Conflict, Bargaining and Kinship Networks in Medieval Eastern Europe. By Christian Raffensperger. New York–London: Lanham–Boulder, 2018. 223 pp.
Christian Raffensperger, a scholar who deals with the history of Kievan Rus’, is the author of several important monographs. Of these, Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ and the Medieval World (988–1146)  was met with considerable attention and, for the most part, was quite favorably received. Building on his earlier research, Raffensperger continues in his new book to deal with the eleventh century and the first half of the twelfth century. To some extent, however, the book diverges from his earlier work, as it offers a more comparative framework. The introduction (pp.1–12), which lays the theoretical groundwork, is followed by six chapters. The book also includes one map, 15 illustrations (sections of family trees), and 14 tables.
As noted above, the introduction provides the theoretical framework. One of Raffensperger’s essential goals is to avoid using terms which are not appropriate to medieval thinking but which nonetheless are often found in the secondary literature. These terms include, for instance, “state” and “nation.” He also seeks to avoid projecting modern state frameworks onto the past. As an example of the latter, Raffensperger mentions the imprecise use of the term “Medieval Russia” instead of Rus’. Raffensperger is undoubtedly right to insist on the precise use of terminology, but this problem is perhaps less of an issue in the more recent secondary literature than it might have been in the past, and Raffensperger offers no concrete examples of imprecise use. The notion that familial networks do not constitute political borders is also not a remarkably new insight. This question has been discussed several times in the context of dynastic ties. What might be worthy of further study is the family networks of the elites who surrounded the ruler. Regarding the spatial and temporal framework of the inquiry, Raffensperger enters into a debate with Nora Berend, Przemysław Urbańczyk, and Przemysław Wiszewski (the authors of Central Europe in the High Middle Ages) and Florin Curta. In the case of the first, he objects to the use of the term Central Europe, and in the case of Curta, he objects to the use of the term East Central Europe. Instead, he suggests simply using the term Eastern Europe to refer to the whole region. In my assessment, this is regrettable. Raffensperger fails to see important differences within the region, differences which existed even if they are difficult (though not impossible) to discern in dynastic relationships. “One goal of this work,” he explains, “is to demonstrate that the same ideas about kinship, identity, and conflict that are widely discussed, or already assumed, for western Europe, are also true for eastern Europe.” (p.3.) This statement demands substantiation. The temporal framework of the monograph is the beginning of the eleventh century and the middle of the twelfth. Raffensperger explains this decision with the observation that by the end of the tenth century, the entire region had become Christian. This is true, but there were significant differences within the region as it embarked down the path from the ritual of baptism to the embrace of the Christian mentality. One might think, for instance, of the development of the institution of the Church or the emergence of cults of saints. Raffensperger chose the middle of the twelfth century as the moment at which to conclude his inquiry because it was then that Poland and Rus’ were both disunited. This very observation calls into question Raffensperger’s earlier contention according to which the entire region of “Eastern Europe” can be treated as a unified bloc of sorts. In the case of Poland and Rus’, he identifies a “change in the political centralization of the polity.” In the case of the territory of Poland, this is correct. In the case of Hungary, it is not. In the case of Rus’, the mid-twelfth century was not the temporal border.
Raffensperger offers the following definitions of the terms family, clan, and kin: “With clan defined as the larger unit, family, without the adjective royal, can then be used for smaller groupings of kin comprising nuclear families”; “families could die out or grow into the clans of their own” (p.6); “In addition to family and clan, this work often discusses kin, kindreds, and kinship webs” (p.6). The introduction contains a subchapter entitled “Overview of chapters,” which gives the reader a short description of the individual chapters. The first chapter addresses the meaning of the term “conflict” in terms of its relevance to all of Europe: “‘conflict’ more than ‘feud’ or ‘civil war’ accurately expresses the range of activities, actions, and responses that occur in medieval sources” (p.7). In the second chapter, Raffensperger examines the development of the relationships between Vladimir’s descendants from the perspective of his contention that “conflict is a means of bargaining within the larger hierarchy” (p.7). The third chapter examines conflicts within the Rus’. The fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters consist of case studies.
The first chapter, entitled “The Nature of Conflict,” addresses questions concerning terminology like “civil war” and “feud.” The source in every instance is Povest’vremannykh let (PVL). The second chapter (“Conflict as Bargaining”) examines conflicts which arose in Kievan Rus’ among Vladimir’s descendants. As Raffensperger notes in his introduction, there is “a growing consensus for the understanding that conflict within the Volodimerovichi was a way of bargaining for a better position, political, territorial, or otherwise” (p.7). According to Simon Franklin, one basic question concerns the lack of regulation of Kiev’s rule. With regards to this, Raffensperger identifies two distinct groups: the “main line” and the circle which fell from power (izgoi). One of the types of conflicts concerned the acceptance of precedence or the struggle to avoid ending up excluded from power. The other concerned rivalries within the group identified by Raffensperger as the “main line.” Raffensperger again relies on the PVL as his source. The third chapter, entitled “Everyone Goes Home Alone,” focuses on the conflicts surrounding succession to the throne in 1015–1110 and again is based on the PVL. Raffensperger presents the data concerning the individuals involved in a table. Of the 14 tables in the book, nine are found in this chapter. This indicates that Raffensperger thoroughly studied the source.
In the fourth chapter, “The Kinship Web in Theory and Practice,” Raffensperger puts his discussion within a larger context, and he refers to Byzantine, Polish, and Hungarian examples. With a focus on the 1140s, he sketches partial family trees through marital ties to the neighboring ruling dynasties. Half of the illustrations of family trees were made for this chapter. In his assembly of the web of family relationships (which is based on the ascertainments of G. Althoff), Raffensperger gives an important role to the female branch of the family network and the ties between mothers and wives. He notes three emblematic examples: the relationship between Władysław II and Bolesław IV, the events which took place in Galich (Halych) in 1144, and the figures of the battles which took place around Kiev in 1146. In the case of the latter two, members of the Hungarian royal family are also mentioned. Raffensperger is careful to avoid using the expression dynasty, but he also avoids using the names Piast (the Polish Piast dynasty) and Rurik (the ruling dynasty of Kievan Rus after 882). Instead, he uses the names “Mieszkowice” and “Volodimerovichi,” which refer to the princes who embraced Christianity, for the families. When referring to the Árpád family, he uses “Árpáds,” which is not ideal since this name was not in use at all in the Middle Ages. True, had he sought other solutions, he would have found himself confronted with the difference expressed by the phrase “Kindred of the Holy Kings.” Since in the case of the “Mieszkowice” and “Vladimirovichi” there is no similar concept, it would immediately have become apparent that the use of the single term “Eastern Europe” to refer to the entire region is misleading.
In the fifth chapter (“Iaroslav Sviatopolchich’s Kinship Web in Action”), the focus again switches back to the study of Rus’ on the basis of the PVL, which Raffensperger knows thoroughly. The sixth chapter (“Géza II in the Center of a European Kinship Web”) deals very specifically with the kinship ties of the Hungarian ruling family. The choice of this particular period is clearly not merely matter of happenstance. Several scholars have already thoroughly mapped the European political scene of the mid-twelfth century. Raffensperger has made use of the works of Ferenc Makk, but neither Ostrogorsky nor Vasilievsky is mentioned in the bibliography, though as scholars of Byzantine history they were the first to study the network of relationships.
In general, given the complexity of the topic he has tackled, Raffensperger has made use of only a narrow slice of the secondary literature. Regarding the general precepts, he has failed to consult decisive works by authors like Johannes Fried and Christian Lübke or the Polish scholars Andrzej Poppe, Bronisław Włodarski, and Dariusz Dąbrowski. There are only a few references to works by Hungarian scholars, though Raffensperger devotes a significant section of his book to figures prominent in Hungary history. One of the basic problems is that for the most part Raffensperger relies on works which were published in English, including in the case of primary sources. Of the 34 primary sources mentioned in the bibliography, only eight are in the original languages (23.4%). Of the 122 secondary literature sources listed, only 19 are in languages other than English (15%). The works by Nora Berend, Przemysław Urbańczyk, and Przemysław Wiszewski would have been indispensable to this study. In the case of Hungarian history, Raffensperger does not even use the scholarship available in English, for instance the books by Zoltán J. Kosztolnyik and the many works I myself have written on the subject, which would have been directly pertinent to Raffensperger’s narrative (for instance Coloman the Learned, King of Hungary ; “Emperor Manuel Comnenos and the Hungarian Kingdom,” in Byzantina et Slavica Cracoviensia V ; and in German Im Spannungsfeld der christlichen Grossmächte ). Raffensperger does not seem to realize that Mór Wertner’s genealogy contains contentions which have since been refuted. For instance, the date that Wertner gives for the death of King Coloman’s first wife is incorrect, as is the name (Makk has corrected these mistakes). Raffensperger sometimes draws on Makk’s work and gives the correct date of Coloman’s death, 1116 (p.138), but sometimes he gives the incorrect date, 1114 (p.170). According to Wertner, her name was “Busilla,” but we now know that in the local dialect, this word was not a proper name. It was a noun which meant “virgin girl.” Raffensperger’s narrative contains numerous mistakes with regards to Hungarian history. Beloš, for instance, did not declare himself palatine (and banus), as Raffensperger contends (drawing on Fine’s work, which is hardly the most recent on the subject; p.133, footnote 41). Beloš rose to an important role under Béla II, and presumably he also served as palatine at this time, even if we do not know the precise date when he was named to this position. Raffensperger also espouses the view of the outdated secondary literature according to which the wife of Volodimerko of Galich (Halych) was a relative of Béla II, of which there is no evidence.
In summary, if Christian Raffensperger’s goal was, as he himself states, “to present a new way of looking at eastern European political history, through the lens of conflict among and between kin” (p.6), then he has succeeded in part. The chapters which are based on his earlier research and which deal with the Kievan Rus’ (and in particular the chapters which are based on the PVL as their major source) are the strongest sections of this work. Raffensperger’s handling of sources in other chapters does not reach the same depth, and it is worth noting that he does not cite the Kievan Chronicle with adequate precision. He notes only the dates, but does not give page numbers or column numbers. He unquestionably merits praise for having presented the important role of the women’s branches of families in family relationships and the hierarchical nature of the family network. The subject nonetheless deserves more thorough treatment.
University of Pécs
Die Textilien des Hanseraums: Produktion und Distribution einer spätmittelalterlichen Fernhandelsware. By Angela Huang. Cologne–Weimar–Vienna: Böhlau, 2015. 311 pp.
The present book has been waiting in the wings for a long since the publication of the first samples of the author’s research in Hansische Geschichtsblätter (with Ulla Kypta: Ein neues Haus auf altem Fundament: Neue Trends in der Hanseforschung und die Nutzbarkeit der Rezesseditionen ; with Carsten Jahnke: Bermudadreieck Nordsee: Drei Hamburger Schiffe auf dem Weg nach London ; Hanseatic Textile Production in 15th century Long Distance Trade, in Textiles and the Medieval Economy ). The book is a slightly modified version of Angela Huang’s PhD Thesis, which she defended at the University of Copenhagen in 2013. It builds first and foremost on a study of the London Custom documents compiled between 1384 and 1503. The core of the research consists of two types of custom lists containing detailed information on various textile fabrics imported to London: the “Tunnage & Pondage” and the “Petty Custom” files. Huang also carried out exhaustive archival research in Lübeck, Osnabrück, Braunschweig, Hannover, and Salzwedel, and her narrative offers a vivid and very engaging overview of the subject.
The importance of the work lies in two essential features. One is the focus on the cheaper textiles, primarily the textiles from Northern German regions (e.g. Westphalia, Prussia). The novelty of this approach is that earlier studies concentrated predominantly on the more expensive and thus better-documented fabrics, namely Flemish and English cloth. The other innovation is that Huang was able to identify and draw important distinctions among particular Westphalian and Saxon textile production cities and their considerable role in the Hanseatic economy.
The significant place of Western German cloth production in the European textile industry has been well known and widely accepted in earlier studies, but the presence of a highly differentiated, regulated, and controlled linen industry in the same region with strong exports to London is something that has been less obvious. Perhaps only the high-quality Cologne linens were in sufficiently widespread use to have been identified and studied in the secondary literature. According to the source material on which Huang draws, the textiles from Münster, Osnabrück, Herford, and Göttingen were transported via Cologne and sold in London, whereas textiles from Salzwedel, Hannover, and Braunschweig made it first via Lüneburg to Hamburg and then were shipped to London, probably via Amsterdam or Middelburg.
Another part of the book deals with the trade in the woollen cloth of the Hanseatic League, predominantly from Prussia and Saxony. Although these regions primarily produced cheaper and lower-quality fabrics, the Hansa-network enabled them to distribute them on a wider scale in various parts of Europe. Their simultaneous presence with the cloth fabrics from the Low Countries and England made it possible for Huang to compare their values and changes in prices over the decades.
From the Hungarian point of view, the relevance of this book is not so self-evident. Most of the Hungarian sources regarding medieval textile imports have been thoroughly evaluated and were published in the last century by György Székely and Walter Endrei, with only slight additions made by Slovak and Romanian historians. Hungarian historians did not continue to focus on this topic, however, and they have only recently begun discovering and studying new types of sources, which provide a great deal of unexpected data which have changed their attitudes. A new prompting in this research in Hungary was given by the appearance of new data, like cloth seals and the publication of archival materials, similar to Huang’s book.
The recent development of research currently underway in Hungary concerning the local textile trade (predominantly imports) has led to increased interest in the history of the textile trade in Central and Eastern European regions overall, especially regarding contacts with the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. For Hungarian scholars, Angela Huang’s volume provides several useful pieces of information. Perhaps the most significant collection of data is compiled in the almost thirty tables in the appendices of the book. These data concern the prices of particular fabrics from specified production centers in different periods. Some of the fabrics were definitely traded in medieval Hungary too, and thus their sales and value can be compared. This concerns primarily cities like Cologne and Ulm, but several towns in the Low Countries (Tournai, Arras, and Ypres) are also of particular interest for Hungarian scholarship. Similarly, the terminology and detailed descriptions of the fabrics, which are based on the contemporary sources and preserved textile samples, are of exceptional importance to the interpretation (or reevaluation) of the Late Medieval Hungarian written sources.
Huang’s book is a well-structured volume with a rich bibliography, and it will be useful as a foundation for further research. The book also has a 15-page long index, which includes geographical and personal names and also different fabrics (e.g. boykott, leinwand, kanfas, wolltuch). This monograph is a very important contribution to a worldwide history of textile production and trade, useful for scholars dealing with this branch of economic history.
Eötvös Loránd University
Utcák, szavak, emberek: A városi tér és használata Párizsban a középkor és a kora újkor határán [Streets, words, people: The urban space and its use in Paris at the boundary of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period]. By Veronika Novák. Budapest: ELTE Eötvös Kiadó, 2018. 256 pp.
Paris, as the classic example of a medieval metropolis, has attracted the attention of historians not only in the France but also in Central Europe. Bronisław Geremek’s study on the people on the social margins of medieval Paris, for instance, offers a clear example of this fascination. Veronika Novák, the author of the book under review, also studied medieval Paris at the beginning of her academic career. Inspired in part by Ilona Sz. Jónás, who dedicated much of her work to medieval Paris (focusing mostly on the merchants and laborers in the city), in the late 1990s, Novák studied the social history of late medieval Paris. She wrote her dissertation on the spread of news in late medieval Paris (published in Hungarian Hírek – hatalom – társadalom: Információáramlás Párizsban a középkor végén [News – power – society. Information spread in Paris at the end of the Middle Ages], published in 2007). The ways news circulated among Parisians had important spatial aspects. Hence, to a large extent her new book can be regarded as a continuation of the previous work.
When thinking of representing the space of a town in the twenty-first century, most people probably think of maps, either printed or, more and more frequently, digital. When getting from A to B, people increasingly rely on cell phones and their GPS applications. When working with these tools, the representation of space may seem rather objective. However, space as used by people is not objective, and, moreover, it is not the same for the different actors who use it. The way we walk around in a city changes our own ideas of its spaces, and this was true in earlier times too. Novák’s book looks at the ways the different constituents of medieval Parisian society used and thought about the space of the town.
The book offers a theoretical introduction and a discussion of the source material used and then moves into a discussion of the various aspects of the medieval and Early Modern practices of the space in Paris in three main parts, which form the three main chapters of the work. The first and longest part looks at the ways in which the urban space of Paris was divided into parts from different perspectives in the fifteenth–seventeenth centuries. The second, probably most consistent part looks at the spaces of power, i.e., how the different actors in power, both lay and ecclesiastic, used the streets of Paris. The third part discusses everyday practices of using the urban space of the city. In dealing with the different aspects of the use of space, Novák uses many kinds of sources, both archival and printed. The most important sources include chronicles, diaries, and sources rather specific to some towns or regions of Europe, such as street lists or letters of pardon. The ways in which Novák uses the latter group of source in dealing with the ways space was used by the people of Paris are probably the most innovative elements of the book.
The first main chapter of the book (pp.46–138) looks at the ways in which the actors in the city created their own understandings of its space and their own vocabularies which they used in explanations of the streets, neighborhoods, quarters, etc. Of the number of case studies, the subchapter that deals with the assassination of Louis I, Duke of Orléans and younger brother of King Charles VI, in the streets of Paris in 1407 is indicative of the way in which space was conceived by the people of Paris. The details of the act as we know it on the basis of the interrogations of witnesses analyzed by Novák clearly demonstrate the extent to which a point in space, such the crossroads where the murder took place, can be perceived differently by the different people involved. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the book. The crime scene is explained in detail, like in a crime story. The whole chapter convincingly demonstrates that none of the notions used by modern scholarship to explain towns or their parts are rigid or self-evident categories. They are flexible for the people of late medieval and early modern Paris and change not only over time but also according to the different needs and preferences of the actors.
This second conclusion leads to the next part (pp.139–95), which deals with the use of space in practicing and representing power. The three events discussed are processions, proclamations of royal laws and decrees, and executions. This is the section in which, as noted above, the case studies are the most systematically tied together and the temporal scope of the book most clearly shows its benefits. In the case of each of these events, systematic and important changes took place with the Reformation on the one hand and the change in the nature of royal power on the other. This all led to a transformation of the spaces used in processions and, more importantly, to a shift in the way in which royal power was demonstrated with the proclamation of laws and the holding of public executions.
The third (and shortest) chapter of the book (pp.196–221) touches upon two related aspects of everyday life in Paris, crime and nights, of course again with a focus on their spatial aspects. The title of this chapter is slightly misleading, as the main source on which it is based, royal letters of pardon, can be used effectively as the foundation for a discussion of the ways in which criminals used Paris (as the book demonstrates), but they shed little light on dozens of other aspects of the spatial practices in everyday life. Nonetheless, the chapter clearly argues how space was experienced differently by someone migrating to work, someone going out to have fun, or someone committing a crime.
All in all, Novák’s book constitutes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the social history of medieval Paris. The vocabulary is consistent and easily understandable, which makes the book an enjoyable read even for non-specialists. When reading the book, one has the feeling that the author (unlike many of the contemporary citizens of Paris at the time) would have been able to navigate the crowded streets of medieval Paris easily. This is not such a simple task for the reader at times, however, so here and there, more detailed maps could have added to the reasoning in the different sections, and even the maps which were included are sometimes difficult to understand. As it was written in Hungarian, for the moment, the book is available only to a very small group of scholars interested in the social history of medieval Paris. However, it could also be read as a handbook which offers a methodology to the study of medieval and early modern practices of space. The book makes note of a number of Central European parallels in the use of urban spaces, which scholars of the region hopefully will study in further detail. Even if scholars who read Hungarian will make good use of the book, it would clearly be advantageous to have it translated into French (or English) in order to ensure that it reaches the audience for whom it is of primary importance. Hopefully, this will happen in the near future.
Eötvös Loránd University / Central European University
Batthyány Boldizsár titkos tudománya: Alkímia, botanika és könyvgyűjtés a tizenhatodik századi Magyarországon [Bolidzsár Batthyány’s secret science: Alchemy, botany, and book bollecting in sixteenth-century Hungary]. By Dóra Bobory. Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2018. 322 pp.
Boldizsár Batthyány is one of the most intriguing figures in the intellectual history of sixteenth-century Hungary. A highly educated patron of the sciences and arts, he imported a great many fruits of contemporary European culture to Hungary to his courts at Szalónak (Schlaining, Austria) and Németújvár (Güssing), all this in a time of war in Hungarian history. Despite his significance, relatively few scholars have studied his life and work in the twentieth century, and those who did for the most part wrote summaries about his life and courtly culture, of which only some aspects have been explored in depth (like cooperation between Batthyány and Carolus Clusius and the bookish culture). Dóra Bobory’s monograph provides what is for the moment the most detailed account of Batthyány’s life and the branches of natural philosophy which interested him and the people in his milieu. The predecessor to this book is a monograph by Bobory entitled The Sword and the Crucible (2009), which is based on her dissertation. However, Bobory not only translated the English monograph into Hungarian, she also extended and developed it further, incorporating new letters and editions of correspondence, as well as insights based on recent international secondary literature. The monograph is the seventh piece in the series “Microhistory,” launched by L’Harmattan Publishing House, and the first part of the prologue is devoted to a discussion of the benefits of microhistoriography as a method. Indeed, the sources do allow the exploration of several milieus within Batthyány’s world which mirror relevant macro phenomena of Hungarian and European cultural history. Furthermore, Bobory outlines the historical vicissitudes and the present state of the group of sources on which she drew (Batthyány’s private correspondence, mostly in the National Archives of Hungary). I must note here that there are other documents related to Batthyány’s court which could provide further data on the topic.
Both the title of the first chapter (“Imprints of a Life”), which is essentially biographical, and its first paragraph emphasize that the sources allow only a fragmentary reconstruction of Batthyány’s life. Nonetheless, a large part of the first chapter, which surveys Batthyány’s childhood and youth until he became a magnate in 1570, provides a relatively detailed and colorful story. As for his studies, several preceptors of different nationalities taught Batthyány (who stayed mostly at the Németújvár court of his great-uncle, Ferenc Batthyány, ban of Croatia and Slavonia). He then continued his studies in Vienna. His most important and, for a member of the contemporary Hungarian aristocracy, unique experience was his journey to France (1559–61), where he was involved with the milieus of the royal court and the multinational intellectual life of Paris, which brought him into contact with the intensifying religious conflicts. The blank spaces of the biography have been aptly covered by digressions concerning Batthyány’s time and milieu, such as the book merchant Jean Aubry’s impact on the interests of aristocrats or contemporary dressing customs. There are, however, some data or conjectures that are not supported by references (e.g. that he probably served at the Viennese court after returning from France, p.55). However, a greater problem lies in the fact that two of the important years in the history of Batthyány’s life, 1542 as the “probable” year of his birth and 1573 as the year in which his son, Ferenc, was born, are both highly questionable in light of information available in a genealogy by András Koltai entitled Batthyány Ádám: Egy magyar főúr udvara a XVII. század közepén (2012). The other part of the chapter does not proceed in a chronological order, but rather offers an overview of the major aspects of Batthyány’s adult life: the traces of his attraction to Protestantism, his distanced and contradictory relationship to the Habsburg court, and his military engagements against the Turks. Little attention is given to other considerations, e.g. his activity as a landlord and his relationships with the foreign, especially Austrian, aristocracy, although related letters survive in abundance. Naturally, one could hardly have expected Bobory to include all non-cultural aspects in one chapter, and this would have required considerable additional research, but it would have been preferable had she indicated that there are sources which make possible further research on other fields of Batthyány’s adult life. In sum, the biographical chapter complements our knowledge at many points (concerning mainly Batthyány’s youth), and this rich outline provides details concerning several aspects (Batthyány’s language skills, his foreign relations, etc.) which constitute useful background information for the following chapters on culture.
In chapter Two, Bobory discusses Batthyány’s library with particular consideration of his known books on natural philosophy (enumerated item by item in the Appendix). She embeds the aristocrat’s book collecting activity in the Hungarian (and partly in the international) context of bookish culture and also offers an overview of the development of the immense library, the uses of books, the potential manuscripts, and the future fate of the library. A problematic point in the otherwise well-rounded summary is the classification of books. In addition to works by the “classical authors,” the library did in fact include a number of grammatical and rhetorical works written or edited by humanists. Cosmography and geography are not mentioned, although they are at least as important in the library as, for instance, astronomy/astrology (into the category of which the philosophical didactic poem Zodiacus vitae, classified as a “horoscope” by Bobory, cannot be put). Bobory impressively surveys the many branches of alchemy (related to medicine, among other sciences) and their presence in the library. She offers more than an overview of groups of books. A panorama opens up on contemporary European alchemy and its bookish culture. The same applies to the focused discussion of Paracelsianism. Bobory’s narrative of the summaries on Paracelsus, his relationship to Hungary, and the spread of his ideas is informative and broadly supported by the international secondary literature. One significant observation made in the book is that, alongside the Paracelsians, their adversaries are almost as well represented in the library. The library being a cross-section of contemporary culture, the whole issue is highly important and requires further research. In a recent study (“Adalékok Batthyány [III.] Boldizsár könyvtárához,” Magyar Könyvszemle ), I discuss the topic from these perspectives, and I call attention to several other minor topics represented in the library.
Chapter Three focuses on the actual practice of alchemy and medicine. In these fields, Batthyány cooperated with several humanists/naturalists, primarily the poet and alchemist Elias Corvinus, the Styrian aristocrat Felician von Herberstein, and the physicians Nicolaus Pistalotius and Johannes Homelius. Bobory refers to them as the members of an informal circle around Batthyány, although it is in fact questionable to what extent the complicated network of relationships should be considered a “circle.” Pistalotius, for instance, stands somewhat apart, while there were others around Batthyány who dealt with alchemy, such as the Styrian nobleman Balthasar Wagner. This discussion is followed by a colorful overview of several topics related to natural philosophy based on correspondence. The Batthyány family founded a mining company and dealt with mint owners, mine inspectors, and even alchemist adventurers. As for medicine, diagnoses and prescriptions were often given in letters or in the course of lay consultations as a substitute for consultations with professionals due to the general lack of physicians. Furthermore, both traditional and exotic or innovative methods were used. The subchapter on alchemy surveys the circumstances and conditions of Batthyány’s alchemical activity rather than the activity itself (the laboratory, the instruments, the acquisition of raw materials, his assistants and books, and an enumeration of the main procedures and two uncontextualized examples for experiments written down in letters). The correspondence includes several prescriptions and descriptions of experiments, along with contemplations about nature and its elements. In the future, it would be worthwhile to make use of this rich alchemical source material in depth, although this difficult task would be better entrusted to a research group than a single scholar.
Batthyány also patronized Carolus Clusius, Europe’s most famous contemporary botanist. Their cooperation enriched Batthyány’s garden, and the study of the plants and mushrooms of Pannonia resulted in pioneering botanical works. Chapter Four completes at some points what was already known about their cooperation. Bobory incorporates some additional letters into her research, and she provides new data and conjectures concerning both the intellectual historical context and Clusius’s activity itself. The most important result is perhaps the gathering of Batthyány’s demonstrable garden plants. Chapter Five touches on some further aspects of the culture of his court, including the images painted after his death (which were symbolic expressions of his interests and prestige), his relationship with his friends and clients, and the main characteristics of his court. Finally, the epilogue summarizes the extent to which Batthyány, as a collector and “prince–practitioner,” represented the newest Central European cultural trends.
I would be remiss not to observe that the translation of the Latin, German, and French letters is questionable at several points. Most of the quotations I checked at random contain one or more significant errors in translation (here I can only refer with the footnote numbers to some examples: 347, 654, 724, 734, 760, 811, 926, 931), and sometimes the summaries of parts of the letters suggest misunderstandings of the text (e.g. 837, 840, 904, 925, 931). For instance, the “unknown painter” on whom one of the subchapters focuses did not have to complete the work in Batthyány’s castle “in 8–10 days,” but rather had 8–10 days in Vienna (931). (There are also mistaken references to letters, but these mistakes probably are just slips of the pen.) It would have been preferable to have attached the transcriptions of the original texts at least to all the literal quotations (even if a partial edition of the correspondence is to be published soon), so that the reader would be able to check whether the translation and transcription are correct; this would not have significantly enlarged the book. These mistakes are regrettable, since the monograph in general provides a vivid and multifaceted presentation of Boldizsár Batthyány and the natural philosophical aspects of his courtly culture. It adds significantly to the existing secondary literature and offers a rich discussion of the relevant issues in an international context. Bobory’s style is also enjoyable, and both scholars and lay readers can benefit from the work, which demonstrates the zeal and excitement with which she pursued her research. The design of the book is also attractive. It includes eighteen color plates which conjure the atmosphere of Batthyány’s age and culture.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences–Eötvös Loránd University
Practices of Diplomacy in the Early Modern World c. 1410–1800. Edited by Tracey A. Sowerby and Jan Hennings. New York: Routledge, 2017. 306 pp.
This book, edited by cultural historian of Tudor diplomacy Tracey Sowerby (Keble College, Oxford) and Russo-European diplomatic historian Jan Hennings (Central European University), seeks to bring together a range of scholars and reflect the ongoing reassessment of diplomatic agency and practice in the early modern period. Divided into three broad thematic sections (“Status and sovereignty beyond the state,” “Familiarity, entertainment, and the roles of diplomatic actors,” and “Objects and beasts”), it collects the latest scholarship within what has become known as “New Diplomatic History.” The book seems in part the result of a conscious effort to overcome the development of various “national traditions” in this emergent field. In other words, the book adopts a more actor-centric approach to scholarship, allowing for all the complexities and contradictions of the early modern diplomatic experience, as opposed to a “state-centric” model, which tends towards a teleological acceptance of the unrelenting, uniform development towards modernity during this period. As such, the book positions itself on the cutting-edge of the evolving New Diplomatic History, with an ambition to become “essential reading for all students of diplomatic history.”
The volume is an ambitious endeavor, to say the least, but bolstered by a sensible thematic progression which neatly draws the contours of the current historiographical landscape into focus, it broadly achieves its aim of providing an overview of the latest scholarship, relevant to students and researchers in the field alike. This is not to say that the reach of the volume does not occasionally exceed its grasp. Its bold aim to tackle the “Eurocentric heritage” of canonical scholarship on diplomacy lies, rightly, at the heart of New Diplomatic History. However, reflective of a broader shortcoming of the field, the discussion of “Diplomacy in the Early Modern World” is only pushed as far as India in two chapters, both studied through the lens of the Dutch East India Company rather than through the study of interactions independent of Europeans. This apparent weakness could have been wholly rectified by replacing “world” with “Europe” in the title, since the content remains rooted in the study of Early Modern Europe. Furthermore, at this stage it seems something of a straw man to constantly use Garrett Mattingly and the historiographical canon of the 1950s and 1960s as a repeated oppositional reference point, though this again points to broader issues within New Diplomatic History as a field rather than a flaw inherent to the book itself. Overall, as a representative of the field of New Diplomatic History in 2017, the volume is a great success.
What strikes the reader most clearly throughout the volume is the overlap of cultural systems, norms, and networks in most if not all the cases studied. Duncan Hardy’s chapter on Burgundian clients within the Holy Roman Empire sets the tone beautifully from the outset, questioning how we may (or may not) differentiate between expressions of international diplomacy and/or local political culture within composite, dynastic polities, which frustrate traditional definitions of sovereignty on each strand of their vast networks. The theme of sovereignty (on the national, “regional,” and personal levels) comes through strongly in the opening section, with Gábor Kármán and Lovro Kunčević contributing illuminating chapters on the questions and contradictions thrown up by tributaries and indeed frontier provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Kármán’s chapter mirrors some of the work of Ottoman diplomatic historian Dariusz Kołodziejczyk.
The second section of the book turns to the more hardcore “cultural turn” approach to diplomatic history, discussing decoration and ceremony, how the beginnings of opera were intimately connected to diplomacy, females in diplomacy, merchants in diplomacy, and trans-imperial tendencies in eighteenth-century Vienna. It is with Florian Kühnel’s discussion of women that this section really takes off, offering real insight into the social history of an early modern embassy. Though Kühnel’s characterization of the Ottoman harem is somewhat problematic, the chapter clearly demonstrates the multifaceted roles played by ambassadresses in varying European contexts. Similarly, Guido van Meersbergen does much of the volume’s anti-Eurocentrism heavy-lifting by situating the Dutch East India Company as flexible merchant-diplomats and domestic players in an “Indian Ocean World.” Van Meersbergen contrasts their status and concerns with those of royal ambassadors and envoys, and he deconstructs the idea of cultural incommensurability in the process. David Do Paço similarly interrogates constructs of commensurability in his article on Ottoman diplomatic missions to eighteenth-century Vienna.
The latter part of the volume deals with gift exchange. In Felicity Heal’s case, this means sending a flock of geese in return for thirty ostriches and various cautions on the expensive inutility of elephants. These chapters largely expound the same theme: gift exchange as an important ceremony of premodern diplomacy, but never a sufficient substitute for a constructive exchange of words. There have been many studies of gift-giving, but this collection still provides new insights. Germán Gamero Igea shows how gifts which were used to manage domestic and international politics in Aragon-Castile elided internal tensions in a complicated multiple monarchy. In the case of the Dutch East India Company, gifting symbolized the sovereign authority of the company within its Asian theatre of operations. Frank Birkenholz shows that their gifting choices demonstrated their Asian trade network and their familiarity with Safavid and Mughal practices. Jan Hennings’ observations on practical gift-giving by trading companies as an illustration of their economic value are equally astute. Christian Windler’s afterword then serves to distil perfectly the state of the art and tie up the book’s themes.
Even to insiders, New Diplomatic History can appear to be a somewhat nebulous, ill-defined field. To the less charitable, it may resemble a group of historians distracted by what hats people wore to talks rather than the outcome of the discussion. If there is one area in which this volume particularly excels, it is in bringing to the fore the breadth and vitality of current scholarship on early modern diplomacy by scholars who, much like actors on the diplomatic scene in early modern Rome or Istanbul, hail from of a variety of backgrounds and nationalities. It will undoubtedly become “essential reading for all students of diplomatic history,” if it has not done so already.
University of Oxford
Papok, polgárok, konvertiták: Katolikus megújulás az egri egyházmegyében (1670–1699) [Priests, burghers, converts: Catholic renewal in the Diocese of Eger, 1670–1699]. By Béla Vilmos Mihalik. Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2017. 384 pp.
In a discussion of the spread of the influence of the Catholic Church in his synthesis on the cultural history of eighteenth-century Hungary, Domokos Kosáry pertinently remarked that we can only gain a clear image of the Catholic Church’s renewal in Hungary “if we put it together piece by piece, relying on the local sources of each diocese.” Béla Mihalik’s recent monograph fulfills this requirement. The book, which focuses on the Diocese of Eger, is a remarkable undertaking in many respects, and it constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of the (social) history of the Catholic church.
In this review, I wish to highlight three segments of the monograph. First and foremost, I would mention the sources used by the Mihalik. Mihalik deserves praise for having explored the materials held in the most important collections in Rome, Vienna, Budapest, and Esztergom. Furthermore, he did so in a systematic and consistent manner. He also delved into the local sources in Heves County (where the Diocese of Eger is found) and sources on the Catholic and Reformed Churches. As is appropriate in a study of the time period in question, he analyzed the secular and ecclesiastical sources side by side. This abundance of sources enabled him to explore his subject from a multifaceted view and create a sophisticated synthesis, in which the objectives of the Church and secular organs of power are presented simultaneously, as are local and individual interests. In the course of his research, Mihalik recognized the inner logic and dynamics of the institutions he was examining, as a result of which he was able to reveal certain aspects concerning the subjectivity and objectivity of his sources.
It is also important to note that Mihalik duly embeds his findings into a greater framework. We can distinguish two levels of contextualization. First, Mihalik strives to interpret the events and processes which took place in the Diocese of Eger in the framework of the Catholic renewal in Hungary and the Habsburg Monarchy. He reflects astutely on the findings of earlier scholarly literature and incorporates the newest insights on the history of dioceses in Hungary into his argument. Second, he adapts the methodological approaches and abstraction methods in the international secondary literature to his inquiry rather well. The theoretical framework is not there for its own sake. Rather, it is used by Mihalik astutely and successfully, as a result of which we are given a coherent image of the confessionalizing tendencies in northeastern Hungary, and also new perspectives are offered from which to consider the topic.
Furthermore, I must highlight the cases Mihalik uses to support his argumentation. It is characteristic of the whole book that its author brings the underlying aspects of his subject closer to the readers by drawing on relevant examples and case studies. Moreover, by relying on the micro-analysis of the three centers of the diocese (Kassa [today Košice, Slovakia], Nagybánya [today Baia Mare, Romania], and Eger), each of which had a heterogenous society and source basis, Mihalik is able to model and offer a comparative analysis of the complex and distinctive processes of Catholicization. He presents a sphere of action in which the Habsburg court, the Chamber of Szepes, the military, the diocese, the county, the magistrate, and the local society requested and were given a part in certain procedures, though each represented different ideas and viewpoints with varying levels of intensity. Furthermore, Mihalik presents the means and methods (for example, teaching, feasts, indulgences, the management of marriages and divorces, influencing the composition of the magistrates, etc.) through which it was possible for the Church to the Catholicize the society of the town.
Mihalik examines the participation and interaction of the different levels of secular and ecclesiastical authorities in the process of Catholic renewal, and he analyzes them from a multidirectional perspective. He puts great emphasis on the importance of interpreting Catholicization in the context of its own dynamics and on capturing the special nature of the different events and/or series of events, as well as the underlying interests. It is characteristic of the book that it presents the “two-faced nature” of the Catholic renewal, outlining both the violent aspects of the Counter Reformation which culminated in wars of religion, as well as the phenomena related to the inner renewal of the Catholic Church.
Mihalik’s decision to examine a specific period of thirty years in his monograph seems justified. The opening date (1670) is marked by the leadership of Bishop Ferenc Lénárd Szegedy and the political changes following the fall of the Wesselényi conspiracy, and the closing date (1699) is linked to the Treaty of Karlowitz, the leadership of Bishop István Telekesy, and the return of the episcopal see to Eger. However, if needed, Mihalik diverges from this strict temporal framework and reflects on the precedents and later consequences of certain events.
The structure of the book is logical, as the different layers build on one another, all the while presenting new perspectives. In the first part of the book, the actors of the Catholic renewal are introduced. Mihalik surveys the role of the bishops, the chapter, the vicars, and the religious orders, and he reflects on the cooperation between the church and the state. In the next part, Mihalik concentrates on the regions and spheres of the Catholic renewal, presenting an intelligible image of the constant changes which characterized northeastern Hungary in this period, as well as the interplay between the macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of analysis. He divides the development of the Catholic infrastructure into subperiods and outlines the cesurae which mark turning points for both the Catholics and the Protestants and their positions for negotiation. Thus, Mihalik is able to guide his readers through this transformative period, which is rather difficult to capture. He puts certain events, such as the Acts of Religion of 1681, Imre Thököly’s movement, and the impact of the Explanatio Leopoldina, in a new, somewhat more intelligible light.
Mihalik’s book fits well into the scholarship on the history of the seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century history of Hungarian dioceses, which gained momentum in the first decade of the new millennium. It presents the unique phenomena of the Catholic renewal in the socially and confessionally heterogenous region of northeastern Hungary as a system, and Mihalik’s findings and insights constitute a significant contribution to the history of the larger complex process of confessionalization in Hungary.
University of Pécs
The Sinews of Habsburg Power: Lower Austria in a Fiscal-Military State, 1650–1820. By William D. Godsey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. xx+460 pp.
An eminent scholar of the Austrian estates on the threshold of modernity, William D. Godsey applies the concept of the fiscal-military state to almost two centuries of Habsburg history in his recent book. (The term fiscal-military state was coined by John Brewer in The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 ). Focusing on the example of the estates of Lower Austria and basing his narrative on overwhelming evidence, Godsey convincingly argues that, contrary to the established historical narrative (for instance, Gerhard Oestreich, “Ständetum und Staatsbildung in Deutschland” in Geist und Gestalt des frühmodernen Staates ), the estates were not sidelined after the Thirty Years’ War, but their significance increased and their support was, indeed, decisive in making the Habsburg Monarchy into a “mature fiscal-military state able to tax and borrow effectively” (p.397) and therefore able to give adequate responses to the ever mounting challenges of Early Modern great power politics.
Following in the footsteps of Peter Dickson (Finance and Government under Maria Theresia, 1740–1780 ), Godsey explains how the Habsburgs could finance their army (24,500-strong in 1650, 100,000 at the beginning of the eighteenth century, 200,000 in the 1730s, 300,000 at the accession of Joseph II, and no less than half a million by the end of the Napoleonic wars), and his reader is confronted by a decisive and even growing importance of the estates: their commissioners were charged with provisioning, billeting, and recruiting for the new standing army and also with providing logistical services. In 1689, the estates of Lower Austria began to vote for the annual contribution, the war tax, for a longer period in advance (Rezess), and they also borrowed increasing amounts of money (first from their own members and, at the end of the period investigated by Godsey, also from an increasingly wide stratum of the population) to make loans to the government at low interest rates, as the estates of the Bohemian and Austrian provinces were able to borrow at a significantly lower interest rate than their monarch. Thus, a “new fiscal-military system” (p.150) was established between the 1670s and the 1720s.
The great reforms of the mid-eighteenth century excluded the estates from jurisdiction and first introduced and then strengthened government agencies on the regional level (Kreisämter). The estates’ own administrative bodies were forced to undergo reform. The estates’ obligations to provide for the army through the system of commissioners were converted into a pecuniary burden. Prussian-style conscription and new taxes were introduced, and the contribution witnessed a twofold increase, but despite all these changes, the estates’ role in financing the army became more and more important. They voted for the war tax annually, even during Joseph II’s reign, in order to demonstrate their autonomy, which was crucial if they sought to preserve their creditworthiness. They continued to collect the contribution themselves, and a part of these monies (and sometimes parts of other government revenues) remained in their hands to cover debt servicing, i.e. to pay interest and instalments on the loans they themselves had put at the ruler’s disposal. Their survival was therefore an eminent fiscal interest of the state.
The success of the fiscal-military state of the Habsburgs is best demonstrated in comparison with France, where the reliance on the sale of offices, an exploitation of ancien régime privilege, and the introduction of an almost universal tax did not yield the expected financial stability in the long run. Alienated from the monarchy, the elites were reluctant to support the French monarchy, which was bankrupted by the wars of the second half of the eighteenth century and which collapsed thereafter. With the help of the elites of their central Austrian and Bohemian provinces, the Habsburgs, however, proved able to finance their growing debts. Their monarchy was close to financial breakdown at the end of the Seven Years War and in bankruptcy following the French occupation in 1809, but institutional changes helped them out of the crisis, including the devaluation of currency by 80 percent in 1811. Had the estates not played their role in taxation, provided for the army, and given credits to the government, the Habsburg Monarchy would not have survived the long wars and ever more overstrained periods of 1672–1718, 1733–1763, and 1788–1815. And all this time, the alliance between the Habsburg state and the noble elites was maintained.
During the Seven Years War, the province of Lower Austria contributed more to the war efforts in financial terms than the whole Kingdom of Hungary (43 vs 42 million florins respectively). Of these monies, 12 million florins were the contribution, 6 million florins the extra taxes, and the rest, almost 25 million florins, were loans given by the estates. Godsey argues convincingly that this last item is the key to understanding the survival and continuing importance of the estates in the Austrian and Bohemian lands of the Habsburg Monarchy. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Wiener Stadt-Banco was an even more important source of credit for the monarchy (p.224). Moreover, as the cases of Russia, post-1793 France, and (to a lesser extent) Prussia demonstrate, the mobilization of resources was possible in this period through other channels than those of the fiscal-military state (see Hamish Scott, “The Fiscal-Military State and International Rivalry during the Long Eighteenth Century,” and Michael Hochedlinger, “The Habsburg Monarchy: From ‘Military-Fiscal State’ to ‘Militarization’,” both in Christopher Storrs, ed., The Fiscal-Military State in Eighteenth-Century Europe ).
As far as minor inaccuracies are concerned, one may note that it was not the Austrian abbey of Klosterneuburg (p.91) but that of Heiligenkreuz that took over the abbey of Szentgotthárd in Hungary after the expulsion of the Ottomans, and that instead of a mere three monasteries (p.295), the lower clergy had an approximately 40-strong representation in the Hungarian diet.
But these minor details do not alter the general impression that Godsey’s book is a major contribution to the field, one that presents a very convincing argument concerning the survival of the Austrian estates into the nineteenth century.
István M. Szijártó
Eötvös Loránd University
Südosteuropa: Weltgeschichte einer Region. By Marie-Janine Calic. Munich: C.H. Beck, 2016. 704 pp.
Marie-Janine Calic’s book is not the first attempt to offer an overview of Southeast European history, and it will not be the last. Yet it is a uniquely interesting and innovative attempt to present the complex history of this region. In contrast to other textbook treatments, such as the one coauthored by me, Calic approaches Southeastern Europe from a global history perspective: she is interested in the patterns of entanglement which link different local developments to processes in other parts of the world. Southeastern Europe is often said to be at the crossroads of different cultures and civilizations because of its geographic position and the frequent inclusion of the region, or parts of it, in large empires which stretched far beyond the Balkans. Rarely has this been taken so seriously as a general explanatory framework for the history of the region. This is a book about transfers and entanglements, about dependency and exchange, about Southeastern Europe’s place in global history and global history’s impact on Southeastern Europe. At the same time, the reader will find everything she/he needs to know for a quick overview of the important events, processes, and personalities which shaped the history of the region.
One of the dominant themes of the book is the diversity of the region and how diversity has been linked to external factors, such as Great Power interventions or the Americanization of global culture after 1945. In her introduction, Calic stresses that the people of the region share many experiences, and their fates have until now been closely entwined, but despite many commonalities in the historical development, no “unified socio-cultural space [has] emerged.” There is no “common identity,” but instead a “unique socio-cultural diversity” (p.9). Of course, such a claim is difficult to prove (what is the yardstick of diversity?), and the assertion in question seems Eurocentric (from the point of view of India or a city like Toronto, Southeastern Europe looks quite homogenous). Yet, it is indeed one of the notable features of Southeast European history that despite very long periods of shared rule by empires (especially the Byzantine and the Ottoman ones), similar dynamics of nation building, and the shared experience of state-socialism, the degree of regional integration and cultural unification is rather weak. This prompts reflection on the ways in which “larger” external forces are appropriated in different ways on local (and also “national”) levels.
The main units of analysis are not countries, nations, or personalities, but forms of exchange and transfers that have linked different parts of the region with one another and with other parts of the world. One of the recurrent questions, therefore, is what conditions and which actors promote and shape exchange and which factors obstruct it. As Calic makes clear, Southeastern Europe was incorporated into networks of communication and interaction which transcended the region since Antiquity. Yet at the same time, there were also infrastructural limits to deeper integration. Maybe this tension could have been more deeply explored, because at least in the Modern period, Southeastern Europe stood out as an isolated place in some social arenas (see for example the extremely low literacy rates in the nineteenth century). Even today, it is less integrated into pan-European circuits of capital, information, and transportation than other parts of the continent, mainly because of its economic marginality.
Despite its innovative conceptualization, the book meets the standard expectations readers tend to place on a history of a region. One does not have to read more conventional accounts before turning to this more ambitious one. The chronology is also quite familiar and helps the reader position Southeast Europe in larger historical contexts. The first, comparatively short part sketches developments from Antiquity until around 1500. This is followed by a chapter covering mainly the Ottoman period and the competition between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs and Romanovs for domination (1500–1800). Part three is devoted to the “Century of Global Revolutions” (1776–1878). Part four goes from the climax of the Oriental Question to the end of World War II (1870–1945). The fifth part covers postwar history until today. Postwar Greece receives rather scant attention, and the treatment of post-socialism is tangential. This periodization indicates that the author highlights parallel events in other parts of the world which either influenced developments in Southeastern Europe or could be seen as incarnations of similar structural forces, such as the revolutionary struggle against ancient regimes in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
One of the strengths of the book is the way in which it interweaves structural history and stories of concrete places and personalities. Calic seeks to highlight the progress of globalization in terms of intensified trade and communication, but also to trace the actions and perceptions of the protagonists of these stories. One learns how people actually perceived the world, what they knew about it, and how they saw the place of their country in the larger global or at least European context. In order to craft a detailed and lively account, Calic developed a very well executed dramaturgic strategy: she closes each chronological section with a description of a concrete place and its entanglements with the wider world at that time. Thus, readers learn about (the Albanian town of) Kruja (1450), Istanbul (1683), Ragusa/Dubrovnik (1776), Plovdiv and the nearby mountain areas (1876), Belgrade (1913), Bucharest (1939), and Sarajevo (1984). As the selection makes clear, each case study presents insights into general developments which were characteristic for the whole region at the time, such as the complex power configurations in the Balkans on the eve of Ottoman conquest (Kruja) or the dynamics of urbanization and its ambivalences in the early twentieth century (Belgrade). It is a pity that there is no case study for today.
These case studies, all extremely engaging and interesting, indicate another major strength of the book. It is based on very extensive research, and it is therefore extremely informative. Calic took her information from the most current secondary literature, and she manages to weave the different empirical points into a coherent, compelling narrative, even using excerpts from diaries and other personal accounts. Rarely does a historical narrative combine a clear thread and interpretation with such a good mixture of erudition and detail. In contrast to other overviews, this one is richly referenced (though the reader needs a magnifying class to decipher the endnotes). Several images also illustrate the story. With maps, however, the publisher has been too frugal. A timeline of events and the index make the book easy to use.
A bold take on the history of the region invites also disagreement. Given Calic’s emphasis on entanglements and her understandable excitement about extremely mobile and interesting personalities, I sometimes wondered about the relative importance of localized forces of inertia, such as climate and terrain, ignorance, or the lack of infrastructure. I think it is part of the diversity of the region that highly interconnected arenas of social interaction existed next to very isolated ones and that important historical events were shaped by this tension (the Romanian peasant uprising of 1907 would be a case in point). But this quibble actually shows what this excellent book has achieved, in contrast to more conventional treatments. It inspires debate and will stimulate fresh research. A translation into English would be very welcome. Anyone with an interest in Southeastern Europe should read this book, anyone not yet curious will become so once they have read Calic’s account.
Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies
Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale. By Deborah R. Coen. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2018. 425 pp.
Deborah Coen’s Climate in Motion argues that the modern concept of climate is a multi-scalar achievement. Drawing on an extensively researched and detailed history of climate science in the Habsburg Monarchy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Coen argues that the history of climate science is also a history of scaling. Rather than the singular or orderly climate found in many accounts of climate science in the United States or in British scientists’ visions of the Indian climate, Habsburg climate science emphasized the continuing relevance and importance of local climate within a heterogeneous but interconnected whole. Coen suggests this distinctive characteristic had resonance with the structure of the Habsburg state, made up of a set of distinct kingdoms and principalities, and the natural variety in a region in which diverse local socio-economies were intimately tied to local climates and vegetation.
Habsburg scientists scaled their work in ways which made the particularities of place emblematic of the natural and social heterogeneity of the state. Coen argues that these scientists determinedly connected their science to interventions in matters of public concern, empire, and economic and political interest. Scaling was not only a scientific exploration, therefore, but a very human one too, “mediating between different ways of measuring the world” (p.20) and debating the uncertainties of science in considering the social, economic, or political implications of their work. Scaling was also built through bodily labor and artistic imagination, perhaps no better demonstrated than in the case of Heinz Ficker’s emotionally-charged diary of his travels through Turkestan.
Climate in Motion has three parts. The first explores the precursors to and development of mid-to-late nineteenth-century environmental science within the Habsburg Monarchy. It sets out the experience of empire throughout the territory of Austria-Hungary and the ways in which the imperial celebration of the diversity of local climates was significant for both scientific work and the mapping of territory. Meteorologist Karl Kreil’s work is used as an example of this connection between local and global perspectives, in emphasizing the studies of individual places while constructing a synthesis which would form a unity in a heterogeneous way. As Coen suggests, this work of scaling was political in its pluralism and reflective of the empire’s structure in its insistence on the relevance of localism while seeking a coordination of knowledge which would not be unipolar or authorized by a single calculative office.
The second part explores in more detail how scientists analyzed, mapped, and painted the empire to represent and inform this “Austrian Idea” of the diversity of the territory. Cartography presented a particular challenge in this regard, as maps (such as the 1887 atlas of Austria-Hungary) struggled both to convey the diversity of local detail and to remain relevant to the ideal of a connected territory. Cartographers needed to represent scale, and they did so through innovative techniques such as a greater use of color to display elevation and represent local variations as interdependent, making it possible for a more unified visual picture to emerge. Equally importantly, the development of dynamic climatology in Austria in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, through the work of scientists like Julius Hann and Alexander Supan, enabled the local climate to be significant in revealing and explaining a more interconnected global unity. The rapid expansion of observation stations, however, was not solely about creating datasets for a dynamic climatology, but was also a reassertion of the vitality through diversity of local climates for human concerns such as health or economic life in those places. While dynamic climatology enabled the word climate to be deployed on a more planetary scale, this did not displace the local scale. As Coen points out, the multi-scalar notion of climate which had emerged by the early twentieth century enabled scientists to assert the global effects of local climatic disturbances.
This becomes particularly important for the final part of Climate in Motion, in which Coen draws out the social work of scaling in exploring examples of work related to forests, flowers, and travel. Plants could be influenced by the climate and could influence the climate, and Coen draws on, for example, the naturalist Anton Kerner’s work to consider how changes in vegetation patterns could be scaled through dynamic climatology to provide evidence of the necessity and importance of local observations in tracking broader climatic changes. In a different example, forests provided the catalyst for a social scaling of scientific questions about forests and climate and about whether forestry legislation should be tightened. While many scientists recognized that deforestation would have to an impact on climate, the social scaling of these studies was contested through debates about the kinds of knowledges that were legitimate and the implications of such scaled knowledge for farmers and land owners. Austrian forestry law concluded both that deforestation influenced the climate and that the atmosphere was an unregulated and unlimited resource. Scaling, in this case, did not lead to stricter forestry legislation.
Throughout these parts and in the work of the various scientists under consideration, Coen maintains a clear focus on the work of scaling as scientific, social, and embodied and distinctive for the Habsburg Monarchy. It is interesting to ponder, however, whether this distinctiveness is primarily about the uniqueness of the empire or as much about the way histories of climate science in other places have typically been written. Coen challenges future historians of climate science to pay more attention to diverse and heterogeneous kinds of climate knowledges and the ways in which they are scaled and to resist singular, uniform accounts of a global climate “waiting to be discovered” (p.272). This is crucial to Coen’s hope that the lessons of scaling might be fruitfully applied to contemporary climate change debates and thus might further an understanding of how climate sciences have been scaled in particular ways, how they embody particular kinds of labors, and how they connect (or disconnect) multiple alternative local knowledges and are contested in their social scaling.
Climate in Motion is well-written, beautifully illustrated book, and I can highly recommend it not just to historians of the Habsburg Monarchy or the atmospheric sciences, but to anyone interested in exploring how the study of history can inform contemporary debates.
University College London
Geteilte Berge: Eine Konfliktgeschichte der Naturnutzung in der Tatra. By Bianca Hoenig. Umwelt und Gesellschaft 20. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018. 239 pp.
From the outset, the reader of the original German text has an advantage over the Anglophone, to whom the translated title Divided Mountains: A Conflict-History of Nature Use in the Tatras conveys only half of the intended meaning. The German verb teilen (adjectival form: geteilt) means to share as well as divide, something the author of this monograph expressly meant to convey. The cleverly chosen title, thus, could just as easily have been rendered “shared mountains.” Indeed, this compelling new contribution to environmental history deals with both the shared and divided nature (pun intended) of the Tatra Mountains, the highest range within the vast Carpathian mountain system. Although neither as prominent nor as famous as the Alps of west Central Europe, the Tatras have nonetheless played a disproportionally large role in their own region of Europe. They have also been many things to many people.
Much has been written about the Tatras, albeit primarily in their “divided” sense, with authors generally sticking to either the Polish (northern) side or the Slovak (southern) side. Having mined archives in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria, Bianca Hoenig reminds us that these mountains are nevertheless a shared resource, and she demonstrates how at various times they have functioned transnationally. The subject of her book is the history of the clash between claims to the mountains in the “age of territorialization,” a concept introduced by Charles S. Maier. While not a comprehensive history of the Tatras, the book presents a series of well-chosen examples which show how various parties have sought to utilize the Tatras since the second half of the nineteenth century. (The traditional pastoral and forest economy, tourism, and nature preservation comprise the main uses of the mountain terrain.) Each chapter revolves around the question which serves as leitmotif of the book: “to whom do the Tatras belong?” However, each approaches this question from a different perspective. Four types of ownership (Eigentum) figure: landownership, the traditional usufruct of pastureland and forests, affiliation to a given state, and symbolic ownership by an ethnic, national, or social group or even humanity in general.
One of the strengths of this admirably analytical and cogently argued work is its transnational approach. This comes through in the first substantive chapter of the book, which deals with the nineteenth century “discovery” of the Tatras during the period of Habsburg rule. Hoenig laudably presents this fascination with the mountains among all parties to the “discovery,” to the south and to the north of the internal Habsburg border which separated the province of Galicia from the kingdom of Hungary. The reader is introduced not only to various groups of Poles and Slovaks, with their national claims, but also to Zipser Germans, who were the engine behind the development of resorts, sanatoriums, and hotels on the southern side. Ethnic Hungarians are largely absent from the story, if referenced in notes, although of course both Slovaks and Zipser Germans were members of the Hungarian state until its truncation after World War I.
The true meat of the book, however, is found in the remaining chapters, all highly original, well contextualized and crafted, the content of which can only be sketched here. Chapters Two and Three deal with the interwar period in the new states of Czechoslovakia and Poland, where the Tatras then lay. Here, the focus is on the conservationists’ idea of a transnational, American-style national park. Chapter Two considers the project—not realized–of a joint Czechoslovak-Polish national park, which was intended to help secure peace for the region. Yet mistrust on both sides ultimately led to the Tatras becoming more a bone of contention, as seen in the Polish annexation of Jaworzyna/Javorina in 1938. The chapter which follows switches focus from interstate to intrastate negotiations, as the respective national populations of Czechoslovakia and Poland were divided in their views of the Tatras and their visions for the region. The conservationists ultimately lost out to the locals, who feared losing their livelihood, and those who sought to “bring modernization to the mountains” (p.101), for example, in the form of a cable car up Kasprowy Wierch on the Polish side.
Although World War II marked a caesura in usage rights, it is given relatively brief treatment in the book, serving more as a point of transition to the final three substantive chapters, in which the “high modern new ordering of space and population” proceeded apace (p.117). In chapter four, the loss of the Jewish and German populations of the mountain region facilitated the establishment of individual national parks and, in Poland, the shift of transhumance out of the Tatras into the depopulated Carpathian regions of Beskid Niski and Bieszczady to the east. The final two chapters point to moments in which civil society emerged under socialist rule, such as the Czechoslovak idea of a monorail in the Tatra region, which seized the popular imagination (of Slovaks in particular) during the Prague Spring of 1968. Chapter Six reckons with the dispossession of the Polish Górale (highlanders), who lost their usufruct and other rights in 1970, only to regain them partially during the Solidarity period a decade later.
A concluding chapter sums up both the current situation and Hoenig’s overall argument. Among other things, she sees the conflicts she has examined (and persuasively contextualized within global and regional history) as exemplifying fundamental issues in the interactions of modern societies with nature. The overall impression of this dissertation-turned-book is impressive. Bianca Hoenig is to be commended for this fine contribution to the history of the Tatra Mountains and the environmental history of Europe (and—given its broad contextualization—the world). It will be enjoyed not only by those interested specifically in the Carpathian Mountains or this part of Europe, but also by environmental historians of all stripes.
Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
Germany’s Empire in the East: Germans and Romania in an Era of Globalization and Total War. By David Hamlin. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 354 pp.
Was World War I a caesura in European and world history, or did it telescope and accelerate developments already underway at its outbreak? Was it a triumph of nationalism, a crisis of empire, or a test of long-established and possibly-obsolete systems of international relations and trade? David Hamlin’s book addresses these questions through a geographically and temporally specific case study: the sea-change in Imperial Germany’s economic and political relations with Romania in the course of the war. Hamlin combines economic history, the history of ideas, and the study of international relations as a dynamic phenomenon (how states interact with other states as well as substate groups and individuals over time) in order to examine abstract and fluid concepts such as the existence of an international order, informal empire, and Realpolitik and Weltpolitik. The book is structured both chronologically and thematically. The narrative opens with a discussion of the interdependence of nations at the turn of the twentieth century in economic terms as well as military and diplomatic alliances. Hamlin then devotes the two long central chapters to German-Romanian relations in World War I, and he then examines the economic consequences of German hegemony for Romania.
Hamlin brings World War I as a crisis of nineteenth-century Western liberal, national, and imperial values into startling relief through his analysis of Germany’s changing attitudes to Romania. The wartime disruption of global trade and attendant economic difficulties in Germany made German politicians and military leaders even keener than before to secure access to Romanian economic resources, especially its grain and petroleum. The sharpening perception of the world as divided, not so much into friends and foes as resources and foes, led to a willingness to justify German intervention in the domestic affairs and economies of other states in order to secure Germany’s position in Europe, a suborning of elements of Weltpolitik in the service of the goals of Realpolitik. German fear and resentment of British and American economic power in the world prompted German leaders to see Romania, which until then had been lauded as a developing European economy in which Germany could invest to the benefit of both countries and to facilitate global trade, as essentially an imperial dependency of Germany in Southeast Europe. This entailed an attendant change of attitudes toward Romanians as a vital nation with a bright future ahead of it to a perception of Romanians as economically backward and culturally inferior to Germans.
Following Romania’s attempted change of sides and declaration of war on Austria-Hungary in August 1916, the German occupation of its erstwhile ally quickly transcended established norms of military occupation, which ideally should have been temporary and should have minimized disruption in the lives of the conquered populations. Instead, the Germans treated Romanian territory, people, and economic resources as Germany’s to exploit, with only minimal planning for infrastructure maintenance and improvement or the maintenance of the Romanian standard of living. As Germany sought to reorient Romanian agriculture, the Romanian petroleum industry, and Romanian trade relations to its exclusive benefit, it used varied tools of economic domination such as currency manipulation, debt, and domestic sales monopolies, and German-owned companies were used to control Romanian oil and Danube shipping. Germany also assumed control of state commissions in charge of regulating rail and river transport. Hamlin provides a wealth of detail on the German decision-making which went into these economic mechanisms and their effects on the Romanian state and population. German behavior in and toward Romania was a peculiar combination of aggression and defensiveness, and it could be seen as a symptom of Germany’s growing desire to affirm its preeminent position in Europe and challenge both British-American economic might and Western traditions of the previous century.
Beyond the focus on changing German-Romanian relations, Hamlin’s book draws several conclusions which should inspire work by other historians. Especially intriguing is the suggestion that Germany’s increased interference in Romanian domestic affairs paralleled patterns of control and exploitation evident in the Global South but also in Britain’s own increased financial and economic interference in its colonies during the war. German perception of lands to its east as having negotiable borders, conditional sovereignty, and primary use as sources of food and raw materials for the German market weakened the strict division between Europe and colony, metropolis and periphery, inherent in nineteenth-century liberalism. Moreover, Hamlin provides a vivid reminder that economic decisions by state leaders are never merely about financial interest or cost-benefit analyses. On the contrary, economic self-interest is shaped decisively by the state’s dominant ideology and its elites’ worldview, and vice-versa, changes in economic relations with other states have a ripple effect on foreign policy and the state’s understanding of its place in the world.
This book challenges the work of a diverse range of historians, such as Fritz Fischer, Kristin Kopp, Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, and Isabel Hull, to argue that World War I was a point of departure and discontinuity for Germany and to emphasize the distinctions between Imperial and Nazi Germany’s colonialist attitudes to the East and Southeast. Nevertheless, one wishes Hamlin had done more to explore “some alternative continuities with the Third Reich” (p.18), not least since so many of Adolf Hitler’s ideas about conducting a European war stemmed from his understanding of World War I as well as his racism. The concept of Grossraumwirtschaft (the economy of large areas) constituted a fundamental rejection of Weltpolitik’s reliance on global markets as a key to national prosperity and thus signified a departure from Imperial Germany’s economic policy, but it did so by building on practices and perceptions which the German state used in World War I as a prelude to the nexus of destruction and exploitation that would be Nazi economic policy in World War II. This is less a criticism of the present work than a possible point of departure for future scholarship.
Likewise, it would be interesting to read a more Romania-centric version of the events covered by Hamlin, based primarily on Romanian archival sources and stretching beyond 1918 to cover Romania’s fraught relations not just with Weimar and Nazi Germany but also post-imperial Hungary, given their constant one-upmanship during the Nazi period and the continuity of Germany’s imperialist/colonialist attitudes to eastern and southeastern territories, borders, and peoples. The present work folds a discussion of Romania’s relations with Austria-Hungary into the central narrative of German-Romanian relations, with some detail provided on Austro-Hungarian interactions with Romania within the alliance system, the former’s role in the occupation of the latter, and evolving German and Austrian attitudes toward Romania. A specific analysis of the Austro-Hungarian and Romanian dynamic would only enrich this narrative.
Erdély elvesztése 1918–1947 [The loss of Transylvania 1918–1947]. By Ignác Romsics. Budapest: Helikon, 2018. 452 pp.
Transylvania, which was the eastern territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary and which is still home to a Hungarian minority of over 1.2 million, holds a special place in Hungarian national consciousness. The loss of the region at the end of World War I, exactly one hundred years ago, represents a traumatic moment in Hungarian historical memory. Ignác Romsics’s 2018 book Erdély elvesztése 1918–1947 [The loss of Transylvania 1918–1947] is made especially relevant at the moment by this anniversary, which is at the same time the centenary of Transylvania becoming part of the Romanian state, as well as by attempts over the course of the past decade to reinterpret twentieth-century Hungarian history.
Romsics is, without doubt, one of the best-known Hungarian historians today, and his book forms part of a series of syntheses focusing on different periods of modern Hungarian history. He devotes about 450 pages (including several maps) to a presentation of the history of the administrative loss of Transylvania, from the collapse of the Kingdom of Hungary in autumn 1918 to the Paris Peace Treaties concluded at the end of World War II. Later formally abolished the temporary revisionist gains made by Hungary during the war and reestablished the status quo created by the Treaty of Trianon. Romsics focuses on and builds his narrative around two series of events of central importance in this almost thirty-year process: the transfer of authority over territories and the Treaty of Trianon at the end of World War I, as well as the period of World War II and the Paris Peace Treaties.
The structure of the book is almost “classically” chronological. However, the manner in which the events are recounted does not obscure significant themes and phenomena, as the author pays particular attention to them and returns to them repeatedly. The result is a highly readable, gripping, and proportionately structured narrative, which devotes considerable attention to minute detail (e.g. narratives of events on the basis of diary entries and letters) and the summary of larger processes, including discussion of background and context. At the same time, Romsics, drawing on his most recent research and his earlier works, deftly synthesizes the relevant findings of the secondary literature on the topic, and he also uses Romanian sources (with help from his colleagues).
The overview of the historical antecedents and context is followed by an account of the events of 1918–1920. This second part of the book is the most substantial from the perspectives of both length and detail, as it focuses on the crucial years when the modern Hungarian state lost Transylvania, which it later reclaimed only in part and only temporarily. The borders reached by the Romanian army in the spring of 1919 and confirmed by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 are valid today, and this was the time when the political and social processes which (in combination with other processes) have shaped the present conditions in the region began or gained momentum. The third part of the book begins with an overview of the situation in Transylvania between the two world wars. This overview is relatively brief, even though this period has been the subject of several important works, but Romsics places more emphasis on World War II and the years following it. In this section, Romsics presents the various views on the future of Transylvania which emerged at the time, the political games played by the Soviet Union, and the Paris Peace Treaties. He concludes with a brief afterword, which offers an overview of the topic in the second half of the twentieth century.
The structure of the work reflects Romsics’s overarching intention to present and analyze key moments which may further an understanding of the decline of Hungarian political dominance in Transylvania. The central role of politics is shown by the fact that politics was the decisive factor, even though the loss of Hungarian economic, social, and cultural dominance was a considerably longer and much more complex process. Transylvania became part of Hungary again following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 (after more than three centuries of independent development), and the Hungarian community could only maintain (or strengthen) its leading position in the multiethnic region (where the majority of the population was Romanian) by using the authority of the state.
Romsics could have placed greater emphasis on various aspects of social history or on the fact that Transylvania was not simply lost by “Hungarians” and the Hungarian state, but was also seized by another party, “Romanians” and Romania. Furthermore, he could have discussed in greater detail the briefly mentioned issue of historical antecedents, i.e. how Hungary obtained Transylvania after 1867, and by what means or campaigns Hungary attempted to (re)integrate and maintain ownership of the region. However, this would have been beyond the scope of the synthesis. Nevertheless, Romsics should also have made it clearer that in 1918–19, Hungary had to defend itself against invading foreign troops not only in Transylvania, but in all the border regions, and he should have devoted more space to a summary of the situation in Transylvania in the interwar period.
On the other hand, the variety of topics discussed in relation to the periods under scrutiny will certainly compensate the reader for any possible omissions. These topics include the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the rivalry between national movements, the (limited) opportunities Hungary had for armed defense, the question of territorial integrity and ethnic borders, Soviet “vacillation” over the status and territorial affiliation of Northern Transylvania at the end of World War II, the background of the 1947 reestablishment of the status quo (i.e. the borders defined by the Treaty of Trianon), the diplomatic games and power politics resulting from rivalries between small states and large powers throughout the period, etc.
Romsics’s book is also profoundly inspiring in another respect. By describing the often unexpected turns of events and the continuous changes in conditions, he succeeds in demonstrating the accidental nature of history and the way events solidify into “history” with the passing of time. Furthermore, by presenting often confused and contradictory narratives, he shows how the past is constructed in retrospect. This allows for a better understanding of developments like the idea of a Hungarian-Romanian confederation (proposed as one solution to the problem of Transylvania), which may seem far-fetched, even though relations between the two countries and nations were not characterized only by enmity and rivalry, but also by a mutual interdependence which raised the possibility of an alliance. However, the conflict of interest between the two nation-building efforts proved stronger in the end.
The competition between Romania and Hungary for Transylvania ended, after two world wars, with Hungary’s defeat. Thus, any description of how Transylvania was lost makes for rather depressing reading for many Hungarians. The closing lines of Ignác Romsics’s excellently written, concise, and thorough monograph nevertheless suggest a certain cautious optimism: Romsics regards the current situation as a stalemate, and he suggests that, although Transylvania has been lost to Hungary in an administrative sense, it has not been lost to Hungarians in Transylvania. The “classic” treatment of the topic and the objective style, which is devoid of pathos, contribute to making this book one of the latest reference works on the history of Transylvania.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Beyond Balkanism: The Scholarly Politics of Region Making. By Diana Mishkova. New York and London: Routledge, 2018. 282 pp.
More than twenty years after the specter of balkanism was first exorcised by Maria Todorova’s defiant critique of Western representations of the Balkans in her prominent book Imagining the Balkans (1997), the topic still merits scholarly attention. This time, however, it is not the West’s orientalizing gaze towards the Southeast that comes to the fore. In her latest book, the Bulgarian scholar of the Balkans Diana Mishkova focuses on the scholarly exercises in symbolic geography of the Balkans, covering both external representations and, more importantly, local regionalist visions and self-designations.
Beyond Balkanism: The Scholarly Politics of Region Making fills an important research gap by giving voice and restoring agency to hundreds of Balkan scholars who have actively participated in and often decisively shaped academic and political debates on the region. Mishkova analyzes regional discourses of local academic luminaries like Nicolae Iorga, Ivan Shishmanov, and Jovan Cvijić, among others, whose names have unjustly faded from European intellectual debates on region making. Instead of being passive receptors or imitators of outside concepts of the Balkans, these scholars came up with their own vision of the region’s essence and place within the European and global political geography, and they often subverted existing models of modernity, modernization, Europe, and its civilization. Thus, their discourses, as Mishkova argues, deserve to be analyzed and taken seriously as partners, albeit hardly equal, in a two-way process of knowledge production and region making. It is Mishkova’s goal to combine the internal and external perspectives on the Balkans as a region in order to offer “the historical reconstruction of the understandings of the Balkans that have emerged from academically embedded discursive practices and political usages.” (p.3)
In terms of structure, the book is essentially chronological. It begins with the nineteenth century, when the first ideas about the Balkans as a separate geopolitical entity emerged in the works of German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, French, British, and, later, American scholars. As was the case in subsequent periods, these initial regionalist discourses frequently reflected political debates and cultural cleavages at home and buttressed specific political projects, but they still maintained some level of scholarly autonomy which gradually evolved into the establishment of an institutionalized academic field. Likewise, the first home-grown generation of scientists were not exempt from the entanglement of politics with scholarship. Their attempts to conceptualize the Balkans/Southeastern Europe as a cultural-historical space (Chapter 2) were heavily influenced by linguistics, geography, anthropology, ethnography, and folkloristics, leading to some of the most methodologically innovate comparative approaches to the region’s unique and common features. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the afterlife of these local academic projects and traces their adaptation to the dominant ideological climate of the interwar period, which prioritized research forays into national and regional mentality, the then-fashionable concepts of ethnopsychology, and autochthonism. Once again, Mishkova balances domestic perspectives with the next chapter, which analyzes external research ventures on the Balkans that were mainly in the context of Nazi economic and territorial expansion eastwards.
Chapters 5 and 6 deal with post-World War II shifts in symbolic geography, which almost led to the disappearance of the Balkans as a separate scientific object. Local scholars had to accommodate the new ideological shifts, once again readjusting concepts and discourses for diverse audiences and speaking the languages of nationalism, regionalism, and internationalism simultaneously at various academic fora. External scholars of the Balkans were also influenced by the Cold War. They had to grapple with the relocation of the Balkans/Southeastern Europe into the newly institutionalized area study of Eastern Europe and the dominant research agenda of modernization and backwardness. In the post-1989 period (covered in the last chapter), the Cold War intellectual straightjacket was gone, but research on the Balkans fell into a new epistemological trap laid by the (pseudo-)academic literature, according to which the region’s supposed ontological essence was exemplified by the maelstrom of the Yugoslav Wars. This strand of engagement with the region was then strongly challenged by the spatial turn and postcolonial theory, which highlighted the constructed, arbitrary, and hierarchical nature of seemingly objective regional classifications and designations and questioned “whether the region can be a useful category of analysis given the ‘invented’ quality of the concept and its political uses.” (p.215) In her conclusion, Mishkova once again reiterates the methodological benefits of her project, i.e. how studying “academic balkanism” reveals “the transnational flow of ideas and the communication between ‘Western’ and ‘peripheral’ concepts and definitions” (p.4) and teaches us to “appreciate the flexibility and fuzziness of our units of analysis and comparison.” (p.239)
The book’s strongest feature is undoubtedly the analysis of the ideas of the local purveyors of regionalist discourses. Mishkova clearly demonstrates the heuristic potential of their concepts, yet these are neither idealized nor a-critically reproduced. The author illustrates how, despite their intellectually emancipating and deprovincializing potential, these conceptions of the region could easily function as the scholarly arm of an exclusionist project for ethnic homogenization. Their positivist methodological toolkit could counter romantic national(istic) discourse or just as well reinforce national stereotypes about uniqueness or superiority vis-à-vis neighboring peoples (in line with Milica Bakić-Hayden’s nesting orientalisms). More often than not, the region’s scholars were as enmeshed in politics as their Western counterparts, and their careers represented a constant struggle between serving the nation and maintaining scholarly standards. These professional dilemmas seem to have resulted in perennial methodological nationalism but, given the difficulties modern scholars have superseding the national framework, it is hard to fault their predecessors.
Finally, a few words must be said about the book’s minor shortcomings. Despite the author’s obvious expertise on Balkan scholarly production and intellectual history, there is a slight unacknowledged imbalance in the degree to which the various Balkan countries are represented in the book. Romanian, Serbian/Yugoslav, and Bulgarian regional discourses predominate over Greek, Ottoman/Turkish and particularly Albanian ones. The latter country seems to remain terra incognita even for specialists on the region, but Greek and Ottoman/Turkish academic output could have featured more prominently. In addition, I would have personally appreciated further elaboration on the intertwined academic and political activities of the large group of scholars of Balkan origin in the West whose expertise on their home countries and the region was in high demand during the Cold War. Notwithstanding these minor flaws and potential expansions, the book is indeed a major academic accomplishment.
Truly an example of entangled history, Mishkova’s book demonstrates the benefits of combining regional and conceptual history. Constantly alternating between extra-regional and intra-regional academic perspectives, Mishkova describes how over time various national, regional, and transnational scholarly and political projects about the region emerged, influenced, and reinforced or clashed with each other. Thus, her book is a timely tribute to a long-standing local tradition of regionalist discourses which were never a mere shadow of their external counterparts. Suitable for scholars with various research interests, Diana Mishkova’s richly researched book goes beyond the Balkans and balkanism in more than just the title and can provide a working model for exploring the scholarly politics of region making for other cases.
Central European University
Coca-Cola Socialism: Americanization of Yugoslav Culture in the Sixties. By Radina Vučetić. Translated by John K. Cox. Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2018. 360 pp.
Six years after its original publication, Radina Vučetić’s popular study Coca-Cola Socialism is now available to broader audiences thanks to a new English-language edition. Viewed by Vučetić as one of the characteristic processes of the twentieth century, this detailed cultural-historical work offers an analysis of the trajectories and influence of Americanization on culture and everyday life in Socialist Yugoslavia in the 1960s. The study is framed by the definition of Americanization as a form of cultural imperialism through which the United States left a global impact primarily in the spheres of popular culture, mass consumption, and everyday life. Moreover, as Vučetić, persuasively argues, Americanization encompassed transmission and reception of cultural influences, with popular culture used as a political tool in domestic and foreign policies both in the US and Socialist Yugoslavia. In the Yugoslav case in particular, the character of Americanization and its appropriation is conceptualized through the often used historiographical notion of the country’s in-between or hybrid position in the Cold War period, which Vučetić further includes in the broader “contradictory” context of the 1960s.
In light of these guiding concepts, in the four chapters of the book, Vučetić maps various high, mass, and pop cultural phenomena which were either imported from the United States or which emerged in Yugoslavia under American influence. The first two chapters focus on cinema and music, primarily jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, while the third chapter offers insights into modern art movements, such as abstract expressionism and pop art, and modern and experimental theater. The final chapter overviews a range of phenomena related to the topic of everyday life, from cartoons and comics, popular literature, fashion, hippie subculture, and television to Coca-Cola and other elements of consumer culture, such as the supermarket.
In the similarly structured chapters, Vučetić analyzes the use of these cultural and consumer products in both American and Yugoslav political and diplomatic agendas during the Cold War. On the one hand, the United States actively promoted its cultural presence in Socialist Yugoslavia, for example, by setting an artificially low price for the importation of Hollywood movies into Yugoslavia, which then significantly contributed to their popularity. On the other hand, Yugoslav authorities equally accepted and institutionally endorsed American cultural imports through festivals, trade fairs, and the media. Vučetić completes the picture of these dynamics with a discussion of Yugoslav cultural phenomena which emerged under American influence – such as the so-called Partisan Western –, or with others that were characterized more generally by formal and intellectual tendencies similar to the global modern cultural production of the 1960s. In addition, a sketch of similar cases from other Eastern Bloc countries (such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany) and the indication of the continuity of certain phenomena from the interwar period complements the analysis with a useful, albeit rudimentary comparative dimension.
The argument that Vučetić makes on the basis of this extensive catalogue of examples is that while the diffusion and consumption of American cultural and consumer products was fully supported by the state-socialist authorities, the locally emerging modern artistic practices, primarily in the case of the critically oriented Black Wave cinema and experimental theater, were targets of censorship and repression. Vučetić’s explanation for these tendencies is based on her understanding of the agendas of foreign and domestic policies both in the case of the US and Socialist Yugoslavia. For the United States, the promotion of cultural and consumer products was in general part of its propaganda campaigns during the Cold War. More specifically, in the case of Socialist Yugoslavia, it was part of an attempt to Americanize Yugoslav society and consequently use it as a Trojan horse in the struggle against East European state socialism. For Socialist Yugoslavia, the open acceptance of American influences was useful in creating a modern and liberal image of Yugoslavia as a more successful state-socialist system. However, as Vučetić claims, in the cases of cultural phenomena that were formally perhaps similar to the accepted American or Western products, but from the perspective of their content critically pointed against the Yugoslav state, the authorities were far less interested in maintaining the liberal image and more in protecting the system through repression and censorship.
Vučetić describes the conflicting situation created by these tendencies of the Yugoslav authorities as the schizophrenic reality of the Yugoslav system, and she uses it as a basis for the concluding statement, according to which the paradigm through which Socialist Yugoslavia can be best understood is summed up in the symbolic image of the two-faced Roman deity Janus. This claim concerning the Yugoslav state’s Janus-like character (i.e. as being both in the East and the West) represents an attempt to redefine the existing scholarly perception of the in-between position of Socialist Yugoslavia during the Cold War. Without any more particular nuances, the readers are, however, left with the impression that the final conclusion simply echoes the starting point of the analysis.
Theoretical and analytical engagement is the place where Vučetić’s study seems to struggle the most. Concepts such as Americanization and the in-between position of Socialist Yugoslavia are taken without any critical distance, although the author herself provides a basis for their reconsideration. Firstly, examples of similarity with the Eastern Bloc and continuity from the interwar period significantly challenge the seemingly unique in-between status of Socialist Yugoslavia and thereby the character of Americanization during the Cold War. Secondly, although admitting that scholars mostly agree that the actual effects of Americanization are difficult to measure, Vučetić nevertheless draws sweeping conclusions concerning the United States’ success in Americanizing Yugoslav society by transforming the everyday lives and worldviews of Yugoslav citizens through the promotion of Western values, such as freedom and democracy. In this regard, Vučetić seems to want to affirm that the US Cold War propaganda machine was successful in achieving its goal of diffusing liberal and capitalist values in state-socialist countries through cultural and consumer products. In this way, however, Vučetić’s analysis disregards the complexity of messages conveyed by cultural media and traps these messages within the prevailing Cold War dichotomy of Western affluence and freedom versus the gray and repressed state-socialist reality.
Given the distance in time between the original publication and the translation, these conclusions have come to seem particularly problematic. Nevertheless, Coca-Cola Socialism appeared at a moment when there was no similar research on the cultural dimension of the political relationship between Socialist Yugoslavia and the United States. By covering numerous examples of American products and influences in Yugoslav culture and everyday life during the 1960s, Coca-Cola Socialism without doubt represents a pioneering contribution to the picture of the cultural and political landscape of Socialist Yugoslavia in this period. Moreover, the study gives shape to the broader story of relations between Socialist Yugoslavia, the United States, and to some extent Western Europe in the spheres of cultural diplomacy and commerce. The English edition of the study, therefore, will provide a larger audience of young researchers a much needed basis for further excursions into the complex world of Cold War interactions between Central and East European socialist states and the West in the second half of the twentieth century.
Ivana Mihaela Žimbrek
Central European University
Lajos Fehér: Egy népi kommunista politikus pályaképe [The career of a folk communist politician]. By István Papp. Budapest: ÁBTL; Pécs: Kronosz, 2017. 446 pp.
Before his book about Lajos Fehér was published, István Papp recommended it to his readers in a short video message on social media. In his review, he positioned the important agrarian politician of the party-state period between János Kádár and the recently deceased hardliner, Béla Biszku. This eye-catching new book, which, according to its subtitle, presents a “the career of a folk communist,” is more than a thorough political biography. It was published as part of the series of monographs by the Historical Archives of State Security Services (Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára in Hungarian, or ÁBTL). It offers an analysis and reassessment of the development of Kádárism and the Hungarian model of the Soviet system over the course of the life of an individual. The volume is therefore at least as much about the Hungarian version of socialism as it is about the career of a talented young man from a rural community and his voyage into the party elite. While the reader follows the path of Lajos Fehér’s career (which led to the highest echelons of the party through the people’s movement and the illegal communist party, and then followed a typical trajectory from the organization of the political police through political demotions into Kádár’s politburo), the book also raises many political and social questions.
The well-edited, highly readable book is the result of a decade of research. At the same time, the monograph also follows one of the decisive trends in contemporary Hungarian historiography. The book reflects on works by writers of decisive biographies of Hungarian politicians, such as Ignác Romsics, János M. Rainer, and György Kövér, and it revisits the discourse on the respective era. István Papp provides insights into the Kádár era and Kádárism with regard to the social transformations and the decision-making mechanisms of the political system.
Though he uses an exciting variety of historical sources (memoirs, journals, recollections, newspaper articles, oral history interviews, public speeches, policy documents, secret service documents, etc.), Papp’s style remains coherent throughout. As a result of decades of diligent research, he has produced a work of meticulous philological analysis. He presents his theses in correspondence with the findings of the relevant secondary literature and embeds them in a comprehensible theoretical framework. The individual chapters offer analyses of Lajos Fehér’s responses to social and political challenges. At the same time, this is a proportionately written biography, which acquaints the reader with the protagonist’s family background, political awareness, and illegal work and the stages of his political career. The main strength of the work, alongside its scholarly precision, is the balanced and flowing manner in which the narrative is presented.
It is also clear from Papp’s lectures and journalism that the main questions of his research so far have concerned the processes of the transformation and ultimately destruction of the traditional world of agriculture. In addition, he has a keen interest in the opportunities public actors and ordinary people had and their room for maneuver, as well as the ethical dimensions of political activity. Thus, many parts of this monograph raise moral questions. By analyzing the stages of Lajos Fehér’s career, Papp returns to at least three questions: what was the key to Fehér’s success, what was his political responsibility, and what were the real results of his agricultural policy. This approach extends over his entire life and, indirectly, over the fate of an entire social class. The biography lays emphasis on the extent to which sacrifice made by Fehér’s father and Fehér’s education (i.e. inherited factors) and his diligence (his own efforts) determined his social mobility and political success. At the same time, this approach yields rather dramatic findings, as Lajos Fehér’s father eventually died as a result of the collectivization campaign (the loss of his lands), a process in which his son was a major actor. (One possible reading of the monograph is as a dramatic, twentieth-century Central European family history with persecution, emigration, and new beginnings.)
The monograph presents the Hungarian socialist model and everyday life in the Kádárian agricultural world through fine characterizations, secondary sources, and statistics. According to a prevalent general memory of the recent past, grocery stores, which were full and well-fed, even chubby Hungarians were defining characteristics of Hungary under the Kádár regime. This image, which was an element of the regime’s propaganda campaign, functioned as an illustration of the success of the regime’s agricultural policy. Papp also puts forward arguments and counterarguments regarding the applicability of this model, but he leaves the final conclusions to the reader.
Remaining “critically respectful” of the facts, Papp avoids the pitfalls of postmodern approaches, but he indicates the limitations of the extent to which we can know and document the past. The most exciting details of Fehér’s life may have been processes, which took place behind the scenes or, when he was part of an organization that was illegal, or they may have been the processes involving changes in personal conviction. I am thinking of processes like Fehér’s transformation into a communist, his role in the March Front, events, which took place when he was part of an illegal movement, his involvement with the political police, his departure from the organization, and, finally, his experiences of the 1956 Revolution. Many readers may be left feeling curious to know more regarding these questions. However, given the lack of adequate sources, Papp does not try to present stories, which go “beyond the facts.” At the same time, he devotes a separate chapter to Fehér’s character, and he deals with Fehér’s inner world at several stages of his life, including his religious beliefs and their impact (his attachment to the Calvinist tradition).
When reading this narrative of the eventful life of Lajos Fehér, the reader may even have the impression that he was one of the leading cadres who survived everything and suffered no major grief during times of upheaval. He survived as a member of an illegal movement, and he survived the war, the Stalinist “vigilance campaigns” (persecution of the alleged internal enemy), and the 1956 Revolution, and in the meantime, he became highly influential. As a leading agricultural politician, he had a distinctive concept of reform (which Papp presents precisely and clearly), and although he was not a simple yes-man member of the cadre, he conformed to the party’s internal policies. Indeed, the inner tensions of his public life reveal a great deal about the age. For instance, the introduction of Fehér as a former deputy chief of the political police (a short section of his career) offers new information. Reliable sources from this era are scarce, and Lajos Fehér is presented as a powerful man and a hard-handed figure insistent on adherence to order, who overstepped legal boundaries and who actively participated in the communist takeover. Müller Rolf’s work on Gábor Péter, the head of the State Security Authority (Államvédelmi Hatóság, ÁVH in Hungarian), was published at the same time as this biography of Lajos Fehér, and both can be seen as signs of the “ripening” of contemporary historical research in Hungary. Based on the narratives of their careers and the careers of their colleagues who are mentioned in the book, we get a more nuanced understanding of the lives of the cadres whose careers included periods working as functionaries or in the state security services.
In Papp’s analysis, the relationship between the economic reformer and the party cadre insistent on enforcing order is a recurring theme, as is Fehér’s attachment to Imre Nagy and his legacy. At the same time, the study takes important steps towards a reassessment of the orthodox communist and reformist qualities through a subtle presentation of minor actors. However, perhaps the main strength of the volume is the presentation of the agricultural lobby and the agricultural policy reforms. A clear and precise description of this lobby and these policy reforms is undoubtedly a new and significant scholarly achievement. In this respect, Papp’s work feeds into discourses about contemporary history, primarily the ideas of János M. Rainer on Kádárism, and the works of Zsuzsanna Varga and József Ö. Kovács regarding agricultural history. Papp’s monograph complements and occasionally amends earlier scholarly findings.
Ultimately, the main goal of the work is to introduce and examine a new political category, which will also serve as a new category in the study of politics. According to the subtitle of the book, it offers a narrative of the career of a populist communist. The proportionate structure and the chronologically written biography reveal the social foundations of “real existing socialism” in Hungary and the internal (human) resources of Kádárism more accurately than previous works have. The volume provides colorful social tableaux, and it offers a sociographical perspective, which draws ideas from political and economic history and agro-historical research.
The many stories in this 400-page monograph, which are narrated as anecdotes but analyzed according to scholarly methods, make for engaging reading. Papp’s work may well serve as a foundation for further research, and given its concise language and clear style of argumentation, it could also be used as a “textbook.” It provides an accurate biography, but it also offers essential support for an understanding of the reform potentials of Kádárism. The work is an essential read for those interested in the transformation of traditional peasant society in Hungary and the phenomena of “socialist modernization.” Ultimately, the monograph can be used by Hungarian and foreign readers interested in the mechanisms of Kádárism and the Hungarian version of socialism.
National Széchényi Library – 1956 Institute