Faking the National Spirit: Spurious Historical Documents in the Service of the Hungarian National Movement in the Early Nineteenth Century
In 1828, two Latin historical documents were published in the German-language Viennese journal Archiv für Geschichte, Statistik, Literatur und Kunst. Both concerned the age of Prince Gabriel Bethlen. One was a supportive letter written by James I King of England addressed to Bethlen with references to the deep affinity between Hungary and Transylvania, promising financial help for Bethlen’s war against the Habsburgs. The other was a report on the meeting of the Viennese secret council, during which the decision was reached to resolve “the Hungarian-Transylvanian question” by killing the Hungarian-speaking adult population. My goal in this essay is to prove the spurious nature of these documents through a historical analysis and point out anachronistic elements that throw into question their authenticity. As is often the case with forged texts, these documents reveal more about their own age and the political-ideological agenda of the national movement of the early nineteenth century than of early seventeenth-century Transylvania. By examining how these documents ended up in the Austrian journal of Baron Joseph Hormayr, I offer an opportunity to reflect not only on the ways in which history was used for nationalist agendas, but also on the paradoxes of contemporary Austrian patriotism.
Keywords: nationalist historiography, patriotism, Joseph Hormayr, Gabriel Bethlen