Volume 11 Issue 1 CONTENTS
Az 1196–1235 közötti magyar történelem nyugati elbeszélő forrásainak kritikája [A critical study of the Western narrative sources of Hungarian history from 1196 until 1235]. By Tamás Körmendi. Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Történettudományi Intézet, 2019. 229 pp.
For over eight decades, scholars of medieval Hungary have had at their disposal the three volumes of the alphabetical repertory (or rather chrestomathy) by Ferenc Albin Gombos, which offers a corpus (albeit one far from complete) of the sources on Hungarian history between the Conquest of the Carpathian basin by the Magyars at the end of the ninth century and the extinction of the Árpád dynasty in 1301 (Catalogus fontium historiae Hungaricae aevo ducum et regum ex stirpe Arpad descendentium ab anno Christi DCCC usque ad annum MCCCI). Although the Catalogus fontium has been an essential tool for scholars since it was published in 1937–1938, no attempt had been made, until the doctoral thesis by Tamás Körmendi defended at Eötvös Loránd University in 2008, to accomplish a critical handbook examining the European chronicles, gesta, and annals collected by Gombos and containing information about Hungary in the Árpád era. The present volume is a revised version of Körmendi’s dissertation, which discusses the Western narrative sources of a shorter time period covered by the successive reigns of Emeric (1196–1204), Ladislaus III (1204–1205), and Andrew II (1205–1235). Körmendi, an associate professor, vice-head of the Institute of History, and head of the Department of Auxiliary Sciences of History at Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest), has also devoted attention, in his earlier writings, to the Latin language of the Greater Legend of Saint Stephen, the establishment of Hungarian rule in Croatia, and the history of coats of arms in medieval Hungary. The work, which is Körmendi’s first monograph, offers a philological and historical analysis of the narrative sources on Hungarian history between 1196 and 1235.
The Hungarian national chronicle (the so-called fourteenth-century chronicle composition) contains little information on the events of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Therefore, in addition to charters, foreign narrative sources prove essential for any understanding of the period. Although studies focusing on political history have, since the publication of the two-volume synthesis on the history of the Árpád era by Gyula Pauler in 1893 (A magyar nemzet története az Árpádházi királyok alatt [History of the Hungarian nation under the kings of the house of Árpád]), been exploiting the passages related to Hungary from the annals, chronicles, and gesta written beyond the borders of the Carpathian Basin, Hungarian scholars have limited knowledge of the texts themselves. Körmendi addresses this shortcoming by examining the narrative sources which contain information concerning the aforementioned four decades of Hungarian history.
In the preface to his volume, Körmendi specifies the criteria according to which the corpus of his analysis is established. His research has a wide geographical scope. By defining Western sources as texts from the lands of Latin Christendom, the book covers histories from Great Britain to Poland and from the Italian Peninsula to the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It does not deal with the historiographical tradition of the Kingdom of Hungary; however, the Historia Salonita by the Dalmatian chronicler Thomas the Archdeacon (of Split) is part of the corpus. Despite the fact that in the period under examination the Adriatic coast was ruled by the kings of Hungary, Dalmatian historiography proves independent from the Hungarian tradition. The monograph discusses only medieval narrative sources in the classical sense of the term. Therefore, the humanist literature of the Renaissance era is not taken into consideration: this explains the absence of the chronicle of Krakow’s canon Jan Długosz and the Annales Boiorum of the Bavarian historiograph Johannes Aventinus from the source material treated in the book. Using these criteria, Körmendi aims exhaustively to collect the narrative sources containing any information relevant to Hungary and Hungarians between 1196 and 1235. He compiles his sources primarily on the basis of the Catalogus fontium by Gombos, but as he mentions in the introduction, the list of the three-volume repertory can be completed with a few items, such as the lives of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary by Ceasarius of Heisterbach or the French poet Rutebeuf. (Due to its different genre, the extensive hagiographical literature on the Árpád princess is not subject to his analyses, however.) The texts are mostly Latin-language sources, but the corpus also includes a few vernacular chronicles (e. g. the Old French accounts of Geoffrey of Villehardouin and Robert de Clari on the fourth crusade).
The volume consists of four main parts. A chapter giving a chronological overview of the events of Hungarian history appearing in the Western narrative sources is followed by two case studies providing examples of the types of analyses that can be carried out on the basis of the corpus (I shall return to the subject below). The most important and extensive part of the work offers an encyclopedic inventory of the annals and chronicles, which include accounts on the Hungarians of the historical period between 1196 and 1235. This unit classifies sources according to their geographical origin, with the exception of the last three subchapters, which are thematic and are dedicated to the crusaders’ accounts and the histories of the two mendicant orders. As regards the geographical groups, it should be noted that German chronicles are the most numerous among the narrative sources in the corpus. In addition to historiographs of the German provinces, chroniclers from the French, British (Scottish), Iberian, Italian, Dalmatian, Polish or Bohemian territories also provide information related to the Kingdom of Hungary at the end of the twelfth and during the first decades of the thirteenth century. The eleven subchapters, which are often further subdivided into smaller units according to smaller geographical regions (such as Saxony or Flanders), describe, one by one, a total of 150 texts. Within the units, the sources follow each other in the chronological order of their genesis (from firsthand accounts to late Medieval tradition). The entries of the encyclopedic part of the book begin by summarizing, on the basis of the findings in the secondary literature, the most important knowledge on the annals, chronicles, and histories of the corpus. Following this general presentation of the sources, which indicates their author (if known), their historical context, the presumable date of their creation, the period they cover, their manuscript tradition, and their influence, Körmendi carries out, in the second part of the entries, a critical analysis of the chronicle passages related to Hungarian history. He attempts to determine the origins of the information on Hungary and the historical value of the accounts.
Körmendi’s thorough examination of the texts allows him to establish the philological relations within the corpus and the hierarchy of the narrative sources giving accounts of the same events. One can observe that information usually flows between annals and chronicles written within the same geographical area: the monastic annals of Austria are, for instance, closely connected and take passages from one another. At the beginning of each subchapter of the encyclopedic part, Körmendi specifies the information that can be found in the source material of the region and indicates which groups are formed by the philologically related texts. The chronicles mention Hungary especially in cases where there existed, in the period under examination, direct contacts between the territory in question and Hungary. While Thuringian sources seem to be concerned with the figure of Saint Elizabeth (the daughter of King Andrew II and wife of Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia), Bohemian chroniclers cite the dynastic marriage between Ottokar I Přemysl, King of Bohemia and Constance of Hungary, daughter of the late Béla III, in 1199. The chronological overview in the first chapter of the book shows clearly that some events of Hungarian history were of great interest to chroniclers from all over Europe. As Körmendi points out, three episodes received particular attention: the siege of Zadar by the crusaders in 1202, the assassination of Queen Gertrude of Merania in 1213, and the crusade conducted by Andrew II in 1217–1218 are well known among the medieval authors in the corpus.
The second and the third chapters of the volume present two (relatively) rich historical traditions in the form of independent case studies. The first focuses on the depiction in the sources of the capture of Prince Andrew (the future Andrew II), who was rebelling against his elder brother Emeric in 1203. The second analysis examines the large number of texts giving accounts of the aforementioned murderous attack against Queen Gertrude, the first wife of King Andrew. The 27 annals and chronicles providing details on the death of the royal consort are classified into five groups according to the type of information they contain. The studies show that the findings of philological investigations can be used to draw historical conclusions. In the first case, Körmendi affirms that the most cited sources on the conflict between Emeric and Andrew (the Historia Salonitana by Thomas the Archdeacon and the annals of Klosterneuburg) lack credibility and then tries to reconstruct the events mainly on the basis of the brief account in the annals of the monastery of Admont in Styria. As regards the tradition concerning the assassination of Gertrude of Merania, it should be noted that Körmendi, who considers the analysis of the narrative sources of the tragic event as a first step to further inquiries, has devoted elsewhere another study to the the circumstances surrounding the murder.1 In the concluding words of his book, Körmendi stresses that his comprehensive analysis of the corpus also allowed him to make some minor corrections concerning the chronology of the history of the Árpád era.
To summarize, Tamás Körmendi’s volume, inspired in part by the work of Wilhelm Wattenbach on the narrative sources of medieval German history (Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter bus zur Mitte des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts), is a much-needed handbook for experts on Árpád-era Hungary. Körmendi has developed his own method to carry out a thorough analysis of a well-defined group of foreign narrative sources on Hungarian history which can serve as a model for scholars seeking to continue basic research on medieval annals and chronicles mentioning Hungary and the Hungarians. The critical observations Körmendi formulates on the texts offer further nuance to the findings in the previous literature in philology. As the sources examined provide information primarily on the foreign relations of the Kingdom of Hungary, the book will prove an essential tool for anyone interested in the foreign affairs of the kings of the Árpád dynasty between 1196 and 1235.
Research Centre for the Humanities
Medicinische Policey in den habsburgischen Ländern der Sattelzeit: Ein Beitrag zu einer Kulturgeschichte der Verwaltung von Gesundheit und Krankheit. By Lukas Lang. Vienna: LIT Verlag, 2021. pp. 336.
Lukas Lang’s significant contribution to the field of medical history in the East Central European region, focusing on health care administration in the Habsburg Monarchy in the so-called “saddle period” (Sattelzeit), a period of transition from early modern to “modern” structures between the 1780s and 1820s, is based on his dissertation, which he defended at the University of Graz in 2017. Centered around a core problem of the age, which was rooted in the Enlightenment paradigm of the “pursuit of happiness” and the value of a healthy population viewed as a safeguard of stability and eventually progress, Lang’s volume deals primarily with medizinische Policey (which literally translates as “medical police”), a field strongly related to the comprehensive Polizeywissenschaft or “police science” concerned primarily with the internal order of the community, as well as the mechanisms and configurations of order and the ideals of order in an administrative-historical perspective on health and disease in four chapters, analyzing the different areas and levels of the discourse. Due to the abundance of texts and the diversity of health care regulations in the different regions of the Habsburg Monarchy, Lang wisely chose to limit his focus to the province of Lower Austria and the imperial residence city of Vienna. Instead of offering a general overview of the topic, he opted for an in-depth study of local affairs, revealing the dynamics of health care policy in the region but also successfully embedding the identified problem areas, discourses, and unique approaches to local policy in the transformations accelerated by, for example, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
The introduction focuses on the relevant historiographical traditions, the current state of research, and the potential methodological and conceptual tools with the help of which one can explore the administrative-historical dimension of health care in the Sattelzeit in a dynamic framework, taking not only the theoretical, prescriptive aspect of the examined treatises on medical police into consideration but also the influence of theoretical works on medical policymaking and the successes and setbacks of the process through which such laws were implemented and evolved into “self-evident customs” (p.99). Lang provides a wide tableau of the different approaches to medizinische Policey and medical policymaking in general, beginning with the famous concept introduced by George Rosen, considering the health policy of the German-speaking territories and its theoretical background “narrow, conservative, and particularist in spirit” (p.15), a view challenged substantially by historians of medicine since the 1950s.
Lang also includes Michel Foucault’s conceptual framework, which exerted a strong influence on Germanic historiography until the 1990s, inspiring research revolving around the concepts of biopolitics, governmentality, and medicalization. Lang does not dismiss the latter concept (he uses the term Medikalisierung throughout the volume), but he does “recalibrate” it by considering the practical feasibility of the concept of “medical socialization” introduced by Francisca Loetz and highlighting the dualism between academic medicine and lay medicine, as well as their reciprocal dynamics and negotiation processes, which seem to be particularly suitable for his analysis, along with other methodological concepts focusing on dynamics and negotiations instead of rigid structures and top-to-bottom approaches to administration, among them the cultural techniques of administration (Kulturtechniken der Verwaltung) introduced by Peter Becker and Stefan Haas or the analysis of Ordnungskonfigurationen (configurations of order) introduced in medieval studies by Stefan Weinfurter and Bernd Schneidmüller.
The levels of discourse examined in the volume are shaped by the groups of sources chosen by Lang for his analysis: moving from the sphere of theory to the practical implementation of health regulations, he discusses the most significant contributions to the genre, including Johann Peter Frank’s comprehensive six-volume work on the system of medical police (posthumously amended by three further volumes), along with the treatises by Zacharias Gottlieb von Huszty, Franz von Steininger, Joseph Bernt, and Marquard Joseph von Kotz. The second level of Lang’s analysis deals with health legislation based on Johann Nepomuk Freiherr von Hempel-Kürsinger’s Handbuch der Gesetzkunde im Sanitäts- und Medicinalgebiethe (1830–1832), with a focus on Lower Austrian regulations, containing ca. 3000 ordinances from the period between 1230 and 1821. In the third, empirically-based analytical chapter, Lang delves into unpublished sources from the holdings of the police authorities of the Habsburg Monarchy from the years between 1783 and 1814 kept in the Austrian State Archives. Based on these texts, Lang was not only able to offer a comprehensive view of each individual level, but the sources also enabled him to convey an integral image encompassing the three levels and to fulfil his initial objective of offering a differentiated interpretation of how the different discourses and arenas of medical policymaking and the implementation of different regulations influenced and shaped each other.
After a both historiographically and methodologically convincing introduction, Chapter 2 focuses on the theoretical discourse of medizinische Policey based on the works of the abovementioned authors, whose texts, though theoretical in nature, were by no means disengaged from earlier attempts and discourses on the issues and most important tasks of (medical) police. Drawing on earlier regulations and medical expertise, the authors aimed to create the discursive foundation of normative principles for state health policy and administration and establish the academically trained physician as a medical expert, whose political engagement is vital for achieving the political, economic, and social objective of ensuring a healthy population. Lang in this chapter surveys the historical background and theoretical underpinnings of medizinische Policey ingrained in general police science (Policeywissenschaft) and cameralist economic theory, as well as the goals and structure of the works, the most important problem areas (population discourse, the relationship of the medical profession and state administration, and the correlation of theory and practice), and the significant discursive shift towards the importance of prophylaxis. Lang also discusses the mediality of works on medical police, highlighting that the typographical layout and structure, the “utilitarian” language, the different methods of dissemination, and the introduction of medizinische Policey in medical education at the universities of the Habsburg Monarchy were all imperative in establishing a widely received normative discourse.
Chapter 3 deals with the direct influence of this normative discourse on the legislation: as argued by Lang, this influence was by no means linear, and, as mentioned earlier, there had already been some interplay between theory and norm production, with the authors of medizinische Policey strongly drawing on older police and health regulations. Lang’s exhaustive and elaborate chapter focuses on several problem areas related to medical regulations in the Lower Austrian territory, surveying, for example, the distribution and development of Habsburg sanitary laws, the types of laws and their temporal and regional distribution, the most important subjects (e.g., disease control; the inspection of foodstuffs, hospitals and pharmacies; veterinary science and practices; hazard prevention; treatment practices; health administration; medical education; public hygiene; quackery; burial customs), the administrative organization and its most important bodies and actors. As in the previous chapter on the mediality of treatises on medical police, in this part Lang also focuses on the dissemination (publication, announcement) of legal knowledge, as well as the implementation processes illustrated with case studies, demonstrating how normative knowledge was received and used in society.
Chapter 4 focuses on case studies. It deals with three specific problem areas, pointing at the significance and stakes of thorough medical regulations and the stricter surveillance of society. According to Lang, this part is a “testing ground” for the general ideas presented in the earlier chapters of the volume and aims to show how the different norms, discourses, and legislative practices were set to work in certain cases, involving the conflicts of authorities, social norms and customs, and in some cases, human nature. The problem areas discussed are marriage and sexuality; prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases; and quackery. Lang claims that controlling the marital habits and sexuality of individuals are areas that have strong implications for both morality and for ensuring a strong, healthy, and growing population, while the battle against unlicensed healers and quacks on the diverse medical market in the Habsburg Monarchy at the time was imperative for achieving thorough state control and for enabling academically trained physicians to establish themselves as par excellence medical experts and a determinative force in health administration.
In sum, Lukas Lang’s comprehensive work on the changes, ruptures, and continuities in health administration in the Habsburg Monarchy in the decades between the 1780s and 1820s is a noteworthy contribution to medical history writing in the region, fulfilling a significant lacuna in the secondary literature. Though the text itself would have needed more input from the editors in correcting typos (a notable example is Huszty’s surname, which appears in three different forms) and unedited charts and in smoothening the sometimes overly repetitive and didactic argumentation, the book is still an important read for any historian of medicine, as it provides an important basis for understanding the most important theoretical underpinnings, discourses, and practices through which health administration evolved in the province of Lower Austria, providing an important example for the other regions of the Habsburg Monarchy as well. In the future, an English edition (and not a mere translation of the current German version) would be useful, as it would make the volume more widely accessible.
Szörnyeteg Felső-Magyarországon: Grünwald Béla és a szlovák–magyar kapcsolatok története [A monster in Upper Hungary: Béla Grünwald and the history of Slovak–Hungarian relations]. By József Demmel. Budapest: Ráció, 2021. 283 pp. / Ľudožrút v Hornom Uhorsku: Príbeh Bélu Grünwalda. Bratislava: VEDA, 2020. 288 pp.
Before this book, József Demmel had written three other monographs about men who, in different ways, maneuvered in between the conflicting Slovak and Hungarian identity projects of the 1860s and 1870s: the Evangelical pastor Gustav Adolf Seberini/Gusztáv Szeberényi, the senior county official József Justh, and the members of the so-called “New School.” This time, he chose a protagonist from the same period whose commitment to a militant, state-sponsored Magyar nationalism was solid and unwavering. Béla Grünwald (not to be confused with the painter of the same name) was both an eminent historian and a theoretician of public administration, but he is known first and foremost for his nationalist pamphlet from 1878, A Felvidék [Upper Hungary]. Demmel’s book concentrates on his earlier career, also drawing on Grünwald’s previously unexplored personal papers.
Demmel first paints a portrait of the elites of Zólyom County, where Grünwald’s career unfolded. The 1840s saw the emergence of two parallel local public spheres, one in Hungarian consisting of nobles and one in Slovak of a priestly-commoner character. The latter was more numerous. More locals read Ľudovít Štúr’s journal Slovenské národné noviny than the organs of the Hungarian press, and the citizens of Zvolen elected Štúr to the 1847 diet. After 1848–49, the tide briefly turned in favor of the Slovak cause. Slovak was introduced into the administration and became the language of instruction in the local Catholic grammar school. By the time Grünwald arrived in the county in 1867 as its freshly elected chief county clerk, the political winds had shifted again, and the local strongman Antal Radvánszky had forced several Slovak cultural institutions to take refuge in neighboring Turóc County.
As Radvánszky’s protégé, Grünwald placed the fight against the Slovak movement at the center of his concerns. He coordinated the Magyarization of the Banská Bystrica gymnasium, fulminated against the Nationalities Act when it was passed in 1868, and later bombarded the government with memoranda demanding a crackdown on the national minority movements. In 1873, he launched the Slovak-language Svornosť with government aid, which he edited and partly wrote in a pro-Magyar spirit. The following year, already as the alispán (top elected official) of Zólyom County, he came to national fame by initiating a government investigation against the then-existing four Slovak grammar schools, an unusual move given that none of them operated in his jurisdiction. Demmel provides a detailed account of the infamous process that led to the closure of the four schools. He emphasizes that, contrary to popular belief, it had little to do with Kálmán Tisza and mostly took place under the watch of Prime Minister István Bittó.
Turning to the dissolution of the Matica slovenská in 1875, Demmel again stresses that it was not Tisza’s plan so much as the result of Grünwald’s intrigues. While the procedure against the Slovak high schools was already underway, Grünwald had started fomenting public outrage against the Matica in the Budapest press. Based on Grünwald’s manuscripts, Demmel identifies him as the author of several denunciatory articles. Through private channels, Grünwald later also gained access to confidential investigation materials and, appealing to a public opinion increasingly riled up against the minorities, he put pressure on the government to suspend the association. Since the Matica operated in Turóc County, the incident allows Demmel to open a parenthesis and describe local political life since the 1840s, which diverged considerably from the trends in Zólyom County.
The book is arguably the least successful as a work of psychohistory. Demmel motivates much of his inquiry by the goal of understanding what turned Grünwald into such a passionate enemy of the Slovak identity project and what secret personal trauma drove him to commit suicide. The array of facts that he digs up in the process are unquestionably suggestive of the political and social milieu, but they don’t answer these questions. To uncover Grünwald’s Slovak roots and present his anti-Slovak fervor as the fanaticism of a convert would be facile, given that only his uncle Anton Majovský/Antal Majovszky seems to have flirted with the Slovak movement for a while in the 1860s. Grünwald’s many love affairs, on the other hand, made him the butt of small-town gossip, involved him in at least one duel, and left him with one illegitimate child. In particular, the Slovakist Viliam Pauliny-Tóth’s anonymously penned mock-heroic lampoon in Národnie noviny in 1873–74 ridiculed his love escapade with a married woman. It sold out instantly in Banská Bystrica, where everyone could identify the characters. Demmel may be right that the popularity of this satire forced him to relocate to Budapest, and it may even have cost him his relationship with his son’s mother. But Demmel goes too far in projecting a causal link between Grünwald’s suicide and Pauliny-Tóth’s politically motivated snipe at him 16 years earlier.
Demmel does not hide the fact that, in his endeavor to uncover Grünwald’s secret trauma, he takes a hint from Mihály Lackó’s brief biography of Grünwald, an early Hungarian representative of the psychobiography genre (Halál Párizsban: Grünwald Béla történész művei és betegségei ). It remains something of an enigma, however, why Demmel feels the need to convince his reader that Grünwald was not an anomaly, the lonely Slovak-bashing “monster” (as he is described in the title), or, more perplexingly, that “his chauvinist nationalism was not rooted in his low character” (p.237). Demmel implies the existence of a scapegoating narrative in Hungarian historiography that blames Grünwald for the oppression of Slovaks. However, he does not specify where he sees this narrative, which lends his reasoning a slight strawman character.
One could note other controversial points. For example, Demmel takes it as proven that the use of Slovak as the language of instruction in the four gymnasia did not disturb the Magyar political elite. But his reference to existing German high schools makes a weak case, because German soon had to retreat from high schools in Hungary (although not in Transylvania). Moreover, he backs up his statement that the four gymnasia functioned as training bases for the Slovak national idea with the following innocuous quote from the headmaster of the gymnasium in the town of Martin: “follow your faithful leaders and be grateful to those who want to lead you towards enlightenment and education” (p.173).
But these are either relatively minor or superficial details, which do not lead the argument into fruitless digressions and are greatly outweighed by the merits of the book; its useful biographical clarifications, a rich portrayal of political life and elite sociability in two counties over the course of three decades, a lucid account of the closure of the Slovak gymnasia, and insights such as the impacts of inter-county rivalry on the Slovak national movement and the creation out of nothing of a Magyar public sphere in Zólyom County. Demmel reconstructs “the extent to which the Hungarian character of the county was just a smokescreen” (p.24). At pains to present a Hungarian image to the outside world, the local liberal nobility of the 1840s began to speak Hungarian in county assemblies and social events, which obviously required serious effort and excluded many monolinguals. As a result, however, they were able to blot out the Slovak world of the country from the view of the wider Hungarian public. They actively sustained such a vision to convince their co-nationals of the county’s loyalty, which also made them keener to silence the Slovak opposition than the central authorities were.
Last but not least, Demmel deserves plaudits for a terminological innovation. He uses the word “magyar” in inverted commas for denizens of contemporary Upper Hungary with a pro-Magyar cultural and political outlook and calls their opponents “Slovak enthusiasts.” While unhyphenated Magyars without Slovak ancestry were indeed few and far between in the Zólyom County of the 1870s, the latter term may sound oddly archaic or even condescending. On second thought, however, its looseness can recommend it as an alternative to the narrow and reductive “nationalist.” Certainly, this binary opposition gives more justice to the politics of identity choices in the given context than a crude contrast between “Magyars” and “Slovaks.”
The book was published in parallel Hungarian and Slovak versions.
Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena
Geography and Nationalist Visions of Interwar Yugoslavia. By Vedran Duančić. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 286 pp.
The recent book by Vedran Duančić is a work which will be of interest to any reader, whether historian or geographer, who is eager to learn more about the relationship between nationalism, nation states, and politics, and not only for scholars on the Balkans. Duančić’s approach, which straddles the border between the two disciplines, was something of a revelation to me, and the theme itself is of unquestionable relevance. His style is also fresh, engaging, and simple, yet also precise, and his insights are emphatic. The text is logical and coherent, and his approach is centered around problems. He takes the challenges faced at the time and the responses given by the discipline of geography to these challenges as his point of departure. The book is much more than a history of the geography of interwar Yugoslavia, and indeed it is much more than an analysis of the intertwining of science and politics. It is a substantially new contribution because its innovative approach is not Serb-centric. Duančić stresses that, although one could hardly afford to ignore the role of geographer Jovan Cvijić and his wide network of contacts, the book is not intended as another analysis of Cvijić, but rather seeks to reveal to the reader his impact on the domestic scientific and political milieu, his organizational work, and the consequences of his contacts abroad. Cvijić’s contemporaries, including his disciples, his followers, and his ideological opponents (indeed, there is a common intersection of the three categories), are all brought into the discussion and subjected to analysis (Erdeljanović, Filip Lukas, Artur Gavazzi).
The book also excellently situates Balkan geography in a European context, with a look at Central European “state-building” geographers such as the Polish Romer, the Czech Dvorsky, and the Ukrainian Rudnyits’kyi. It offers a clear overview of their connections to Friedrich Ratzel’s anthropogeography and the initiatives which went beyond it: the local confluence of the determinist-possibilist debate and its consequences and implications for the organization of the political state. We are given a picture of the scientific milieu from which the first generation of geographers of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes came. Not surprisingly, Vienna and Berlin were the centers where they were trained, so of course their initial acceptance of Ratzel’s position concerning the development of nations and the superiority of the nation state framework over the supranational empire is understandable, even if they were politically opposed to the states which were home to their alma maters. We learn of the influence of Penck on Cvijić, who moved from Vienna to Berlin after 1906 (they continued to correspond vigorously after World War I, when they were on opposite sides) and of Cvijić on Penck in the latter’s geographic turn, in the course of the elaboration of the “Blood and Soil” ideology after 1920. We also learn of the time Cvijić spent in “exile” in Paris during the war years, which led to the birth of his book La Péninsule Balkanique and also gave him the chance to win the friendship and sympathy of Isaiah Bowman and de Martonne, who played a major role in policymaking in 1920. Duančić also offers an analysis of the contents and conceptual frameworks of the main geographic works. He notes that Cvijić’s arguments were contradictory, and although his voluminous work exerted a considerable impact on readers and politicians, Romer achieved the same thing in Poland in far fewer pages. Thus, in the end, it was not the coherence of the work or the extent to which it testified to its author’s expertise that was decisive, but the simple fact that the Yugoslav (Polish, Czech, Ukrainian, etc.) arguments (regardless of their accuracy or relevance) were precisely what politicians needed in 1918. Thus, a work that numbered only some 50 pages could serve as scholarly background material just as effectively as a work that was 500 pages long.
Thirdly, the political and ethnic character of the nascent Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes itself was riddled with contradictions, which meant that the rival ideologies of Paul Vidal de la Blache’s possibilism and Ratzel’s determinism appeared in the argumentation of both opposing national and etatist (including Greater Serbia versus Yugoslav) and centralist and federalist geographers, with strong political overtones. Sometimes, even the same geographer would change his opinion over time. At the time of the birth of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, there were several possible alternatives: it could have been created as a strongly centralized supra/transnational (Yugoslav) political entity or a decentralized federal-national entity. What in reality emerged was really more a state that rested on a centralist foundation with Greater Serbia leanings (at least according to the Croats in the opposition).
It is worth taking a moment to consider how the political-constitutional problem was grappled with in geography. In 1909, after the annexation, in his first explicitly political (and more ambitious) work, Cvijić rejects the Austrian imperial contention that Austro-Hungary needed Bosnia to ensure the security and economic development of Dalmatia. After 1920, however, he himself argues against Italian claims that Dalmatia was necessary to promote the economic development of isolated Bosnia. In other words, he uses the (imperial) argumentation he had earlier rejected in support of his own political claims. The notion that access to the Adriatic was necessary for the viability of the state (once Thessaloniki had been lost) was again a geopolitical argument and more imperialist in nature. It could even be called a paraphrase of the “Drang nach Salonika” accusation levelled against the Monarchy. (Similarly, the Serbian geopolitical argument for the unification of Serbia and Montenegro as a means of cutting off the Monarchy from the Turkish Empire and putting an end to the former’s constant meddling in the Balkans is also merely a rephrasing of an imperialist idea.) Moreover, this argument led to another geographical—and politicized—problem. The Greater Serbia ideology saw Austro-Hungary’s endeavors in Bosnia as a form of colonization, and it dismissed developments such as the construction of the railways with the contention that Serbia could have done this on its own. However, after 1920, as the new masters of the territory, the politicians who had promulgated this ideology were unable to connect the cities of the Adriatic with the interior. The lack of political and economic unity led to another geographical debate: did it make more sense to unite economically and socially similar territories into a single state or, on the contrary, would it be more practical to unite territories which, precisely because of their differences, complemented one another? This question, obviously, cannot be answered unequivocally from a purely academic point of view (both arguments were made in the peace negotiations), but it was raised in practice in connection with the political structure and territorial extent of the nascent Yugoslav state. Economically and ethnically, Dalmatia was not similar to Bosnia, so the latter argument (which put emphasis on the importance of uniting complementary territories) had to be used, and this in turn raised the question of local self-government and decentralization, which the Serbs rejected. However, the notion that the Serb-Croat-Slovenian nation was a closely linked tribe (a notion that also served as an explanation for the rejection of national-subnational levels of self-government) served to buttress the visions of those who espoused the idea of similarity. Thus, depending on the nature of the state that the emerging Yugoslavia would be, a different system of geographical argument would have to be used. In other words, it is very clear that the structure of the state was not determined by scientific, geographical considerations. Rather, geography merely offered a system of argument as a basis for claims to legitimacy on which the political will behind the structure of the state could build.
The Ratzelian and national Darwinist notion of nation state supremacy was just as problematic. Before 1920, this notion provided a logical ideological background for Serbia’s territorial growth. The young nation state was trying to achieve its ethnically ideal borders against two non-national empires that were seen as evolutionarily obsolete. Yugoslavia could only be understood as a “nation state,” however, if the idea of Serb-Croat-Slovenian unity could gain at least theoretical acceptance. This notion, however, was thrown into question, primarily by the Croatian side, and the new political entity was seen as a Greater Serbian empire. Supranational Yugoslavism, as a possible alternative, could not be coupled with the nation state logic either. In other words, both the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes and Yugoslavia embodied a type of state criticized as obsolete by Serbian geographers (and Ratzel). It is thus not surprising that Yugoslav geographers, whether they identified themselves as Serb, Croat, or Yugoslav geographers (which they did), alternately drew on Ratzel’s nation state determinism and Vidal de la Blache’s possibilism. These two theories offered divergent explanations of (if indeed they could explain) the trajectories of Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian national development (the debate between Lukas and Cvijić’s successors). If one accepts as a point of departure the existence of the “three-one nation” in the historical past, the question is: when did they begin to develop in different directions? Some Croats and some Serbs lived in a geographically similar environment (far from the Dinaric Alps), yet their development took different paths. In contrast, the Croats of Dalmatia and the Croats of Pannonia, though they lived in strikingly different regions, formed one nation, while the Serbs, Muslims, and Croats living in the Bosnian mountains did not. This would suggest that it is not the geography of the land that is the determining factor but rather culture, and this meant that Ratzel and people belonging to his school of thought were wrong. When did the nation’s path of development split? With Byzantium? With the Turks? Or did the natural geography-based dilemma suggest a similar political-ideological background: the Dinaric Alps morphologically tie the country together? Or the Vardar-Morava axis? According to the geography on which visions of Greater Serbia were based, it is the latter, since the two sides of the Dinaric Alps have different climates, lifestyles, etc. But according to those who espoused the notion of a Yugoslav state and also proponents of the race theory (there were also those who believed in a “Dinaric” type of man as the prototypical Yugoslav), the Dinaric mountains and the importance of uniting people of complementary (not identical) cultures and lifestyles were the essential factors. It is clear that the relationships among geography, ethnography, linguistics, and cultural anthropology on these issues needed to be clarified, as did the stances in these various branches of the sciences, and there were serious debates and differences among members of the first generation of geographers (inherited from the empires), who were transforming either to proponents of the national ideal or to supporters of the Yugoslav vision. Some of the new university centers, such as Skopje, were merely part of the long arm of Belgrade. In Ljubljana, first Croatian and then local influence became dominant. Zagreb was seen by Belgrade as a reactionary hotbed, not only politically but also academically. Social geography, especially its Yugoslav dimension, was, on the basis of the curricula analyzed, relegated to the background under the Croatian-Italian Artur Gavazzi, who was educated in the Austrian school and, moreover, published little and traveled little, in contrast with the traditions of the “autochthonous” school. Cvijić himself traveled a great deal, and before 1914, he was engaged primarily in geomorphology (thus, it was not credible to blame Gavazzi for a lack of interest in social geography; rather, he could have been faulted for a lack of “field studies in local history”). At the same time, geomorphology was considered a much more serious science than anthropogeography, and it is hardly surprising that the latter was chosen by many people and was also in demand by the state.
The book sheds light on such problems, while examining one by one the struggles of the leaders of the Yugoslav/Grand Serbia center and the national university centers, as well as their attitudes to the changes which came in the wake of Cvijić’s death and the introduction of the royal dictatorship (which were a caesura from the perspective of the history of science). The book will also be of interest to readers who are not geographers, because it provides an impressive array of information on the history of ideas and mentality, the history of relations, and the interweaving of politics and science in the period, and it also discusses and interprets the main events and the roles of academic work in the process of state and nation building in Yugoslavia (a process rich with contradictions), not in a descriptive manner but rather by placing this all in context (with aptly chosen quotations). The fact that the author is a representative of a new generation who was not raised in the Belgrade geographic tradition and thus dares to be critical of the dominant narratives, bringing into focus and putting in a favorable light peripheral (or rather damned to the periphery) local-national narratives (while presenting not only the Croatian trend, but also others through their relation to it), obviously plays a major role in this assessment. Thus, the Croat-Serb opposition, all too familiar among historians, manifested itself not only among contemporary historians, but also in the natural sciences.
Research Centre for the Humanities
Bécs művészeti élete Ferenc József korában, ahogy Hevesi Lajos látta [Viennese art world in the era of Franz Joseph – seen by Lajos Hevesi]. By Ilona Sármány-Parsons. Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2019. 472 pp.
This is a rather rewarding topic: turn-of-the-century Vienna has an exceptionally good press. The world of Wittgenstein, Freud, and Schönberg is appealing to almost any reader. A book about Vienna and its art at the turn of the century is, one would think, an obvious choice. It is quite surprising, therefore, that the key player in this 450-page-long story, the art critic Lajos Hevesi, is largely unknown and his vast and scattered oeuvre is academically uncharted.
As Sármány-Parsons’ book makes very clear, Hevesi is a colorful and compelling character. Born as Lajos Lőwy and known in the German-language context as Ludwig Hevesi, this Hungarian journalist and influential art critic with a Jewish family background was born in provincial Heves in the Hungarian Kingdom, in 1843 and was educated in the Piarist grammar school in Pest. He studied medicine and classical philology first in Pest, but in 1862 he began to pursue studies at the University of Vienna. There, he also attended lectures on aesthetics and the arts. Given his talent for languages (he was fluent in German, French, English, and Italian, in addition to his native Hungarian), he earned his living for some time by translation, which brought him close to journalism, which became a life-long love affair for him. Writing for Hungarian and German language journals alike, he continuously played with his authorial identity. In politics, he was a supporter of the circle of Deák and Andrássy, following basically a classical national-liberal program. After the Settlement of 1867, although he had the opportunity to publish in Pester Lloyd, an influential German-language journal centered in Budapest, he decided to stay in Vienna, and he managed to turn himself into a Viennese journalist, art-lover, and man of letters, publishing in the influential Fremden-Blatt. Remaining unmarried, he sacrificed his whole life on the altar of art criticism and belles-lettres.
As an art critic, he was the personification of the new-style professional critic of the fine arts and theater. He joined the club at the right moment: very soon he made himself known as a dominant voice in Viennese art life for decades. As such, he was not only a witness to but also one of the first defenders of the Secessionist movement, which made Viennese art famous all over Europe. It also caused loud social and political scandals and brought in vast amounts of wealth for some of the fortunate artists in the group and for the most skillful art dealers. As a spokesman of the movement, Hevesi did not make a fortune, although he made a decent living with his regular feuilletons. But his engaging writings brought him success, and he was able to shape discussions on the art world in Vienna. He wrote a great deal, he saw everything worth seeing in the town, and he had very good personal contacts in the art world in Austria, Hungary, and abroad. He also travelled around Europe, working as a writer and publishing short stories and novels alongside his critical writings. His book-length writings on art include a work summing up nineteenth-century Austrian fine art and another on the Secessionist movement. After having had a successful career, he committed suicide in 1910, just before the outbreak of World War I, in the last minute of the Belle Époque.
Ilona Sármány-Parsons, the author of the present volume, is an art historian who was a researcher at the Institute of Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. She has taught at a number of institutions, including Nottingham University, the University of Vienna, and Central European University, and has lived in Vienna since 1984, as did her hero hundred years earlier. Uncharacteristically within Hungarian historiography, she does not adopt a culturally nationalistic perspective, preferring instead to keep an imperial vista. Her aim is to present Hevesi’s views on the art events of the day and the main protagonists of the art scene chronologically and to show the major elements of his frame of mind as an art critic. However, she does not neglect to give a synthetic account of her protagonist’s personal identity. As we learn, Hevesi had a complex, four-layered personal identity, divided as it was between a Jewish, Hungarian, Viennese Austrian, and European self. Hevesi’s Jewishness was the innermost core of this identity, something of which he rarely spoke or wrote, while the external, sociable part of his identity was that of the European man of letters. Yet his Hungarian and Viennese identities were the determining factors of his character, two features which surprisingly seem to dwell side by side quite well in his case.
It is perhaps exactly this unproblematic relationship between Hevesi’s identities and, especially, his Hungarian and Austrian selves that makes him a rather remarkable case of late-nineteenth-century Central European culture. Hevesi was not present in Vienna’s art world as an exotic Hungarian voice. Rather, he had the position of an insider, who identified himself with the presuppositions of the local culture, an achievement in itself remarkable from someone born in the other part of the Dual Monarchy. The book presents in a detailed fashion the creative and original aspects of the main protagonist’s oeuvre in a dynamically growing and transforming art market. This methodology helps Sármány-Parsons avoid repeating often heard stories of well-known oppositions between national sovereignty and the pan-European cultural elite, offering instead a close view of the Austrian cultural witches’ brews. There are two historical lessons, however, that we can learn from this story. The first is that soft power was already a crucial element in middle-to-late nineteenth-century continental politics, as witnessed by the repeated world’s fairs and biennales and the other international fine art exhibitions. Secondly, a cultural cold war took place within Vienna’s art world in the second half of his career, proving that modernity brought with it a sharp, almost antagonistic struggle among interest groups and world views.
If those interested in the political history of the age have to read between the lines to learn from this refined narrative in an indirect way, art historians have a lot to digest directly here. Although the story itself is by its nature teleological, as its finish-line is the explosion of the art market called the Secessionist movement, it does not commit the fatal mistake of reading previous events retrospectively as a sign of what is to come. Instead, it interprets in a balanced manner the major events and turns of roughly three decades of Hevesi’s life as a critic, until he became a full-hearted advocate of the Secessionist artists and, in particular, Gustav Klimt.
Sármány-Parsons usefully offers a scheme of the stylistic transformations of the age, arguing for three major style-defined periods in the last third of the century. The first is the time of Historicism and academic art; the second is the victory of Realism and Naturalism; the third is the specifically style-focused period of Symbolism and Secession. Although both the second and the third phase of this story are usually interpreted as the antechambers of Modernism, Sármány-Parsons is careful to point out that Hevesi had no real chance to confront Modernism, the breakthrough of which happened after his untimely death.
Sármány-Parsons also reflects on the duality of Hevesi’s persona as an art critic. She emphasizes that, until the last phase of his career, his voice was that of a balanced middle-of-the-roader, who was able to see the valuable parts of even those often radical works that were not particularly close to his own personal taste. Yet the fact is that Hevesi not only supported wholeheartedly the case of the Secession, but for some time he became one of its main “Etzesgeber,” or even a key theorist. In the last part of his career, he became more of a reader-friendly enthusiast of art works, apparently giving up much of his earlier distanced, objective-professional tone.
Sármány-Parsons’ detailed, well-documented, and abundantly illustrated volume (thanks for this last merit to Balázs Czeizel’s excellent work as the designer of the book) gives a year-by-year account of this great oeuvre, relying on primary sources and making a major contribution to our understanding of the art history of Austria. Her major hit is to reclaim Hevesi for the canon of late nineteenth-century and turn-of-the-century Viennese art. By the end of this tour-de-force we also learn the names of the favorite painters of the day, included the Vedutist Alt, Makart, the colorist, and finally Klimt, the most original “aesthete” artist of the Secession. Hevesi knew all of them, and he interpreted their outstanding works for the general public with exceptional clarity and clear-sightedness. Furthermore, he was one of the first to establish the custom of real-time art criticism in these eventful final decades of the Golden Age of the Dual Monarchy.
University of Public Service, Budapest / Research Centre for the Humanities
The Soviet Union and Cold War Neutrality and Nonalignment in Europe. Edited by Mark Kramer, Aryo Makko, and Peter Ruggenthaler. Lanham MD: The Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series, Lexington Books, 2021. 627 pp.
Officials in the United States and several West European countries viewed the neutral states as a first line of defense during much of the Cold War. But what did the neutral states’ relationship with the Soviets look like? This question takes center stage in The Soviet Union and Cold War Neutrality and Nonalignment in Europe. At first glance, this title might seem a bit convoluted. However, the double use of the conjunction indicates a serious approach to the Soviet relationship with Cold War neutrality and its relationship with nonalignment, without risking a conflation of the two. This is part of this book’s key objective: to supplement often West-centric examinations of neutrality with examinations based on a much wider range of sources and viewpoints.
The first part of the book deals with different neutrality policies in Cold War Europe, and its chapters lay bare the discrepancies between theories of neutrality (more often than not based in political configurations that no longer existed) and their practice in this period. The first chapter by Franz Cede busts several myths about Austria’s neutrality, such as the notion that neutrality was imposed upon the country. Cede argues that, while circumstances outside Austria’s borders combined to make neutrality viable, that does not mean that neutrality was Austria’s to accept through no agency of its own or that there were no ideological considerations at play. Olaf Kronvall, in his chapter on Swedish neutrality, shows that Washington regarded Sweden’s way of being neutral as immoral, a conviction that could not be seen as separate from the events of the early 1940s. Thomas Fischer offers a short chapter on Switzerland which, despite its brevity, offers a nuanced grasp of the many different understandings and orientations that coexisted under the label “neutral.” This difference in orientation is further mapped by Mark Kramer in the conclusion of the book, in which Kramer confirms Switzerland was an outlier (p.543). The chapter by Rainio-Niemi on Finland is more globally focused. Importantly, this chapter views 1955 as a breakthrough year that brought new definitions of neutrality. This year recurs in many of the volume’s chapters as a key moment.
The second part of the book deals with Soviet foreign policy towards the neutral states. The first chapter by Alexey Komarov, which examines Swedish neutrality as viewed from Moscow, serves as a counterpoint to the chapter by Kronvall. It is interesting to see that the Swedish position was seen as “free-riding” not just by Washington DC but also by Moscow. It is a pity, however, that the characterization of Sweden as “peace-loving” (p.120) is not further developed. This is very much in line with the political language of the World Peace Council, very much a part of Soviet foreign policy but nevertheless barely present in this book. In chapters like this, a more capacious understanding of (Soviet) foreign policy would have reaped dividends. The potential gains of such a broader definition do appear in the chapter by Peter Ruggenthaler on Soviet policy towards Austria. Ruggenthaler incorporates, for instance, the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow into his discussion. I learned a great deal from this chapter, especially its thoughtful treatment of the difficult position in which Austria found itself in 1956 and 1968. This section is completed by Kimmo Rentola’s chapter on Soviet policy towards Finland during the early stages of the Cold War and a brief chapter by Olga Pavlenko on the run-up to 1989 in Soviet-Swiss relations. In this part of the book, 1955 again emerges as a key moment. Rentola’s chapter covers “das tolle Jahr” (p.138), while Ruggenthaler emphasizes the importance of the military withdrawal of the Soviets from Austria (p.149).
The third part of the book deals with the role of the Soviet Union in the foreign policy of European neutrals. The qualifier “European” neutrals here is especially important, given that this part of the book in particular would have been markedly different, as well as more unwieldy, had the viewpoint been more global. The first chapter by Aryo Makko on Swedish foreign policy mirrors the view from the Soviet perspective and demonstrates that the tensions covered in the earlier parts of the book were both-sided. Next, Kari Möttölä shows that Finnish foreign policy was determined (even more so than Swedish foreign policy) by geographical location, in which Finland’s “Nordicity,” as Möttölä calls it, served as a stabilizing factor. Maximilian Graf continues the discussion with a view of Austria’s Ostpolitik after 1968. Graf returns to the idea of Austrian policy “myths” first taken up by Cede at the beginning of the book. In a coauthored chapter on Swiss foreign policy, Thomas Bürgisser, Sacha Zala, and Thomas Fischer close this part by offering a detailed periodization of the evolving Swiss-Soviet relationship, which manages to show an evolution in Swiss attitudes even while acknowledging that the resulting policy was very much a “yoyo affair.”
The fourth part offers a new set of countries by examining departures from the Eastern Bloc and turns toward neutrality on the part of Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Albania. Andrei Edemskii centers his chapter on Yugoslavia on the complicated process of rapprochement in the years immediately after Stalin’s death, culminating in the Belgrade Declaration of 1955 (and thus returning once more to that year as a pivotal global moment). Csaba Békés stays in the mid-1950s by covering the 1956 revolution and specifically the declaration of neutrality in November of that year. Finally, Robert Austin chronicles the evolution of Albania’s isolationist turn in the years between its break with the Soviet Union after Stalin and its break with China in the late 1970s. Nadia Boyadjieva picks up where Edemskii leaves off by examining Yugoslavia’s non-alignment policy in the decades after 1955. This chapter offers a great tie-in with global politics and shows not just the difference between neutrality and non alignment but also the different physical and mental geographies of the two. Tvrtko Jakovina closes this part with a final chapter on the last Cold War era Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Belgrade in 1989 and the breakup of Yugoslavia itself. This chapter offers a thoughtful continuation of the neutrality-nonalignment debate and how it was waged within the NAM generally and within Yugoslavia specifically.
Turning the tables, the fifth part of the book deals with other Western states’ perception of neutral-Soviet relations. Jussi Hahnimäki continues themes raised earlier in the book with a thorough view of the United States’ perception of Scandinavian neutrality. Günter Bischof tackles the perception of Austrian neutrality with a focus on the years after the withdrawal of occupation forces in 1955. Anne Deighton departs from the American perspective by turning to the United Kingdom and its closer physical proximity to the European neutrals. This chapter shows where the United States and the United Kingdom diverged and casts the latter’s policy as far more cautious. Nicolas Badalassi turns the lens on France and highlights the pragmatic awareness in Paris that total neutrality did not exist, that the neutrals were all dealing with historical and locational contingencies, and that, therefore, France would likewise adapt accordingly. Andreas Hilger shows how West German attitudes towards the neutrals were part of a complex high-stakes balancing act. In a second coauthored chapter, Milorad Lazic and Magnus Petersson take on “the flanks” by examining NATO’s relationship with the countries on the margin.
The concluding chapter by Mark Kramer brings together the main themes raised in the book. Crucially, it returns to the question of neutralism versus nonalignment. Kramer places it in a wider global context and acknowledges that nonalignment in Europe and nonalignment elsewhere were very different concepts. This chapter provides crucial context for the rest of the book, so much so that the reader is left wishing it had been offered earlier. This does point to a larger issue: global context cannot come from the conclusion alone. While the book is focused on the European neutrals, the countries covered did not operate in a purely European theater, nor were their foreign relations with the aligned world limited to interstate diplomacy. I am mindful of the fact that this book covers a lot of ground by uncovering the political and historical contingencies hidden behind the term “European neutral.” But the chapters in which the global does appear do help deepen the reader’s appreciation of the larger political landscape in which neutrality was navigated. Notable instances are Kronvall’s inclusion of the Vietnam War and Makko’s inclusion of the Congo Crisis. Crucially, Rainu-Niemi asserts that the 1955 Bandung Conference marked the “globalization of neutralist sentiments,” which went hand in hand with the globalization of the Cold War. Though this statement does elide concepts of neutralism already circulating in the decolonizing world, this chapter is an important one in the volume, as it acknowledges that the Soviet Union viewed nonalignment positively (even if selectively so) as a break away from imperialism. The United States, in the meantime, was slow to grasp the global uses of neutrality and their significance in the intersection of decolonization and Cold War.
In all, however, the book absolutely delivers on its promise to provide a polycentric perspective on neutrality in Cold War Europe. It is going to be the first book to which to point students and scholars who are seeking a comprehensive history of the concept. In that context, I would be remiss not to mention the stellar bibliography of further reading, which lists not just the most important works on the subject, but also takes seriously the different historiographies of neutrality across Europe, and offers a rare collection of key works regardless of the language in which they were published. This book is a very welcome intervention indeed.
Western Europe’s Democratic Age, 1945–1968. By Martin Conway. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020. 357 + xii.
Martin Conway’s most recent book focuses on one simple question: how did democracy become the dominant form of organizing politics and societies in Western Europe following World War II. Conway, who teaches contemporary European history at Oxford’s Balliol College, proffers no simple answers. As he emphatically argues, establishing and consolidating political democracy in postwar Europe was neither a simple nor a smooth process. The fact that representative democracy was sustained in the Western half of Cold War Europe is to be explained by a range of factors and, indeed, a variety of historical accidents. Perhaps the most innovative methodological and original theoretical points of the book is its focus on the contingencies of making democracy. Conway challenges the often smug presumptions about the organic and automatic genesis of democracy in Western Europe (and, by implication, in North America), which rest on an implied faith in an obvious road from Enlightenment ideas towards contemporary democratic societies and politics. Conway argues, instead, that the perilous position of democracy in the postwar period renders the concept more an exception to be explained than a natural process to be taken for granted. By doing so, he unfetters democracy from the clutches of theological thinking and makes it a historical event again.
The five chapters of the book contribute to this historicizing of democracy from several angles: by explaining the genesis of postwar democracy, its stabilization in the 1950s, the dynamics of its Christian Democratic and Socialist alternatives, its broad-ranging social and cultural appeal up until the late 1960s, and the attempts to reinvigorate the meaning and content of democracy in the 1960s. The book is based on an extensive secondary literature on France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux states. Conway also often adds complementary material from Scandinavia, the UK, and southern Europe. Albeit the comparative angle is not lost, instead of registering national differences, he focuses on what connected these countries. He expressly suggests a broader template for rethinking post-World War II European history and therefore uses national cases to discern general developments valid throughout Western Europe. This is, emphatically, a book about European history and not a comparative history of European politics. Thus, North America and Eastern Europe are also brought into the discussion when they provide eloquent contrasts with which to highlight the specificities of developments in post-World War II Western Europe.
In the first chapter, Conway underscores that the democratization of Western Europe was, in many ways, a consequence of the demise of central governments during the war. The serious lack of infrastructure and communication rendered the organization of food and fuel, first and foremost, the task of local communities. The book argues that these processes of localizing authority opened ways for communities to shape political power effectively. The democratization of Western Europe was also spurred by the forms of making politics that democracy embraced, which were in many ways continuous with prewar precedents. Despite the postwar rhetoric of radical change, such continuities helped attenuate political struggle and antagonism and, thus, encapsulated the widely shared desire to return to normalcy after the war, as Conway claims.
The book is emphatic in its insistence that political democracy in Western Europe was also the product of the Cold War. The ideologies of liberty, property, tradition, and Christianity, which postwar democratic elites advocated, were embedded in a broadly shared anti-communist consensus in Western Europe and North America. Democracy in this context appeared the bulwark of European civilization and nations against the threat of communism. In Western Europe in the 1950s, when many considered communism the dead end of popular participation based on the psychological manipulation of the masses, democracy could be seen a sustainable mode of responsible mass political participation. Nevertheless, as Conway highlights, democracy was not powerful and appealing simply as an antidote to totalitarianism. The democratic state in Western Europe in the 1950s and 1960s promised and also had the ability to give benefits to its citizens. The consolidation of postwar democracies was linked to the establishment of the welfare state: to the extension of social security systems, improvements in schooling, and growing investments in the public sector. Although Conway is not explicit about this, the extension of welfare systems was also part of the Cold War competition. In many ways, increasing maternity benefits or state education investments in Western Europe were responses to similar measures in socialist Eastern Europe. In addition to the material benefits, the institutions of representative democracy offered modes of participation in political decision making in ways completely absent from (and rejected by) the party-states of contemporary Eastern Europe. As Conway underscores, these factors shaped new forms of active citizenship, which helped the peoples of Western Europe perceive the democratic state as their own.
Conway concludes that the consolidation of democracy was linked to the growing power of the state. The democratic welfare state was based on the increasing ability of the institutions of the state to predict and plan processes and, thus, to shape and manage societies. These fresh capacities of the state, claims Conway, not only spurred state intervention into the lives of citizens, they also empowered the people to build pressure on the institutions of the state. The ways in which the elites rendered the wellbeing of citizens the responsibility of the democratic state prompted the citizenries of these states to put new social expectations on the state and opened up novel ways of exerting popular control over the state. Conway presents democracy as a serendipitous biproduct of the confluence of the political agendas of elites and the expectations of the societies they sought to govern.
Conway seems very much aware of the limits of postwar democracy. He points out that Western European democratic governments in the 1950s and 1960s were carefully structured and engineered towards the balance between the political elites and mass participation. As such, postwar democracy was biased in terms of class and gender. The Western European democratic states benefited the middle-classes the most and succeeded in quickly expanding the borders of these groups by offering new types of urban professions and jobs as well as paths of social mobility. At the same time, however, democratic governments also sustained and invigorated class identities and frontiers. Similarly, the enfranchisement of women made the Western European electorate predominantly female for the first time, though male dominance in public politics remained largely unchanged until the 1960s.
The book argues that conflicts and tensions concerning forms of participation created possibilities for a democratic critique of democracy. Conway makes an important point when he asserts that the growing voices of discontent at the beginning of the 1960s espoused the values of postwar democracy such as individual freedom, social justice, and political participation. Dissent was not a rejection of democracy, but it was an expression of doubt concerning the notion that the existing institutions of vertical political parties and representative government based on these parties were the most adequate means of achieving the goals of democratic societies. The modes of contesting democracy in the 1960s became debates concerning various visions and understandings of democratic practices and rights. These debates increasingly drew from global sources as anticolonial movements in the Global South challenged Western European notions of self-determination, human rights, and social justice.
Conway limits himself in this book to Cold War Western Europe, but his work has important implications for the study of post-World War II Eastern Europe, as well. The approach he adopts invites an exploration of the socialist dictatorships as the contingent outcome of a range of historical factors instead of the consequence of a Manichean struggle between advocates and enemies of democracy, ending with the victory, at least for a time, of the latter. Conway’s vigorous push to problematize some of the sacrosanct concepts of contemporary history makes it relevant to fields and contexts beyond postwar Western Europe. This aspect of the book makes it important reading for anyone who hopes to understand the recent history of Europe and beyond.
Research Center for the Humanities
1 Tamás Körmendi, “A Gertrúd királyné elleni merénylet körülményei” [The circumstances of the murder of Queen Gertrude]. In Egy történelmi gyilkosság margójára. Merániai Gertrúd emlékezete, 1213–2013. Tanulmánykötet, ed. Judit Majorossy. (Szentendre: Ferenczy Múzeum, 2014.) 95–124.
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