiadó – BTM Kiscelli Múzeum, 2018. 169 pp.
Roland Perényi’s book is a novel endeavor to study various forms of social reports that were written by reporters with diverse social and political backgrounds in Vienna and Budapest at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Perényi plausibly argues that these written and visual sources offered unique insights into the largely unknown social problems (poverty, want, famine, homelessness, etc.) of metropolises and put these “social evils” on the mental map of middle-class people, thus drawing considerably more attention to them. However, these sources are important not simply because they mediate social realities, but also because they often provide informed plans and suggestions on how to solve the social questions addressed, which are occasionally investigated in due compliance with “social scientific” methods (statistics, systematic analyses of case studies, etc.). Perényi succeeds in showing his reader the “dark side” of the two capitals, which were known in the period mostly for their dynamic development, rich culture, and splendor.
The social reports chosen as major sources are examined with the help of an impressive range of methods, from urban and media history, combined analyses of textual and visual representations, and comparative perspectives. Furthermore, Perényi’s work also scoops into the rich reservoir of contemporary documentaries and films featuring social reports in order to explore how social questions permeated the public imagination and enhanced communal interest in Vienna and Budapest in the prewar and postwar eras.
First, Perényi draws on the Anglo-Saxon origins of some of the social reports (Henry Mayhew, Charles Booth, John Thomson, Adolphe Smith, Jacob Riis, and Nelly Bly), as well as German representatives of the genre (Eduard Deutsch, Paul Göhre, and Hans Oswald), to show that when the genre reached the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, it had already subsumed an exuberant plethora of methodological and intellectual endeavors, from urban ethnography and anthropology to urban sociology and sociography. Nevertheless, as Perényi points out almost innumerable times, social reports always retained a belletrist vein; they mostly reached out to the reader with a picturesque literary tone in order to foster empathy. Thus, social reports used scholarly methods but remained within the generic boundaries of reporting (pp.19–27).
Secondly, the book concisely surveys the most important aspects of the turn-of-the-century urban history of Vienna and Budapest. By taking a comparative look at the astonishing economic development of the two capitals, Perényi is able to contrast this development effectively with a simultaneous comparative tableau of growing social “evils” in both cities, which ultimately provoked a turn in social policy (child care, criminal policy, the decriminalization of poverty, housing, etc.).
However, the Austrian and Hungarian social reports suggest that there were considerably more differences between the two cities. The political movement of social democracy and other leftish intellectual groups had more extensive and stable positions with more influential newspapers (Gleichheit, Arbeiter-Zeitung) in Vienna than in Budapest. Thus, social reporters had greater opportunities to report on “social evils” in the imperial capital, which were primarily want and poverty. Their basic aim was to form the identity of workers (Victor Adler, Emil Bader) and mock the middle classes (Hans Maria Truxa). Moreover, alongside the often picturesque depiction of poor districts and slums, reporters also focused on the combined application of textual descriptions (report, statistics) and visual representations (photos and later films) in order better to catch the imagination of middle-class people and offer a more lucid, effective, and concise documentation of the topic (Emil Kläger and Hermann Drawe Durch die Wiener Quartiere des Elends und Verbrechens). Nonetheless, the “father” of Central European social report, Max Winter, united these efforts in his oeuvre. Winter was not only a social reporter but also an activist in various associations dedicated to helping the poor (Pfleger). Winter’s importance lies not only in the fact the he produced more than 1,500 reports in 38 years (p.50), but his work inspired several important social political measures (e.g. housing acts and child care reform in Vienna).
In line with their Austrian counterparts, Hungarian social reports clearly depicted the critical social aspects of an emerging metropolis. Social criticism in Budapest was less radical and did not have an explicit leftish lean (Gyula Révész and Márton Molnár), which, as Perényi lucidly explains, was due to the fact that political debates were preoccupied with the reform of franchise in Hungary and a general criticism of the conservative political system. Hungarian social reporters included women in their ranks (Lydia Kovács, Mrs. Antal Géza, and Margit Fried), who for the most part drew on romantic images of poverty. With the emergence of mass media and newspapers with high circulation numbers, the first major figure of social reports also appeared. Kornél Tábori was a man of many talents (lawyer, organizer, publicist, entrepreneur) who, with his colleague Vladimir Székely, the head of the media department of criminal investigations, was engaged in producing criminal reports, including numerous passages on the Budapest poor (in 1908, he began to produce a series entitled A bűnös Budapest [Sinful Budapest]). Tábori also successfully united traditional methods of a publicist (humorous conversation pieces, genre-descriptions) with that of the new media (photos, slides, and, later, films). Nonetheless, Tábori’s visions were less critical than Winter’s dirge, which might be explained by Hungarian society’s persisting “semi-feudal” social perceptions. Perényi argues that both Winter’s and Tábori’s reports show that these works raised the issue of empowerment: reports were intended to show the “colonial world of the poor,” which had to be “colonized” by the Enlightened middle class, and they also facilitated seeking out new ways of controlling the terra incognita of turn-of-the-century urban life (pp.76–78). Furthermore, both Winter and Tábori excelled in writing scripts and preparing materials for early documentaries on urban poverty (pp.121–26).
One of the most valuable contributions of Perényi’s work to interpretations of the social realities of the period in question is how he manages to show how this combination of new sources (social reports in articles, on photos, and in films) redrew the mental maps of urban classes, especially the middle classes, pertaining to the realm of the poor, and how these textual and visual representations can be interpreted as projections of existing social and political hierarchies of the empowered classes. This is particularly apparent in the examination of the so-called Urania Movement, both in Vienna and Budapest, which aimed to provide general education for the working classes by offering inexpensive tickets, large rooms, and readymade social messages. And therein stands the greatest merit of the book: it greatly contributes to the re-interpretation of various social groups’ mutual understandings of each other’s complex social realities through the examination of social reports.
Perényi’s work is richly illustrated with photos, pictures, maps, and drawings, and this makes the reading experience livelier. He succeeds in exploiting the scholarly potential inherent in the analysis of social reports, which was part of his earlier research on the social history of crime in fin-de-siècle Budapest. Perhaps the only shortcoming is that more quotations could have been added to the text, especially in the discussions of the various functions of the social reports (the length of the book would certainly have allowed for this). All in all, the book is a must read for social or media historians and practically any reader who is interested in the cultural and social realities of the imperial capitals at the turn of the century.
University of Szeged
Tschechen auf Reisen: Repräsentationen der außereuropäischen Welt und nationale Identität in Ostmitteleuropa 1890–1938. By Sarah Lemmen. Cologne: Böhlau, 2018. 358 pp.
In 1932, zoologist Jiří Baum and his friend sculptor František Foit undertook an eight-month automobile journey from Cairo to Cape Town in their Czechoslovak-made Tatra wagon. One highpoint of the trip was retracing the steps of pioneering Czech explorer Emil Holub to Victoria Falls nearly sixty years after he had been there, but this was hardly the only moment of national significance during their adventure. The Czech nation was everywhere: they saw Africans wearing Baťa shoes, their Czechoslovak car outperformed the ubiquitous Renaults and Citroëns across desert and jungle terrain, and they unexpectedly met hospitable compatriots in Khartoum, at the foot of Kilimanjaro, and on the border of Rhodesia-and South Africa. At the same time, they were sometimes hard pressed to explain to “natives” and western Europeans where in the world Czechs and Czechoslovakia were located. When Baum released a carrier-pigeon with a message in Czech in Cairo, the pair was investigated for espionage for having used a “secret alphabet” (p.261). Baum and Foit were ambivalent about the colonial system, which denied non-European peoples the right to self-determination, a right which Czechs had only relatively recently been able to assert and of which they were staunch champions. Yet they expressed relief, not least for the sake of their comfort, that Europeans were in charge in Africa.
Baum and Foit’s journey and their published reflections on it are at the heart of Sarah Lemmen’s book Tschechen auf Reisen: Repräsentationen der außereuropäischen Welt und nationale Identität in Ostmitteleuropa 1890–1938. These men, along with 51 other Czech travelers to the extra-European world (Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America, and Oceania), produced 91 travelogues which, Lemmen argues, shaped Czech self-understandings in the years between 1890 and 1938—a critical era in both the history of globalization and the nationalization of European societies. Lemmen follows Sebastian Conrad’s work on the global origins of Kaiserreich-era German nationalism to argue that the Czech nation was, in important ways, constituted in its encounters with the non-European world. Unlike scholars who explain the rise of modern nations and nationalism with reference to internal national or European dynamics or indeed to more general processes, such as socio-economic modernization and the spread of print capitalism, Conrad and others inspired by postcolonial studies and global history have suggested that, in their decisive phase (i.e. after 1870), European nations and nationalisms were produced through globalization, of which overseas colonies were a key component. The need to situate oneself and one’s purpose in a globalized world gave distinctive content to nationalisms around the world. But what are the implications of this recent scholarship for small nations like the Czechs, who were stateless until 1918 and who never possessed colonies?
The originality of Lemmen’s book lies in her answer to this question. In imagining the Czech nation’s place in a globalized world, travelers tended to seek a “third way” (p.240) between the western European colonial powers and the colonized peoples themselves. This combined assumptions of European superiority—often predicated on notions of “civilization” and its non-European Other—with criticism of the colonial powers, particularly the rigidity of the system they imposed on their colonies and the conspicuous (sometimes enviable) wealth of their representatives and metropolitan travelers. On the one hand, Czechs identified strongly with the project of European modernity, embodied above all in technological infrastructural improvements and perceptions of “order.” Research institutions devoted to understanding the extra-European world, such as the Prague Oriental Institute (which enjoyed Masaryk’s largesse), lent scientific credibility to notions of European superiority. Many of Lemmen’s travelers were associated professionally or philanthropically with such endeavors. The euphoria which accompanied Czechoslovak independence in 1918 even led some to entertain the possibility of Czech overseas colonies. Colonies were envisaged as a convenient way for the Czech nation to prove its maturity by spreading civilization, to secure raw materials for its sizable industry, and to provide a destination for emigrants who would remain Czech instead of assimilating to the host society.
On the other hand, the colonial world discomfited many Czech observers. While they remarked admiringly upon the luxury hotels frequented by colonial elites and British, French, and American travelers, they usually lacked the means to stay there themselves and felt more comfortable in guesthouses run by fellow Slavic expatriates, who were often from Yugoslavia. Colonial hierarchies also grated on their sensibilities as members of a “naturally democratic” nation who had only recently escaped from the Habsburg “prison-house of peoples.” The establishment of the Czechoslovak state marks a turning point in this study since before independence, Czech travelers tended to identify more strongly with a Central European and even Austro-Hungarian identity. After 1918, by contrast, Czechs compared themselves more readily to west European nations and regarded themselves as potential players on the global stage. Although they rued the fact that knowledge of Czech culture was generally limited or nonexistent in the regions they visited, there were signs of hope. Czech beer (a quintessentially national product) was served in far-flung exotic locales, and Baťa shoes opened a branch in Dakar and advertised on a billboard near the pyramids. The “Czechification of the world” (p.244), based especially on the robust Czech export economy, seemed within grasp.
The reader might question the extent to which pronouncements by Czech travelers shaped the broader self-understandings of Czech national society in this era. While travelogues of journeys in faraway places undoubtedly sold well and their authors frequently gave well-attended lectures upon their return to the homeland, Lemmen provides scant evidence of how this “basic interest of Czech society in engagement with the extra-European world” (p.78) recast other, less global Czech national self-perceptions. But perhaps that is a topic for future study. Certainly, Lemmen’s enjoyable book provides an important corrective to the “all too western European image of Europe” (p.160) that emerges from scholarship on European entanglements with the non-European world in the age of empire. The pressing need to rethink the undifferentiated ideas of “Europe” that feature in much postcolonial and global history could be emphasized in even stronger terms than she does. If the jury is still out on whether European nationalism may be most profitably seen as an effect of “colonial globality” (to use Sebastian Conrad’s term), Lemmen’s claim that in this era the non-European world became a potential site of Czech national history is a persuasive one. It is a claim that would likely have made Jiří Baum, whose life ended tragically in a Nazi death camp in 1944, very proud.
University of Birmingham
Kamasztükrök: A hosszú negyvenes évek társadalmi képzetei fiatalok naplóiban [Multi-faceted reflections: The diaries of jewish and non-jewish adolescents in wartime Hungary]. By Gergely Kunt. Budapest: Korall, 2017. 456 pp.
The book Multi-Faceted Reflections: The Diaries of Jewish and Non-Jewish Adolescents in Wartime Hungary by Hungarian historian Gergely Kunt takes a comparative approach to everyday life in Hungary during the troublesome years between 1938 and the 1950s through analyses of teenagers’ diaries. The methodological approach of the book draws on Charles Taylor’s concept of modern social imaginaries. Kunt uses egodocuments to present the different strategies with which young Jewish and non-Jewish adolescents identified themselves in Hungary during the Horthy period and the era of German occupation, which came to an end with the liberation of the country by the Soviet army. In the case of personal narratives by Holocaust survivors, for instance, there is certainly a vast literature of published memoirs and recorded testimonies available to those interested in the subject. However, Kunt’s research is not based on retrospective recollections recounted under circumstances in which interviewees often feel pressure to correspond to real or imagined expectations of the given period’s political circumstances or its morals. On the contrary, by following in the footsteps of authors Alexandra Zapruder (Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust ) and Jacob Boas (We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust, ), Kunt uses entries from the diaries of twenty teenagers to offer a more authentic perspective on the perceptions at the time of the people in question of social norms, political values, religion, and prejudices, without any form of deliberate or unintentional self-censorship.
Of the twenty diary entries on which the book draws, eighteen were written by women. As Kunt notes, the practice of keeping journals was still considered more characteristic of women than men. Nevertheless, Kunt’s collection of personal narratives not only attempts to offer both young female voices and male voices, but also includes recollections from people of different religious and social backgrounds in Hungary. The focus, thus, is not restricted to experiences from Budapest, diary entries by people from other important Hungarian towns and the countryside are also included. Multi-Faceted Reflections is divided into two broad sections. The first part concentrates on the journal writers’ attempts to craft identities for themselves using cultural and religious upbringing, family, and schooling. The second examines the ways in which adolescents dealt with major social issues and prejudices. It is important to note, however, that for an all-encompassing comparison, more materials by diarists from the same geographic regions, and a more gender-balanced representation as well as the incorporation of a wider range of perspectives for instance, from Orthodox Jews would produce a more detailed exploration of the topic.
The paramount contribution of Kunt’s publication is his method of using micro-scale analyses to test and challenge the validity of macro-scale explanations within the given time period. It is common knowledge that both Jewish and non-Jewish adolescents had different perceptions of the other communities, and the sources bear this out. All groups, however, identified strongly with the Hungarian state. Neolog Jewish teenagers, for instance, considered themselves first and foremost to be Hungarians, and they considered their Jewishness only a matter of religion. Young adults with Christian beliefs described Jews not strictly as a religious group but as a separate and, more importantly, foreign entity within Hungarian society. Evidently, the political circumstances in the 1940s not only openly accommodated but strongly encouraged such anti-Semitic concepts among Hungary’s gentile population. However, as Kunt suggests through his analysis, there is greater depth to these anti-Jewish prejudices. On the one hand, it is perhaps not surprising that young Christians, influenced by their parents’ standpoints and contemporary political developments and rhetoric, would also adopt and even record on paper racially discriminatory comments against Jews, invoking tropes of their unmerited wealth allegedly obtained from Hungarian Christians, their responsibility for Hungary’s post-Trianon territorial losses, or the distinctiveness of their appearance. Of course, comments like these were largely built on popular stereotypes, social myths, and, most prominently, the political propaganda of the period. On the other hand, as we learn from the diaries, being a young anti-Semitic either on paper or among one’s nuclear family did not prevent most of the Christian adolescents from maintaining their friendships or forming new relationships with their Jewish acquaintances and neighbors.
A further important element of the book is its focus on the journal writers’ assessments of the Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, and the irredentist indoctrination they received at school. Since every young adult in this group, regardless of religious affiliation, considered themselves Hungarian before anything else, they could easily identify with Hungary’s irredentist territorial claims. Furthermore, they placed great confidence in Horthy not only to reclaim the lost territory, but also to protect Hungarian Jews from growing discriminatory measures taking hold in other parts of Europe. Based on the descriptions in the diaries, this group of adolescents seems to have viewed the German occupation of Hungary as a direct attack on both the nation and on Horthy personally. Consequently, it is little surprise that when discussing the events of March 19, 1944 (the day on which the German army entered the country), even in the current context, Hungary continues to portray itself as a victim of Nazi Germany.
To conclude, Gergely Kunt’s book offers insights into the ways in which ordinary adolescents experienced and, moreover, adjusted to the gradual changes that began with the country’s own alarming political circumstances and evolved into a European tragedy. The diary excerpts prove that history constitutes a complex web of continuity, in which society continually undergoes changes in various directions. The historical truth lies between both macro and micro levels of analysis. Therefore, in order to have a comprehensive overview of a given period, it is necessary not only to observe the broader development of a given phenomenon, but also to focus on the ways in which individuals situate themselves in the world which surrounds them. Gergely Kunt’s volume offers a unique opportunity for the reader to approach the history of Hungary in the 1940s, not only on a macro level more commonly familiar and accessible to the public, but on a micro level as well. It presents the diverse and often opposing perspectives of young adults from various societal and religious backgrounds.
Elmondani az elmondhatatlant: A nemi erőszak Magyarországon a II. világháború alatt [To speak the unspeakable: Rape and sexual abuse in Hungary during World War II]. By Andrea Pető. Budapest: Jaffa Kiadó, 2018. 280 pp.
Elmondani az elmondhatatlant addresses an often silenced and much politicized historical subject in a complex analytical mode while also taking a clear normative stance. As Andrea Pető explains, in the countries of the Eastern Bloc, the mass rape committed by members of the Red Army was a strictly taboo subject. These crimes may have been recurrently discussed in the West during the Cold War, but this was frequently done as part of broader anti-communist propaganda efforts and thus tended to lack proper context and nuance. As Pető rightly remarks, only as a consequence of the 1989 change of regime could the silence surrounding the subject finally be broken in Hungary. Democratization created space for various feminist (scholarly and artistic) approaches, which tended to explore mass rape and its aftermath of silence and silencing as integral parts of the imposition of (another) patriarchal order. As Pető notes, in more recent years, discussions of mass rape have been increasingly dominated by the hegemonic anticommunist politics of memory of the Hungarian Right. Since the institutionalization of illiberal perspectives, public discussions may reference the female victims of wartime rape more frequently than was the case before, but these new-old interpretations aim to embed these stories in an elaborate but nebulous history of national suffering. As Pető points out, these semi-official perspectives are rather selective and aim to impose gendered meanings on historical events without enabling those who actually suffered during the assertion of control by the Red Army to tell their individual stories and be listened to.
It is thus apt that Pető begins her monograph with a discussion of theoretical and methodological issues, focusing on the inherent difficulties of addressing a subject as painful and sensitive as mass rape, while pointing also to the fragmentary nature of the available sources. The book then sketches the history of rape in Hungary during World War II, while appropriately referencing the ethical concerns and epistemological difficulties any attempt at the narrative of such a history would raise. While the monograph recurrently emphasizes the structural causes of sexual violence, it also offers contextual analyses, which highlight that in the final stages of the war, all five main factors which predict the imminent threat of mass sexual violence (the collapse of state authorities, a vacuum of societal norms, the absence of effective military leadership, a militaristic definition of masculinity, and the widespread anger and frustration among troops) were present in Hungary. The book continues with a discussion of the major consequences of these crimes, such as related issues of public health and the resulting changes in Hungarian abortion law.
The bulk of Elmondani az elmondhatatlant in turn explores how the remembrance of mass rape or, more precisely, the dialectic of the silence surrounding mass rape and the externally imposed silencing of its accounts has unfolded in the postwar era. The author notes, on the one hand, that in the absence of reliable documentation, competing statistics concerning the number of victims and the heated debates surrounding these figures ought to be seen not only as unscholarly but, more generally, as inappropriate. On the other hand, she explains that the paucity of official, state-based documentation means that the memory of historical events has been construed and reshaped primarily through novels, memoirs, movies, documentaries, and partly also through photographs. Although, as Pető reflects, relatively few first-person memoirs have been published in Hungarian, with Alaine Polcz’s Asszony a fronton (published in 1991 and in 1998 in English translation by Albert Tezla as A Wartime Memoir: Hungary 1944–1945 and in 2002 with the title One Woman in the War) constituting perhaps the most significant exception.
The tendency to avoid the concrete subject, the use of strategies of impersonalization, and the emphasis on the consequences have indeed remained the dominant trends in efforts to address these unpunished crimes. The central question regarding remembrance might thus be who spoke instead of the victims and how. To answer this moot question, Pető’s monograph sketches the legal, historical, visual, and digital dimensions of remembrance. An uncontestable merit of the book is that she consistently avoids the ethnicist and Orientalist language that previous discussions of the subject have all too often employed.
Moreover, Pető also manages to relate to the perspectives of the perpetrators in a critical but not unemphatic manner, pointing to previously ignored aspects of the violent and brutal conquest of Hungary by the Red Army. While addressing some relevant features of the sharp contest underway at the moment between Russia and Ukraine regarding commemoration, Pető dissects the state-backed idealization of the Red Army characteristic of contemporary Russia and founded on the flat denial of mass crimes. She also strongly criticizes the continued practice of allowing researchers only restricted access to key historical documents.
Another notable merit of the book is that it illuminates specificities of the Hungarian case in a comparative framework. The mass crimes committed in Budapest and Hungary are studied alongside similar ones committed in Vienna and the French-occupied area of Germany, respectively. Another recurrent object of comparison is Poland, though with a somewhat different intention – namely to identify important differences and explain how the strength of Polish resistance may account for some of these. The remembrance of these crimes in Hungary is in turn compared and contrasted with recent contests regarding the remembrance of sex slavery of Korean women under Japanese subjugation. As Pető shows, in this case, similarly high levels of politicization, which also resulted in significant international tensions, have yielded many more and often rather laudable initiatives.
Accordingly, the book closes with a thoroughly negative assessment of the Hungarian situation in the vein of a Defizitgeschichte. Pető remarks critically that one finds in Hungary neither a welcoming institutional setting nor an inclusive narrative, and thus a shared perspective on different victim groups and their diverse stories cannot possibly emerge. Hungarians today do not possess a nuanced and precise language with which to discuss these questions, and there are no public spaces to enable and foster the articulation of painful and sensitive individual stories. As the author notes, the psychological processing of past experience is, thus, far from complete. This monograph is a milestone in Hungarian historiography, as it provides a complex and ethically conscious scholarly treatment of its rarely and even then often inadequately discussed subject. One can only hope that, Pető’s dark prognoses notwithstanding, it will help foster greater openness to the subject and more earnest dialogical engagement with it.
Everyday Life in Mass Dictatorship: Collusion and Evasion. Edited by Alf Lüdtke. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. xii + 260 pp.
This volume under review is part of the series entitled “Mass Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century.” The idea of the book dates back to a conference held in Seoul, South Korea in June 2005 and has grown out of the efforts of professor Jie-Hyun Lim at the Research Institute of Comparative History and Culture at Hanyang University. Everyday Life in Mass Dictatorship: Collusion and Evasion is a collection of 13 individual studies edited by Alf Lüdtke. Within the chapters, which have been arranged chronologically, the studies focus on a given country, its political system, and societal phenomena. The 13 authors come from universities in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and South Korea, and this is reflected in the diversity of the themes treated in the volume.
Analysis of the history of everyday life and ordinary people, however, is hardly a new approach. In German historiography, the trend of “Alltagsgeschichte” appeared for the first time in 1989 in Lüdtke’s book (Alltagsgeschichte: Zur Rekonstruktion historischer Erfahrungen und Lebensweisen ). Researchers in this subfield claim that political-historical study of the state party and related institutions yields a one-sided and restricted interpretation of the history of GDR. Research, which examines the party state from the perspective of everyday life, in contrast, furthers an understanding of how the state influenced society. If we regard this conception as a historiographical school, its most important characteristic is simply the shift in perspective, which embraces the notion of the study of “history from below.” This trend, in turn, is characterized by interdisciplinary approaches. It integrates the results of cultural studies, discourse analysis, and historical anthropology. Lüdtke’s work functions as an important reference point, and it has become part of a mainstream trend in research dealing with totalitarian regimes (mainly Nazism and Socialism). The most influential scholars in American-British Sovietology (Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stephen F. Kotkin) were also inspired by this approach.
The authors in this collection focus on the interplay between political power and society. As Lütdke repeatedly emphasizes, social history and political history do not exist as independent entities. They are intertwined. Since people live their everyday lives under the influence of central decisions, researchers seek to learn more about the kinds of processes which unfold from below and the motivations and meanings which shape people’s reactions. The contributors to the volume also highlight the roles of the multiple forms of active participation, mobilization, and self-mobilization under dictatorships. The attitudes of ordinary people included many forms of resistance, compromise, and collaboration. The main question concerns how the historical actors lived their lives and addressed challenges, which arose from Germany to Ghana and North Korea. How were their strategies everyday practices different, and how were they similar?
The book relies on two kinds of sources. Naturally, the sources chosen by the historians depend on their assumptions and methodologies. This yields a mix of two types of studies. The first group of authors offers historical summaries. These summaries focus on how preceding studies identified connection points between the state and society, thus going beyond the one-dimensional approach inherent in the totalitarian paradigm. In accordance with their practice and goals, the contributors use secondary sources, including monographs and essays. Peter Lambert, for instance, examines the role of the Gestapo in denunciations of ordinary people. Kevin McDermott presents the findings of research on the Great Terror which scholars have been able to pursue since the opening of the Soviet archives in the 1990s. Harald Dehne examines changes in consumption patterns in the GDR, focusing on what shortages meant for the rulers and the citizenry.
Other authors examine primary sources, including police reports, documents produced party organizations, and personal texts. Michael Wildt compares diaries of German people with different social backgrounds at the time of Hitler’s rise in 1933. Michael Kim examines how Japan tried to identify and promote the role of labor heroes in colonized Korea through propaganda campaigns and how this shaped the discourse about this phenomenon. His sources were newspapers and the oral testimonies of Korean workers. Andre Schmid focuses on the personal account of a North Korean woman, “Comrade Min.”
Undoubtedly, the main strength of this book consists in the comparative approach and the wide geographical framework within which the interaction between the state and society is examined. We read about Soviet and Eastern European socialisms, German Nazism, and Italian Fascism, but also Japanese colonialism and the postcolonial dictatorships in Asia and Africa. This wide selection of totalitarian regimes offers an opportunity to compare the different political, economic, and social systems in the interwar period and after 1945.
By applying the experiences of the military mobilization during World War II dictatorial regimes were established not only in Europe but also in post-colonial states in Africa and Asia. Can we compare these very different countries? All over the world, people need money, food, accommodation, and leisure time, and they have to work, study, consume, and travel. Every act takes place within the framework of the given societal, economic, political system. The viewpoint of everyday life (instead of central political decision-making) offers a comparative approach. Furthermore, the goal of these totalitarian systems was the same: to influence people’s thoughts and feelings and mobilize them to commit acts. In this situation, people not only confronted or collaborated with the system, they also lived in it, and to fulfill their everyday needs, they had an interest in ensuring its functioning. Self-mobilization is related not simply to terror and suppression, but also to self-interest. In addition to practical concerns, people have ideological imaginations, which support or criticize the regime. Together, these factors determine how ordinary people create their own strategies.
Two key statements in each contribution merit particular mention. Lüdtke suggests that it is more precise and adequate to use “many” instead of “mass.” This difference touches on the core conception of the book: in a totalitarian dictatorship, active individuals lived and acted. The word “mass” implies a shady, inaccessible entity. The other main statement concerns the basic level of the interplay between everyday people and decision makers. The regime expected a certain attitude from people, but at the same time, people could influence power with regard to the frames of everyday work, study, consumption, and so on. This was possible because they were individuals among the “many,” and not simply a “mass.” These practices included bargains, games, tricks (as Harald Dehne aptly puts it, “the petty everyday swindle for private gain”), and sometimes threats, extortions, and enforcement.
The structures and methodologies of the individual studies are very different. Authors who give historiographical syntheses focus mainly on the macrohistorical processes and use secondary sources. They do not connect these processes with the experiences of individuals. These studies do not accomplish the aim of the book, because the perspective of ordinary people is not a central aspect or concern of their interpretation, and the analyses they offer are confined to general political and economic processes. Consequently, it is not clear how these processes impacted everyday life.
The analytical practices of the authors include only a few of the numerous methodological approaches which would add further viewpoints from which to interpret the sources. For instance, in the empirical chapter Lüdtke demonstrates the importance of the “emotional turn,” but one could also mention the results of “spatial turn,” the “visual turn,” and so on. As an exception, Michael Kim examines the colonial discourse of labor heroes in the representations of these heroes in the media and the expressions used the press as part of a “linguistic turn.”
Consequently, the study of everyday life under dictatorships includes focus on a variety of different processes, including the expectations of the ruling political forces and the needs of ordinary people. This topic must be examined in a complex way and must take these aspects into consideration.
This volume is a promising initiation into this subfield of inquiry, and it shows how we can broaden our geographical scope in the study of this topic and how it is possible to create a common system of frameworks within which different totalitarian regimes become comparable. The further task is to use as many methodological approaches as can be effective and inspiring in analyses of the sources. Everyday Life in Mass Dictatorship is a good example of how to study macrohistorical processes and case studies simultaneously. The authors draw our attention to the fact that these sources (reports, diaries, newspapers), which originated in different countries, could reveal the features of individuals’ everyday practices in different but ultimately comparable social, economic, and cultural contexts.