Trust, Authority, and the Written Word in the Royal Towns of Medieval Hungary. By Katalin Szende. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 41. Turnhout: Brepols, 2018. 436 pp.
The use of the written word in urban environments has become a popular subject in Medieval Studies. The series “Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy” provides inter alia a considerable number of publications highlighting the importance of urban literacy. The monograph by Katalin Szende, an expert on urban history, constitutes another important contribution on this topic. In her introduction, Szende declares that the work will guide “its readers through the history of using the written word for pragmatic, mainly administrative purposes […] in the royal towns of medieval Hungary” (p.1). The main goal is to show the emergence of new forms of documentation in the broader framework of the relationship between expanding uses of the written word and the growth of trust in its efficiency. The relevance of this issue for the whole of East Central Europe and the chronological and the geographical scope of the book (the Late Medieval period, from the thirteenth century to the sixteenth; the Carpathian Basin) makes it a very welcome contribution to the scholarship on the region. The first chapter (pp.25–59) has an introductory character, providing the uninitiated reader with information on the urban network in medieval Hungary, the origins of the settlements, and the development of urban law. It also presents the corpus of sources (including their critical editions) and an outline of scholarly discussions on urban history. We approach the growth of written culture proper in the second chapter (pp.61–120). This examines the earliest documentation of Hungarian towns and the relationship between charters and local autonomy. The scope, formulary, and content of the thirteenth-century royal privileges for towns and of the first products of municipal chanceries are carefully examined and creatively interpreted. The comparative diplomatic analysis of these sources proves a very effective tool with which to analyze the main characteristics of the practice of issuing charters. The context of “trust in writing” leads Szende to pay attention to the symbolic and practical value of seals validating charters. Her meticulous analysis of the seals’ images and inscriptions is a significant contribution to urban sigillography. Addressing the validation charters leads inevitably to the subject of the ecclesiastical places of authentication and their role in the development of urban chanceries. In the third chapter (pp.121–201), two issues which are of fundamental importance to urban literacy are presented: first, civic notaries and their tasks, and, second, municipal books, which were a main instrument of municipal governance. In Szende’s opinion, the development of the use of town registers was stimulated by a technical change, namely the proliferation of paper as the main writing material in urban administrations. Szende is right to point out this connection. The relationship between the spread of paper and the growth of pragmatic literacy was also visible in contemporary Poland. The analysis of the municipal books necessarily touches on the issue of their typology. Szende points out that “the categorization of municipal books […] has been a long-standing challenge to scholarship” (p.148). She decided to distinguish “miscellaneous books” (the earliest registers, the content of which is mixed) and, then, as the differentiation of records progresses, “financial registers,” “court books and judicial administration,” and “municipal books for property administration.” This chapter also discusses testamentary practices in Hungarian towns, taking as an example Bratislava (Pozsony, Pressburg) and its well-known Book of Wills. The proliferation of uses to which the written word was put in urban environments is also illustrated by a discussion of practical literacy within guilds and by the attention given to town chronicles. The connection between language and literacy, analyzed in chapter four (pp.203–47), is the natural result of the coexistence of several (spoken and written) languages in the Carpathian Basin. This is studied by other historians today as well, although the broader comparative perspective of the linguistic plurality of medieval Europe is sometimes missing from the discussion. Szende offers interesting prospects for such a broad approach by indicating the various uses of Latin and the multiple vernaculars (German, Hungarian, Slovak, Italian, and others). Functional multilingualism can be detected in administration and justice, as well as in external relations, trade, and pastoral care. The coexistence of languages (and alphabets) arises again as an important problem in chapter five (pp.249–86). Having sketched the history of Jewish settlement in Hungary and the royal legislation concerning the status of Jews, Szende shows that participation of Jews in urban literacy was determined not only by their legal status, but also by trust in writing, which “was a major factor in facilitating and regulating Jewish-Christian relationships in everyday matters” (p.279). The last chapter of the book (pp.287–321) discusses yet another crucial issue in the study of urban literacy: the development of archives. Various modes of preservation of charters and municipal books are presented, taking as point of departure the practices of four towns: Sopron, Pressburg, Prešov, and Bardejov (Fig. 46.a-d). Szende convincingly demonstrates that the storage of records, e.g. the strategies of ordering and binding them, mirrored the organization of urban society. The publication includes pictures of documents and registers, as well as maps and six appendices which guide the foreign reader through the history of medieval Hungary, especially that of the towns. These appendices provide useful additional information, for instance a list of the oldest municipal books and the chronology of appearance in the sources of the earliest municipal notaries. Katalin Szende’s monograph proposes an interesting approach to the sources and to the subject of the development of urban literacy in general. The interaction between trust, authority, and the written word is at the core of the analysis. This determined the choice of problems and sources to be discussed. Thanks to this methodological approach, rooted in the contemporary study of literacy and communication, the book is much more than an overview of the proliferation and increasing importance of written records and the institutions which produced and kept them. It is a remarkable and inspiring study, informative and important for the comparative investigation of Medieval urban literacy.
University of Warsaw
Confraternity, Mendicant Orders, and Salvation in the Middle Ages: The Contribution of the Hungarian Sources (c. 1270–c. 1530). By Marie-Madeleine de Cevins. Europa Sacra 23. Turnhout: Brepols, 2018. 365 pp.
Surprising as it may sound, there is a group of medieval sources in which Hungary is rich: the spiritual confraternity letters. Although such letters are not unknown in Hungarian scholarship, they were not dealt with comprehensively until Marie-Madeleine de Cevins published a monograph in Hungarian in 2015 with the title Koldulórendi konfraternitások a középkori Magyarországon (1270 k. – 1530 k.). The present volume is the English version of the abovementioned work. Like her earlier works, also this book is problem-oriented. The application of comparative methods making use of similar research in Western and Central European regions makes this monograph a fundamental reference work not only for those dealing with medieval religious history in the Carpathian Basin, but also for a much wider scholarly audience. The book also contains the edition of sixteen confraternity letters and various figures, maps, tables, and graphs, all of which provide essential support for the conclusions proposed in the body of the text. Chapter 1 is dedicated to the spiritual confraternities of the mendicant orders and a survey of the existing scholarship. Confraternity letters were first issued by the monastic orders in exchange for material benefits as early as the eighth century, and a new “mendicant compatible” form with a “hic et nunc” character started to develop in the second half of the thirteenth century. Mendicant spiritual confraternities, based on the idea that the friars had to “pay back” the debt by providing their benefactors with the spiritual goods they had to offer, were particularly popular in Central Europe, especially in the fifteenth century. De Cevins ventures suggestions as to why, compared to other regions of Europe, so many spiritual confraternity letters survived in medieval Hungary. The Hungarian documentary corpus is presented in Chapter 2. The 125 spiritual confraternity letters examined were issued between ca. 1270 and 1530 by the four mendicant orders present in medieval Hungary. The overwhelming majority of the letters come from the Franciscans, and the rest come from the Dominicans, the Augustinian Hermits, and the Carmelites. Chapter 3 investigates the success of mendicant spiritual confraternities in Hungary. De Cevins explicates the correlation between the development of the spiritual confraternities and the rise of the Observant movement, and she draws deductions regarding the geographic and social distribution of the members of the spiritual confraternity. In Chapter 4, de Cevins explores the benefits potentially enjoyed by the members of the spiritual confraternities of one (or more) mendicant order(s). They received a bouquet of spiritual benefits the size of which varied according to two types of spiritual confraternities: the “ordinary” and the “major,” which were available only to a privileged few. Moreover, the most generous benefactors could enjoy supplementary graces, such as burial within the walls of the friary, occasionally even in the habit of the order. In the heyday of the spiritual confraternities, as de Cevins points out, while mass admissions were not unusual elsewhere in Europe, it seems that in Hungary mass admissions were not practiced by the provincial superiors of the orders and lay confraternities did not join mendicant spiritual confraternities. The last two chapters are about the “uses” of spiritual confraternities from the point of view of the granters and the recipients, respectively. In most cases, the provincial superiors were the dispensers. In order to avoid being accused of commercializing salvation, they distributed the benefits of spiritual bonds rather moderately. In Chapter 5, de Cevins discusses the orders one by one, she seeks patterns or tendencies characteristic of them, and she also poses the intriguing question as to whether these letters reflect in any way the identity of the mendicant order by the authority of which they were issued. While in general it can be said that the bona spiritualia listed in the texts themselves tend to be more characteristic of the devotio moderna rather than of the spirituality of the individual orders, each of the four mendicant orders presents a slightly different view. De Cevins takes into account other features, such as figures on seals and occasionally other symbols. The earliest known Franciscan confraternity letters date back to the first half of the fourteenth century. John of Capistrano’s impact on the popularization of joining an Observant Franciscan spiritual confraternity cannot be underestimated in Central Europe. In line with this, we see that in Hungary, from the 1460s onwards, confraternity letters follow the archetypal formulary used by him. A noteworthy phenomenon highlighted by de Cevins is the great importance attributed to the autograph subscription of the dispenser, namely to John of Capistrano. The second largest group of the letters was issued by the Dominicans, who started to issue these documents as early as 1270, and by 1400, they had produced five other letters. The reform in the order brought moderation in the use of spiritual affiliation: the slow increase of the issue of the letters seems to have slowed down after 1500. Due to the number of extant sources, far fewer observations can be made in the case of the Augustinian Hermits and the Carmelites. What these documents reveal, however, is that in Hungary mendicant orders did not consider such confraternity letters an important instrument to promote their order or way of life, yet the letters had an authentic and performative nature, which may account for the care devoted by the families to their preservation. Chapter 6 is dedicated to the views of the affiliates on mendicant confraternities. A precious source in this respect is the well-known Dominican register of benefactors from Segesvár (now Sigişhoara, Romania) from the early sixteenth century. Of the 28 entries of donors, 6 were in spiritual brotherhood with the friars, all of them coming from the top of the social scale. The entries show that people tried to accumulate spiritual credits in several different ways, of which spiritual brotherhood was only one. The chapter concludes with three itineraries of spiritual associates known from the existing secondary literature, but this time, in order to estimate the importance of belonging to a spiritual family, the cases are presented from a different perspective: Benedict Himfi, Peter of Söpte, and Magdalen from Kolozsvár/Cluj. As a conclusion, it can be said that this book is a good example of how informative a group of sources which had an (almost) fixed structure for two and a half centuries can be when placed in the hands of a scholar whose experience in this field allows her to make the most of them, even if in some cases she can only make hypotheses which, however, can then be points of departure for further research.
National Széchényi Library
The Árpáds and Their Wives: Queenship in Early Medieval Hungary 1000–1301. By Attila Zsoldos. Rome: Viella, 2019. 252 pp.
The book is an English translation of Attila Zsoldos’ 2005 work Az Árpádok és asszonyaik. Zsoldos is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences who works at the Institute of History of the Research Centre for the Humanities. A graduate of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (where he taught for a while), he has also served as the editor or a member of the editorial board for periodicals such as Turul, História, Századok, and The Hungarian Historical Review. Zsoldos himself is an expert in the field of medieval charters, and this work is primarily based on the history of charters of Hungarian queens and other relevant primary sources. In this book, Zsoldos examines the institution of queenship in Hungary during the three centuries of the rule of the Árpád House. He concludes that the office of the queen was a mirror of that of the king, but that it remained firmly under the king’s authority. While the queens may have had influence in other areas, ultimately the roles and prerogatives of the office were determined more by internal developments in the Hungarian administration than they were by the person of the queen herself. The Árpáds and Their Wives is divided into four chapters: the coronation, the estates of the queens, the queen’s court, and the power of the queen.
The book begins with a comprehensive look at the historiography on the subject, which is particularly helpful for people less familiar with the topic, as it offers them some understanding of the unforgiving nature of studying it. It also includes a summary of the main points from the works cited. The first body chapter, which focuses on the coronation of the queens, deals with the process of how one (legitimately) became a queen. In this case, only Gisela of Bavaria (the first queen of Hungary) and royal women from the thirteenth century are covered, but that is entirely due to the limits placed on the historian by the source materials which have survived. In spite of the dearth of the primary sources, this is a solid chapter which makes good use of the surviving materials.
The second chapter examines the land management of the queens. It is by far the meatiest chapter in the book, divided into three subsections on land management, employees, and finances. The first section of the second chapter is a detailed study on the lands owned and administered by the queen, which grew gradually from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. The second section on the people of the queen is an example of institutional history at its finest. It traces the origins of staff members particular to the queens. The appendices in the back are very helpful. The third section of the second chapter details the revenues of the queen. The only surviving sources for this chapter are all from the thirteenth century, and it is here that Zsoldos forms the bulk of his argument that the queens were fundamentally under the power of the king, since from the perspective of their finances, they relied heavily on the king’s will and approval.
The third chapter on the queen and her court not only deals with the itinerant nature of Hungarian queens, but also with the various forms of their relationships with their staff members. In particular, one important point is that the people employed in the queen’s court often shared offices with the king’s court, leading to the conclusion that the queen’s court was dependent on that of the king.
The fourth chapter, which examines the powers of the queen, questions whether the office of the queen actually held any power in and of itself (as opposed to personal power from an individual’s charisma). Power in this chapter is confined exclusively to rule over personal territory, and the conclusion once again is that, while other royal women did exactly that, the queens did not. The strengths of this work are obvious. With only scraps of primary sources on which to base his conclusions, Zsoldos is able to use later charters to make plausible conjectures concerning elements of the office of the queen that would have existed earlier. This is particularly evident in the second chapter on the land management of the queens.
Appendices in the back are very helpful to readers unfamiliar with Hungarian history, as they provide not only a breakdown of biographical information on the queens in question, but also family trees showing genealogical relationships, a glossary of terms particular to medieval Hungary, lists of staff members working for the queen, and many maps as well. The translation is easily understood and faithful to the original.
There is much to love about this work, though there are a few odd moments of cognitive dissonance. In the first place, the title is telling. This is not a work about queens, but rather about the mechanisms around the queens. They are both oddly central and missing in this approach. The dearth of sources has skewed certain sections to an almost exclusive focus on the last fifty years of the thirteenth century, though that is not Zsoldos’s fault. Since the original publication of his work in Hungarian, eighteen post-2005 titles have been added to the bibliography (seven of them by the author), though it’s a pity that some works, for instance Angol-magyar kapcsolatok a középkorban by Attila Bárány et al (2008), were not included. In the preface to the new translation of the book into English, Zsoldos decries globalization itself as one of the causes of the transformation of research into a bland, uniform miasma. This seems odd for a book trying to reach a wider audience. Then again, Zsoldos insists very firmly that it is a Hungarian book which has been made available in English translation, not an English book about Hungary. Zsoldos wishes for his research to be understood on its own terms. The purpose of this work is not to examine the personalities or private lives of the queens of the Árpád era in Hungary. As such, it is a brilliant book which presents complex, ingenious arguments out of scraps of data.
The scope of the work is impressive, and as an institutional history, it is an absolute must if one seeks to understand the complex nature of the power of the queen as a foreigner operating in a sophisticated bureaucracy stacked against her.
Central European University
Die Hungarica Sammlung der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle: Herausgegeben von Brigitte Klosterberg und István Monok. Alte Drucke 1495–1800, Bd. I. A–O, Bd. II. P–Z. Bearbeitet von Attila Verók. Budapest: MTA Könyvtár és Információs Központ, 2017. pp. 1235.
The two-volume catalogue of old publications related to Hungary in Franckesche Stiftungen [The Historical Library of the Francke Foundations] in Halle is the final volume in a series of catalogues produced as a result of a two-decades-long research project. Exploring the pre-1800 hungaricas preserved in the institution (which grew out of the library of the orphanage founded in 1698 by August Hermann Francke) is an important endeavor, especially in light of the fact that, from the seventeenth century on, several Hungarians visited the library. The outcome of the joint project of Franckesche Stiftungen and National Széchényi Library, launched in 2000, is a series of publications: a collection of portraits edited by Brigitte Klosterberg and István Monok (Die Hungarica-Sammlung der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle. Teil 1, Porträts, 2003), a collection of maps (Die Hungarica Sammlung der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle: Historische Karten und Ansichten, 2009), and a catalogue of hungaricas to be found in the archive (Die Hungarica Sammlung der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle. Teil 2A–2B: Handschriften, 2015). The catalogue compiled by Attila Verók and published in 2017 undertook the exploration of a vast collection of old publications and prints from the period between 1495 and 1800 and also set out to complement the previous volumes. Thanks to Verók’s work, the now complete series enables specific research in the collection and provides an example for those planning to do similar explorations of hungaricas in other libraries abroad.
The volume is divided into three parts. In a brief preliminary study, the author introduces the history of the library and provides a more detailed account of the periods and figures that played a vital part in the growth of the resources. Verók discusses the previously published volumes of the series in detail, including their research findings, and demonstrates the cultural impact of Halle through a short case study on Transylvania. He then provides a brief introductory aid to using the catalogue: he classifies hungaricas into five major categories (1. written entirely or partly in Hungarian; 2. printed in the area of historical Hungary; 3. written by a Hungarian author and published in a foreign language or country; 4. related to Hungary or Hungarians; 5. originating from Hungary) and 15 sub-categories (1. written by a Hungarian author; 2. a dissertation/essay by a Hungarian author; 3. written in part by a Hungarian author; 4. includes a dedication related to Hungary; 5. is or contains a Hungarian work; 6. contains information about Hungary or a Hungarian person; 7. includes a portrait, map, or image related to Hungary; 8. was printed in Hungary; 9. was printed by a Hungarian printer; 10. includes a dissertation or essay by a person related to Hungary; 11. includes works by Hungarian persons; 12. written in Hungarian; 13. had a Hungarian possessor; 14. includes handwritten notes by a person writing in Hungarian/a Hungarian person, and related to Hungary; 15. a book review or critique of a book related to Hungary). These very classifications can be considered a novel approach in the research on so-called hungaricas.
The introductory study is followed by a catalogue with 3,194 entries, the system and structuring of which is logical and easy to follow: the author assigns an ID number to each hungarica, and indicates the press marks and, in the case of multi-volume works, the volume numbers as well. With some entries, in addition to providing basic data (author, title, place of printing, date of publication, size of publication), Verók also specifies the category and sub-category to which the given hungarica belongs. In the case of certain types of hungarica, he provides concrete page numbers and other information to aid researchers drawing on his research. One entry may belong to several categories, and in such cases, Verók lists each type in the catalogue. Finally, with certain entries Verók makes references to the catalogue of hungaricas preserved in Herzog August Bibliothek (HAB) in Wolfenbüttel and compiled by Katalin Németh S., as well as to the 1755 Bibliotheca Nationis Hungariae catalogue (BNH) of the university library in Halle.
The various indexes with which the book comes to a close make it relatively easy to use the catalogue. In addition to the indexes of names and geographical locations, the volume also provides a separate index of publishers and printers, as well as of places of publication and groups of hungaricas. In light of the fact that the library was founded in 1698 and its collection grew considerably owing to donations by nobles and burghers in the first half of the eighteenth century, it comes as no surprise that most (more than two thirds) of the old publications and prints preserved in the library are from the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth century. The material catalogued in Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle may be particularly useful for those interested in the history of science and education in the late early modern period.
The novel groups of hungaricas designated by Verók and, in particular, the dedications explored with the help of an autopsy method (as well as the notes on possessors) will further research in new directions, different from the classical analytical research on library collections prevalent in the study of the history of libraries. Among the old publications from the period between 1495 and 1800, for instance, there are 194 publications which were dedicated to a Hungarian person or a person related to Hungary. More than one third of dedications (more precisely, 70) are found in dissertations or essays written by a Hungarian author. Most of these writings discuss theological topics, and the dedications in them often name several people; interestingly, the same names show up in many writings published in Franeker, especially in the period between 1681 and 1689. A comparison of the two categories of hungaricas reveals relationships between students and teachers, as well as patrons. 153 of the old publications contain a note by a Hungarian possessor, and 100 of them were in the possession of Martin Schmeizel (1679–1747), who was born in Braşov and taught history at the University of Halle from 1731. In 27 publications we find the name of the poet Christian Günther (1695–1723) as possessor, while twelve publications were in the possession of Johannes Honterus (1693–1749) and one belonged to the Hungarian painter Ádám Mányoki (1673–1757). In each case, the catalogue specifies former possessors as well, helping us trace the movement of books from one library to another, and eventually to the collection of Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle. Furthermore, the catalogue consistently indicates when notes on or by possessors are more detailed, such as when there are handwritten notes containing dates which indicate the possessor; thus, Verók classifies these works into another category of hungaricas as well.
Thanks to the years of research and study which Attila Verók has put into this publication, the catalogue is thorough and well-structured, and the organizational system on which it is structured is comprehensible and transparent. The detailed indexes make the catalogue easy to use and help the reader find a certain hungarica quickly. Thanks to its clear structure, the volume will be an immensely useful resource for scholars in various disciplines who wish to examine the library collection of Franckesche Stiftungen, the cultural role of Halle, and its impact on Hungary in the late early modern period.
Dorottya Piroska B. Székely
Eötvös Loránd University
Matézis, mechanika, metafizika: A 18–19. századi matematika, fizika és csillagászat eredményeinek reprezentációja a filozófiában és az irodalomban [Mathesis, mechanics, metaphysics: The representation of findings in mathematics, physics, and astronomy in philosophy and literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries]. Edited by Dezső Gurka. Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 2016. 202 pp.
This collection of short essays edited by historian of science Dezső Gurka (Gál Ferenc College) seeks to bring together a range of scholars engaged with the different cultural aspects of eighteenth-century studies and to reflect on the ongoing reassessment of interdisciplinary research which has been underway in recent decades in the study of intellectual history, the history of philosophy, and the history of science. Building on the examples set by earlier volumes (Formációk és metamorfózisok [Formations and Metamorphoses], 2013; Egymásba tükröződő emberképek [Images of man reflecting one another], 2014]), the book was published as the newest addition to the series of the Gondolat Publishers on the history of science in Hungary, a series dedicated to the centenary of Károly Simonyi’s birth and his compelling work, A fizika kultúrtörténete (1978) [A cultural history of physics]. It offers glimpses in four (sometimes less coherent) chapters into recent studies on the eighteenth-century disciplinary framework of mathematics, physics, astronomy, philosophy, and literature.
As the subtitle and introduction promise, the volume concentrates on the complex relations and interplays among institutions and scientific conceptualizations, while it also has the ambitious aim of both presenting new findings and recontextualizing old ones, in particular in eighteenth-century physics and mathematics. In this respect, the references to the Kantian concepts concerning the pure natural sciences do not provide an interpretative framework for the studies on the history of physics and mathematics in Hungary, since Kantian concepts do not surface in them. This engagement of the collection raises general historiographical-methodological concerns which would have merited broader reflection in the introduction. First, is the Kantian conceptual framework relevant to the studies which were undertaken in Hungary on the history of physics and mathematics, given that the late eighteenth-century texts, with the exception of their critical attitude, put less emphasis on this framework? Second, is it sufficient to adapt the perspective of connectivity and transformation studies to the history of science if one seeks to exceed and reshape the limitations of traditional narratologies (be they national or Enlightened)? As far as the whole volume is concerned, despite the interconnectedness of the subjects and the diverging scope of the essays, these questions remain mostly unanswered.
In the first part (“Forces and Counterforces in Eighteenth-Century and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy”), the studies focus on the interrelations between metaphysics and mathematical argumentation. Dániel Schmal’s study, which looks back on late seventeenth-century debates concerning the principles of Cartesian mechanics, captures a deep, structural similarity between the Leibnizian concepts of true (natural) philosophy and the contemporary visual representation of mathematical and ichnographical layouts. As Schmal argues, although the Leibnizian system made essential distinctions between metaphysics and mathematics, ichnographical layouts were intended, like Leibnizian philosophy, to represent the harmonic hierarchy of nature, in which geometrical-statical meaning was reconciliated with dynamic processes. Béla Mester’s essay throws a different light on the problem of hierarchy between metaphysics and mathematical reasoning. Mester investigates József Rozgonyi’s early popular philosophical work (Dubia de initiis transcendentalis idealismi Kantiani ad viros clarissimos Jacob et Reinhold, 1792) in the anti-Kantian atmosphere of the late eighteenth century. He reveals the underrated mathematical foundations of Rozgonyi’s epistemology, which is related to Thomas Reid’s common-sense philosophy. However, Mester remains unclear on exactly how Reid’s impact was exerted on Rozgonyi’s mathematical reasoning: whether through the lectures of the Dutch mathematician Hennert in Utrecht or through the approach he encountered in Oxford, which ascribed less significance to mathematics. The third essay brings into focus the social-cultural context of eighteenth-century intellectuals, and, building on the case of Transylvanian philosopher Pál Sipos, provides an overview of the most recurrent constitutive elements of his career. In his study, Péter Egyed, focusing on Sipos’ socialization (family background, education, peregrination, early career, publications, and social and intellectual network) seeks to invent the archetype of the university-trained Transylvanian intellectual, whose (philosophical and theological) education, intellectual capacity, and engagement with the dissemination of Enlightened knowledge enable him to serve both public and national interests. At this point, although Egyed’s conclusion can be understood as a revision of the anti-philosophical ethos of the Enlightenment intellectual, a comparative perspective and the extension of the scope of the research either to Austrian-Hungarian or to Protestant-Catholic contexts would be highly recommended in the future.
The essays in the second part (“Mathematicians at the Frontiers of Mathematics and Philosophy”) deal with the intersections of the Hungarian tradition of mathematics and philosophy, providing summaries of the state of the research. Vera Békés’s contribution to the history of philosophy adds critical remarks to the underrated textbook of the Hungarian professor of mathematics, András Dugonics, and pinpoints its intellectual potential for further reevaluation in relation to the work of Erich Kästner, the highly praised professor of mathematics at the University of Göttingen. The other two studies lay their emphasis on the prominent mathematician Farkas Bolyai. While Róbert Oláh-Gál uses compendia and private documents (correspondence, memoirs) to discuss Bolyai’s college instructors (János and Ádám Herepei, the older and the younger József Kováts and György Méhes), Péter Gábor Szabó offers additional remarks on Bolyai’s endeavor to establish Euclidean geometry and calls for further study of Bolyai’s undiscovered mathematical horizon.
In an intellectual and methodological sense, the next part (“The Scientific and Philosophical Reception of Eighteenth-Century and Nineteenth-Century Physics and Astronomy”), which brings together a wide array of topics, offers a scattered view of eighteenth-century inquiries in physics, philosophy, and astronomy. Dezső Gurka’s essay offers new evidence concerning the reception of Johann Andreas Segner’s theory of fluids and magnetism in Kant’s Pure Reason and Critique of Judgement. László Székely, assuming close continuity between the eighteenth-century perception of humanity and nineteenth-century materialism, seeks to explain the canonical work of Imre Madách (Az ember tragédiája [The tragedy of man], 1862) on the grounds of the Enlightenment perception of the circulation of cosmic matter, which served as a general framework for Madách’s tragedy. Similarly to the earlier ones, Katalin Martinás and Bálint Tremmel’s article also favors internalist explanations in the history of physics. It traces the emergence of to the theory of momentum, which was initially framed not as has been long assumed in Newtonian science, but in the Leibnizian analytical mechanics. In contrast to these three articles articles, László Kontler’s essay provides an externalist view on Maximilian Hell’s flexible, though unsuccessful career strategies. As Kontler argues, although Hell’s Catholic erudition had multiple contexts (his loyalty to the Habsburg Monarchy, engagement with the Catholic Enlightenment, Hungarus patriotism, the respublica litteraria, Jesuit erudition) during the period which reached its peak in 1770, it also had its limitations. Therefore, this type of cultural credit (Kontler does not use the word), expressed mainly through the multifold loyalties of the Catholic culture and the dominance of Latin, was losing its significance after the dissolution of the Jesuit Order. By the time of Hell’s astronomical tour in Hungary, this erudition was reduced to restoring the glory of the Catholic faith, while it failed to meet new challenges which culminated in the anti-Josephinian turn of the Hungarian nobility and support for refinement of the vernacular.
The last two articles in the final part (“The Correspondences of Eighteenth-Century and Nineteenth-Century Literature and Natural Sciences”) reflect on the interplay among popular knowledge, didactic poetry, and the interdisciplinary field of physico-theology. Imre Vörös’ contribution repeats the findings from his monograph (Természetszemlélet a felvilágosodás kori magyar irodalomban [The View of Nature in the Literature of the Hungarian Enlightenment], 1991), and shares an overview of the reception process of physico-theology in eighteenth-century Hungarian poetry, all the while concentrating on its transformation from the eclectic Cartesian viewpoint to the Newtonian. Poetry, as a main concern of scientific culture, remains in the focus of Piroska Balogh’s essay as well, which, through philological analyses, traces a less known contemporary literary tradition which, turning back to Antiquity, attributed the very sources of astronomical observation to the poet. In this respect, Balogh’s inquiry investigates the broad European astronomical context of the naming of a Hungarian journal, Uránia, and comes to the conclusion that the context of physico-theology, cosmological knowledge was still relevant for late eighteenth-century intellectuals, such as the university professors of aesthetics in Pest, György Alajos Szerdahely and his successor, Johann Ludwig Schedius.
All in all, the collection of essays constitutes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the history of eighteenth-century philosophy, physics, mathematics, astronomy, and literature, even if the short essays offer only a diverse picture of ongoing research projects, and some of them seem to repeat earlier findings. The editor’s decision to feature pictures, portrays, and engravings in the appendix is welcome, as it brings the problems presented in the essays closer to a non-specialist audience. However, the relationships between the visual and textual representations of the subjects in most cases does not exceed mere functionality. Moreover, some illustrations (especially the manuscripts) are barely legible. While reading the essays, one cannot fail to note misspellings and other mistakes (such as the Wikipedia citation on the page 74), which distract the reader. Hopefully, the next volume will be made available in English, too.
Eötvös Loránd University
National Indifference and the History of Nationalism in Modern Europe. Edited by Maarten Van Ginderachter and Jon Fox. London: Routledge, 2019. 262 pp.
The present volume is based on a symposium held in Prague in 2016 dedicated to “national indifference,” a concept introduced by Tara Zahra in 2008. The reactions to Zahra’s program manifesto that I presented in a side note to the Hungarian translation (“Recepciótörténeti széljegyzet Tara Zahra tanulmányához” [A side note on the reception history of Tara Zahra’s essay], in Regio 25 ) rightly criticize the notion for lacking much in the way of analytical rigor. It conflates stances best described as pragmatic or flexible with neutral and anti-nationalist postures and, from another angle, the not-yet-national with regional and multiple national loyalties. It also lumps together “hot ethnicity,” politically mobilized in the service of national causes, with a tacit acceptance of national categories, a distinction particularly relevant when no non-nationalist alternatives are on offer in the political and ideological fields. Even more disturbingly, it is stretched to include the bilingual for good measure. Deriving its appeal by pointing at cracks in the teleological pageant of nationalism triumphant of which historians have grown weary, it ultimately depends on radical nationalist discourse, which first used it as a heading to draw together all supposed ingroup members who failed to meet its expectations but did not quite qualify as traitors.
The contributions to the volume showcase this entire range of attitudes and forms of behavior that may have flown in the face of strict nationalist norms, from confession-based identities to subservience to the powers that be, opportunism, mimicry, perplexity and false perceptions, imperial nostalgia and deep-seated regionalism, Alsatian dual belongings, all the way down to a post-ethnic rejection of the national classification scheme official in the Soviet Union. Ironically, the author who most firmly voices his support for the notion of “national indifference,” Zachary Doleshal, explores a subject that escapes even its widely-cast net: corporate identity. In an otherwise excellent chapter, he describes how the Baťa company tried to avoid stirring nationalist tensions in the diverse places where it operated by fostering a self-declared cosmopolitan ethos among its workers, all the while remaining an icon of Czech industry. Multinational firms must have regularly encountered this challenge in times of heightened national sentiment, and Doleshal’s choice of topic seems serendipitous in this respect.
While most chapters focus on roadblocks to nationalization, Simone A. Bellezza and Marco Bresciani throw light on nationalist mobilization at work. Bresciani depicts a post-World War I Istria where the trauma of new state borders ushered in unprecedented nationalist turmoil. In his account of Western Upper Silesia’s tribulations from the 1921 plebiscite campaign to the marching in of Soviet troops, Brendan Karch emphasizes that responses to nationalist propaganda may have been purely instrumental, but locals certainly could not remain “indifferent” to choices that determined their fates. Most revealingly, Morgane Labbé approaches the famous case of the Polesian tutejsi (“people from here”) as one of observer’s paradox. The category was already in place at the time of the 1921 Polish census, but later the number of self-declared tutejsi increased with spectacular rapidity, from 39,000 that year to 700,000 in 1931, because of the statisticians who espoused the early Sanacja’s ideal of a multi-ethnic state and promoted the category as a negative gauge of people’s gradual engagement with Ukrainian or Belorussian identities.
Zahra warned that pinpointing “indifference” comes with methodological challenges, since archival sources typically reflect nationalist biases. Several authors make use of less conventional sources to surmount this problem. Filip Erdeljac and Gábor Egry draw on secret service files, Doleshal on internal reports on Baťa employees (workers at the company’s Zlín headquarters were kept under close surveillance), Anna Whittington on letters addressed to Soviet state authorities, and Belezza on the writings of Trentino POWs from World War I. Whittington’s three dozen Soviet letter writers from the 1960s and 1970s were anxious to get rid of the nationality labels ascribed to them, with which they could not identify or which they even experienced as an external stigma. Bellezza relies on a collection of ego-documents which is uniquely rewarding for the study of nationalization. Indeed, the collection has already been investigated from this point of view, contrary to Bellezza’s claim (Martin Lyons, Writing Culture of Ordinary People in Europe c. 1860–1920 , 143–52 and the literature cited there). Diaries kept in the Kirsanov camp afford a day-by-day overview of how some Tyrolians adopted Italian identities amid the ordeals of POW life.
Its resolute anti-nationalist premises unmistakably contributed to the excitement with which “national indifference” was greeted by historians who need to contest national narratives. Erdeljac’s chapter in the book, with its exaggerated claims and desire to debunk, proves this point. Although ethnicity may well be a “fiction” invented by nationalists for Erdeljac, he presents interwar propaganda attempts to inspire nostalgia and loyalty for Hungary in the Slavic-speakers of Zagorje and Međimurje as a proof that the nationalism of Hungarian propagandists was frivolous or at least inconsistent. Apart from misconstruing Hungarian state nationalism, the underlying argument that true ethno-nationalists leave the ethnic other alone poses an absurd litmus test that no real-life specimen would pass.
Erdeljac is not alone in his quest for national indifference where one would least expect it, in the minds of nationalist activists. In Tom Verschaffel’s view, nineteenth-century champions of Flemish culture (he implicitly treats the early Flemish identity project as crypto-nationalist) failed to live up to their ideal when they dedicated only a minor part of their literary output to it. The same would hold for Belgian gallery owners who became acculturated to the Paris artistic milieu and artists who vented cynical opinions about politics in private.
Verschaffel’s overdrawn conclusions notwithstanding, such inquiries could serve as helpful reminders of the limitations inherent in nationalization projects, especially if they brought more precise concepts into play, such as contingency, situationality, cognitive dissonance, or cultural blind spots. The fact that whatever activists did besides their activism can be interpreted as “national indifference” itself shows the vagueness of this academic brand as a concept. As the present volume demonstrates, it can mark out the reverse side of ultimately successful nationalization as a field of research, but it does not provide an analytical tool. The chapters in the volume do not make a serious attempt to use it as such. Indeed, Egry, Karch, and Bresciani take issue with it.
Before Zahra, and perhaps unbeknownst to her, Max Weber had already made a cursory effort to theorize “national indifference,” distinguishing it from “emphatic negation” and calling attention to the fluid nature of national consciousness (Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology , 924–25). Unlike Rogers Brubaker’s Ethnicity without Groups, cited prominently by Zahra, several authors of the volume lose sight of the latter point and apparently look for tireless militants taken right out of the nationalist textbook. At the other end of the scale, more than half of the book is made up of chapters (apart from the ones already cited, Alison Carrol’s on interwar Alsace and Egry’s on interwar Transylvania) that point forward to a fuller understanding of how we have become national, to the extent that we have. If Zahra’s original article created an inspiration for them, it deserves credit for that.
Central European University
Wirtschaftsnationalismus lokal: Interaktion und Abgrezung zwischen rumänischen und sächsischen Gewerbeorganisationen in den siebenbürgischen Zentren Hermannstadt und Kronstadt, 1868–1914. By Stéphanie Danneberg. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018. 391 pp.
Stéphanie Danneberg’s doctoral thesis combines a new and ever more popular trend in the study of the historical forms of nationalism, a look at nationalism from below, with another one that was much more en vogue around the millennium, that of economic nationalism. The work promises to go beyond the discursive aspects of Romanian and Transylvanian Saxon (and partly Hungarian) nationalism as regards the economic unification of one’s own ethnic kin and analyze the meanings and functions of the slogan of self-organization and self-defense in the world of craftsmen and workers in the two largest cities of the former Königsboden, Hermannstadt/Sibiu/Nagyszeben and Kronstadt/Braşov/Brassó. Danneberg’s primary interest, however, is not the elites of these cities, but the pre-labor movement associations of craftsmen and workers which were often created by the elites but which were intended to integrate these social and professional groups into the urban society against the backdrop of the decline of traditional guilds and industries. She attempts to capture a complex set of relationships at the local level (interactions between various social groups and ethnicities) and the relationships among these people and their engagements with national elites. The basic thesis she seeks to verify is: “the more Hungarian nationalism was present in a locality, and the more aggressive it was, the stronger ethnic and political differences between Saxons and Romanians became in the form of a growing conflict perceived also in economic terms” (p.25). Danneberg outlines in seven chapters the theoretical framework of economic nationalism and the characteristics of the phenomenon in Transylvania, and she gives a quantitative assessment of the Saxon and Romanian craftsmen and industries, including the workers, and the activities of banks. She also analyses the membership and activity of a series of associations before 1914.
Danneberg situates her research within a very broad framework of political and economic transformation in Dualist Hungary. The peripheral position and general economic backwardness of Transylvania are the main features, as well as a state economic policy which was more liberal and less nationalist than state policies in other fields (most notably in the education). Nevertheless, Transylvania was surrounded by a stark rhetoric of Hungarian nationalism. Transylvanians, both Saxons and Romanians, faced the decline of the traditional forms of industry even before the lifting of the compulsory membership in guilds (in 1872). Thus, Hungarian nation-state building efforts coincided with an economic transformation which prompted a defensive rhetoric from those affected in opposition to the new, emerging factory-based forms of industrial production and its representatives. As this took place against the backdrop of an ethnicized social stratification and a network of associations which were more traditional than civic in their organization, the ground was fertile for the emergence of strong currents of economic nationalism.
But a closer look at the very institutions that were supposed to embody both the material and national plight of the affected strata reveals a more nuanced picture. Looking at how Gewerbevereine, Gesellenvereine and Arbeiterbildunsvereine operated, often in the face of a centralizing and Magyarizing state bureaucracy which wanted to include Gewerbevereine in the state administration, and also examining the prominent economic exhibitions held in both cities, Danneberg shows that the economic nationalisms in Hermannstadt and Kronstadt were hardly identical. Indeed, they were not even similar. In the latter, where industrialization and Magyarization made Hungarians the most numerous of the three ethnic groups by 1910, Saxon organizations, often managed by intellectuals and not craftsmen, excluded Romanians, and Romanian organizations excluded Saxons. Programs and events were realized separately, and discursive othering was pervasive. Hermannstadt’s associations gradually were taken over by craftsmen, and they came to include a Romanian membership which, from the perspective of its size, was not merely symbolic. These associations also carefully aimed to foster interactions at every possible occasion. The reason for this lay not only in the different ethnic realities (a more subdued Hungarian presence), but also in the social and economic conditions. Kronstadt was rapidly industrializing, and Hermannstadt’s local economy was dominated by craftsmen, and the city leaders devoted resources to preserve their positions, too. Finally, in both cities, a new social group of labor slipped away from traditional urban or denominational associations to form an emerging organized social democracy which was nationally indifferent.
The ultimate conclusion of the book is that the situationality and contextual nature of nationalism as a practice is discernible within economic nationalism too. This argument is a welcome addition to the study of bottom-up and everyday nationalism, and as such, it is convincing. However, given the broader framework and regarding some relatively significant nuances the work posits in terms of the different intensity of economic nationalism in the two cities, the book leaves a less favorable impression, mainly because of the complete neglect of the secondary literature in Hungarian. Danneberg fails to cite or make reference to Zoltán Gál’s analyses of the regional layers and networks of financial institutions, Gábor Sonkoly’s conceptualization of the hierarchy of Transylvanian urban centers, nor Gábor Egry’s monograph on the role of the Saxon financial institutions in nation building.
These works might have helped Danneberg refine the argument and avoid a rather simplistic use of structural factors in her explanation of economic nationalism. Gál’s and Sonkoly’s works show that neither Hermannstadt nor Kronstadt was an underdeveloped periphery. Rather, they both had central economic, social, and administrative role within Transylvania, and as such, these cities were important elements of the second tier of the urban network of the whole empire. Egry argues that Saxon banks were refinanced from outside the Monarchy, while Romanians relied almost exclusively on capital from Vienna and Budapest, a not insignificant difference if we consider the embeddedness of institutionalized economic nationalism. Furthermore, as Egry argues, Saxon banks were institutionally capable of erecting a new framework which encompassed most of the supposed members of the nation, while Romanian and Hungarian banks fell very short of this aim, and their charitable donations were mostly token activity which fell far short of providing adequate financing for a broad network of nationalist institutions. It is also Egry’s work that gives detailed examples of barefaced individual rent-seeking by leading Saxon personalities disguised as part of a “national development effort” (the Vinţu de Jos/Alvinc-Hermannstadt railway, the Hermannstadt hydroelectric plant, the Hermannstadt-Schässburg/Sighişoara/Segesvár railway) and examples of how the moderates within Kronstadt’s Saxon economic elite (on the board of the largest and oldest local savings bank) fended off the efforts of their nationalist peers to make exclusive economic nationalism, directed against local Romanians, the basic principle of the bank’s operations and tried to uphold an ideal community of all city burghers in the face of state-driven Magyarization. In light of these earlier works in the secondary literature, it seems more the coexistence of economic modernity and traditional activities that fueled attempts at economic nationalism, while the practice of economic nationalism was even more fragmented and situational than the book shows and claims.
Institute of Political History, Budapest
Metropolitan Belgrade: Culture and Class in Interwar Yugoslavia. By Jovana Babović. Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh University Press, 2018. ix + 259 pp.
Jovana Babović’s Metropolitan Belgrade is an attempt to wrest a significant part of the cultural history of interwar of Yugoslavia out of the shadow of dominant political narratives. Babović instead wants to tell another story, one that took place simultaneously but separately from the better-known histories of authoritarianism, ethnic conflict, and national tension. The subject of the book is Belgrade’s cosmopolitan cultural life between the two world wars, as well as the story of the people who produced and consumed this culture. Babović’s key argument is that Belgrade’s emerging middle class (the author uses the term “self-actualizing middle class”) largely shunned domestic culture in favor of foreign and/or European culture. In this way, Belgrade’s middle-classes distanced themselves from the cultural and political projects of Yugoslav state-forming (a distancing that became more pronounced in the period of King Aleksandar’s “Yugoslavizing” dictatorship, from 1929 to 1934) and identified instead with perceived symbols of metropolitan Europe. This was also a means of creating a space between an emerging middle-class identity in Belgrade and working class or lower-lass social strata.
The book is divided into six chapters which offer amusing but also telling examples of this process of cultural identification and separation. The first chapter, “Entertainment and the Politics of Culture,” establishes the allure of foreign entertainment, presented to and by Belgrade’s middle classes as a “benchmark of European taste” (p.37). Chapter two examines the heady early days of Radio Belgrade, including its programming and likely listenership, and the manner in which the station addressed itself ostensibly to all of Yugoslavia, but practically to Belgrade alone (in its content and through its signal strength). There are further chapters on the professional associations of Yugoslav performers and working-class entertainers (a counter-example to the foreign cultural consumption preferred by most of Belgrade’s middle class) and on the development of Belgrade’s leisure district in the 1920s and the 1930s, with a particular focus on cinemas and theatres as perceived sites of moral transgression (it seems the feuilleton writers of Belgrade’s newspapers and magazines were particularly interested in the potential of these darkened rooms for extramarital affairs). Babović’s final two chapters highlight two important figures in the cultural life of interwar Belgrade: the visit of American-born French performer Josephine Baker, the “Black Venus” who performed in Belgrade and elsewhere during a tour at the end of the 1920s to much outrage but also fascination in Yugoslavia; and a chapter on Serbian strongman Dragoljub Aleksić, an entertainer who became popular in the dictatorship period by duplicating and, Babović argues, subverting the regime’s emphasis on physical discipline and culture, especially as embodied by the official “Sokol” gymnastic associations.
Babović’s succeeds in telling a complementary history of the interwar period, one that differs from the better-known political narrative of the period and one in which class affiliations take precedence over those of nationality and in which the authoritarianism of the dictatorship years does not seem to be all-encompassing. On the former, it could perhaps be argued that Belgrade as the state capital and Serbs as the “hegemonic” nation might simply not be cognizant of their position as primus inter pares in the interwar kingdom (an idea hinted at in the chapter on Radio Belgrade, in which the producers of radio programming are not always clear about the difference between an urban Belgrade listenership and a broader Yugoslav one). In her chapter on Josephine Baker, Babović shows the contrasting ways in which this entertainer’s performances were received in Zagreb (far less kindly, it turns out), and there is surely scope to draw out comparative or transcultural analysis of different urban centers in interwar Yugoslavia. This even offers a chance for further ethnic and national differentiation: how did Novi Sad, with its Habsburg history and its intercommunal traditions, differ from Belgrade? Here is a tale of two cities, two ostensibly Serbian metropoles that are on closer inspection quite different from each other. Babović’s book is a piquant and persuasive study which asks and answers many important questions.
There is a rich historiography on urban culture in Belgrade, one which covers the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and continues to deepen our understanding of the time and the place in a turbulent political environment. But it is to date available largely only in Serbian, as Babović’s citations attest (for example, the work of Dubravka Stojanović, or Radina Vučetić-Mladenović). This book is a rare example of an English-language treatment of certain themes and discussions which have already been the subject of nuanced discussion in the Serbian-language secondary literature, but it also advances these discussions with its innovative ideas about class and metropolitanism in interwar Belgrade. Perhaps the closest field in English-language is the fascinating literature on socialist consumption after 1945, pioneered by scholars such as Paulina Bren and Mary Neuberger, and it can only be hoped that authors will be inspired by Babović’s work to look more closely at the way culture was produced, exchanged, and consumed in interwar East Central and Southeastern Europe.
John Paul Newman
Austrian Reconstruction and the Collapse of Global Finance 1921−1931. By Nathan, Marcus. Cambridge, MA−London, England: Harvard University Press, 2018. 546 pp.
Interwar Austrian monetary history is a popular theme in current historiography. Many monographs have dealt with this issue in recent decades. One would assume that there is no reason for a new research endeavor in the field, but Nathan Marcus’s bulky volume refutes this assumption when it tells the well-known story from other perspectives. This book aims to present how postwar hyperinflation was overcome in Austria in 1922, the road to financial stabilization, and the events until 1931 by offering a complete reassessment of the role and activities of the League of Nations in the Austrian stabilization process.
The introductory chapter summarizes the political and economic history of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy from 1848 to 1908, unfortunately leaving out the war years, although this period had an enormous influence on postwar monetary and fiscal problems. Following this chapter, the book is divided into three larger blocks; their alliterating titles (Crisis, Control, and Collapse) indicate already the author’s conviction that the Austrian financial reconstruction was little more than a series of failures. Nathan Marcus does not examine the process from a narrow financial perspective. For him, the real failure was the political instability and growing anti-Semitism in Austria in the interwar years.
The first part of the book (Crisis) covers the period of hyperinflation from early 1921 to late 1922. The main focus is on how Austrians experienced and made sense of the upheavals brought about by the dramatic depreciation of the crown. Marcus uses many sources to answer this question; the economic debates of the era, the inflation-themed caricatures in the press, and the data concerning demographic behavior and tobacco consumption. Hyperinflation increased the pace of life and changed people’s perception of time. For most Austrians, rapid inflation was a traumatic experience; a process of impoverishment and decline. The deterioration of the crown’s value created fears of a chaotic and unstable future. Marcus proves this by analyzing caricatures published in the newspapers which reveal the anxieties and distress caused by inflation, the fears from the disintegration of the moral order, the breaking up of families, the loss of traditional values, and the end of a male-centered world.
The most intriguing part of the book deals with the financial reconstruction devised by the League of Nations. During the stabilization program, Austria had to balance its budget, establish a new independent central bank, and raise a foreign loan to finance reconstruction. The process was facilitated by the presence of the League of Nations General Commissioner, who controlled Austria’s fiscal policy and was authorized to withhold the revenues of the League of Nations loan borrowed by the Austrian government. A foreign adviser oversaw monetary policy at the Austrian National Bank.
The question of foreign control, which has received relatively little attention in the historiography until now, is the central issue of the book. Austrian historiography has negatively evaluated League control as an unwarranted subjugation of Austrian sovereignty to foreign interests which allegedly damaged the Austrian economy and led to unemployment, deflation, and economic crisis. Austrian Reconstruction and the Collapse of Global Finance 1921−1931, in contrast, attributes positive effects to foreign financial control. This concept had been applied only to economically backward countries, such as Ottoman Turkey or Egypt. It was the first time a developed European state had to give up part of its sovereignty in order to get a foreign loan. In Austria, this provoked apprehensions and resentment about foreign influence. However, Marcus proves that in the case of Austria (and other financial reconstructions based on the Austrian model later on), the nature of foreign control was quite different. The League provided the impartiality necessary to make foreign control acceptable both to the foreign creditors and to Vienna by giving it an international character. International financial control through the League of Nations, unlike financial influence organized by foreign bankers or the Allied Powers, was acceptable precisely because it promised to be politically more neutral and respectful of national sensitivities.
In the 1920s, a new spirit of international cooperation emerged in the bodies of the League of Nations, the essence of which was to overcome national interests and social and economic conflicts. Officials at its Financial Secretariat and international experts in its Financial Committee contributed to the reconstruction of the global economy and fostered transnational and trans-governmental activities in conformity with the new League mentality.
Financial control over state revenues and monetary policy was necessary and unavoidable as it was the only way to restore confidence in Austria, and confidence was the most important prerequisite for raising a new foreign loan. According to Marcus, accusations of foreign financial dictatorship was entirely misplaced in the case of Austria. In fact, the control exercised by General Commissioner Zimmerman was quite limited, and he did not act as a representative of foreign financial interests. Instead, Zimmermann played a conciliatory role by trying to reach a compromise between Geneva, London and Vienna by explaining and defending Austrian fiscal and monetary policy abroad. He functioned as a scapegoat, allowing the Austrian government to blame foreign intervention for unpopular economic measures. Chancellor Seipel successfully resisted League demands if in his assessment they came at too high a political cost (e.g. reduction of budget expenditures, dismissal of state employees, or cuts in wages and pensions). The reforms prescribed in the Geneva Protocols establishing the principles of financial stabilization were undertaken with little enthusiasm; the most important measures were even sabotaged in Vienna. Chancellor Seipel and his Foreign Minister welcomed the League’s presence in Vienna, as it strengthened their political position vis-à-vis the parliamentary opposition.
Part 3 (Collapse) describes the post-stabilization period until 1931. After 1927, the political and economic situation became increasingly unstable in Austria, and this led to serious conflicts between the political right and the political left and thus increased the danger of civil war. According to the volume, this was the underlying cause of the recurring crises of the Austrian financial market, the most spectacular episode of which was the collapse of the Boden-Credit-Anstalt in 1929 and then of the biggest and most important Vienna bank, the Credit-Anstalt (CA) in May 1931. Marcus rejects the widely held belief that the CA failure triggered the financial crisis in Europe in the summer of 1931. The Austrian National Bank, with help from the Bank of England, foreign financiers, and the Bank for International Settlements, was able to contain the CA crisis by mid-June. It was only after the outbreak of the German crisis in mid-July when the banking panic and the run on the currency returned in Vienna. According to the argument, it was the unfolding crisis in Germany that brought the Great Depression to Europe. It is surprising that, in this section of the book, Marcus does not even mention the fact that League control was reintroduced in Austria in the autumn of 1931.
The book synthesizes a vast amount of secondary sources and draws extensively on the author’s primary research; the references take up 125 pages in the book. Unfortunately, there is a lot of repetition; the book would have profited from the work of a careful editor who had removed repeated ideas. Marcus also makes only minimal mention of the issue of reparation, although it was a decisive factor in the European financial reconstructions in the 1920s. Despite its shortcomings, Austrian Reconstruction and the Collapse of Global Finance 1921−1931 is a significant contribution to the field which can be recommended not only to the specialists on interwar political, economic, and financial history, but also to the wider readership and especially to students.
Corvinus University of Budapest
History and Belonging: Representations of the Past in Contemporary European Politics. Edited by Stefan Berger and Caner Tekin. New York, Berghahn Books, 2018. 214 pp.
History and Belonging offers an overview of the most pressing elements in contemporary European politics with a focus on memory politics and the creation of national narratives within the EU. It does so with issues occurring in the contemporary or historically Western and Eastern regions in mind. The first five chapters of the book offer insight into the creation of Europe as a cultural, historical concept from a typically Western European point of view. The last five explore the ways in which the Western European perspective has set challenges for non-Western self-conceptualizations across the continent.
While the first five chapters aim to analyze the ways in which a united Europe has become a homogenous, largely Western idea, the authors themselves sometimes fall into generalizations and do not fully question the meaning of the term “Western.” Despite this, these chapters give a wide overview of the several domains which participate in the production of knowledge and are engaged in the formulation of both the idea of European unity and national historical narratives. The case of the House of European History (Rosenberg) and the European Union National Institutes for Culture (Schneider) complements the overview of the historiography of European integration (Calligaro). The first three chapters explore the importance of institutions in the representation of a collective “European past” and, very importantly, highlight (as in Schneider) the reciprocally dependent relationship between places of representation (e.g. museums) and those of knowledge production (archives and academic liaisons). However, one sometimes might miss mention of the regional aspect and thus the questioning of such categories as “European” or “common history” through a brief look at East Central European patterns of past-representations before and after the transitions following the collapse of state socialism. The fourth chapter (Pingel) on the representation of Europe in curricula and textbooks offers the sometimes overlooked yet immensely important aspect of education in transcultural missions. Pingel explores a shift in the European idea which is seemingly in conflict with the national idea while nonetheless sensitive to the question of center and periphery, allowing the author to touch upon the fact that the European idea is construed in a world that is imagined to be peaceful. The conflict between the national and the supranational European idea is duly demonstrated in the fifth chapter by Wellings and Gifford. Dealing with national, colonial, continental images of the past in England, this chapter gives an engaging analysis of the history of English Euroscepticism and highlights the conflict between European integration and historical continuity with pre-existing national narratives. This chapter nicely presents the interconnected relationship between imperial thinking, nostalgia for an embellished image of national greatness, the cracks in historical continuity, and Euroscepticism. Thus, it may be useful for scholars from a great variety of fields.
The next five chapters offer a stronger focus on Central and Eastern European cases in past-representation and contemporary politics. Đureinović’s chapter about the multitude of effects of historical revisionism on transnational memory culture in the post-Yugoslav space adds to this volume, among other things, through its special focus on the relativizing tendencies in the representation of both fascist and communist crimes. This argumentation is logically followed by a methodology-focused discussion of the memory of Stalinism and its international dimension (Weber). Đureinović and Weber’s argumentations put special emphasis on the temporality of the concept of victim and perpetrator, which allows both authors to analyze the myths of victimhood that served as a foundation for the Pan-European idea. These chapters are nicely complemented by an analysis of the Holocaust as transcultural memory and the vast differences in how forms of resistance are remembered across Europe (Müller). As an intriguing resemblance to Wellings and Gifford’s chapter on English Euroscepticism, Müller highlights the role of historiography in creating individual, national, and European narratives of the Holocaust, part of which is a dominantly nostalgic narrative in contemporary Israel towards the Habsburg Monarchy and fin-de-siècle Vienna. The last two chapters of the book revolve around Turkey and the responsibilities of the European Union in its accession (Levin and Tekin). The focus lies on the effects of cultural and historical othering, anti-muslim prejudice, and Europeanization. Levin argues that the popular idea that Turkey’s accession procedure ultimately failed due to its domestic conflicts is largely misleading and that historical European self-conceptualization also partook in the marginalization of Turkey through consistent othering. The last chapter, authored by Caner Tekin, is a nice complement to this. It convincingly demonstrates the conceptual conjunctions between the formulation of a stable “European identity” and the debates surrounding Turkey’s accession. Both chapters are useful in terms of methodology, as they reflect on how historiography is affected by conceptual debates.
History and Belonging might be an inherently useful volume which offers an overview of the questions which are frequently at the center of the debates surrounding the legitimacy of the European project. From EU institutions to curricula or parliamentary debates, the volume offers a wide range of topics and methodologies through which the European past, traditionally represented as homogenous and from a Western point of view, can be nuanced or even challenged. This book is special in the sense that it is a collection of works which respectively focus on questioning the contemporary European idea by deploying methods in conceptual, political, institutional history, as well as by drawing on literary and cultural studies. The issues of center and periphery, cultural and political othering, and religious and economic differences provide the core of the questions raised in the book. As stated in the introduction by editors Stefan Berger and Caner Tekin, the aim of this volume is to offer an introduction to how the European past is remembered in light of the European project and integration, which it does successfully. While this edited volume has a strong emphasis on historiography and memory politics, it will be valuable for readers from a wide range of social sciences.
Orsolya Anna Sudár
Central European University
Planning in Cold War Europe: Competition, Cooperation, Circulations (1950s–1970s). Edited by Michel Christian, Sandrine Kott, and Ondřej Matějka. Berlin–Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2018. 375 pp.
This book represents a very welcome reminder of the importance of the concept of planning after World War II on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Economic planning was not just an obsession of communist parties, it was also deeply rooted in the strategies and policies of various Western countries. While understandings of this concept varied widely, it was a topic of great interest and debate among economists and policy makers. This observation offers a different view on what is today perceived as two radically opposed camps in the postwar period. While ideologically, politically, and military this was undoubtedly true, in the field of macro-economics and more specifically regarding the level of state intervention, the reality was more nuanced.
The book has 14 chapters structured in three parts. The first part, “Planning a New World after the War” is focused on the period immediately after World War II. Francine McKenzie argues that immediately after the war, the liberal trade order was perceived as the best long term option, but different countries in the Western world would progress towards that goal in different ways and at different speeds, taking into consideration domestic modernization, employment, and social welfare.
In the next chapter, Daniel Stinky presents the work of Gunnar Myrdal between 1947 and 1957 as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations’ newly founded Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). During his tenure at ECE, Myrdal continuously aimed, more or less successfully, to bridge the gap between the Western world and the Soviet bloc through economic cooperation.
The second part, “High Modernism Planning,” aims to demonstrate how planning was a dynamic and versatile concept, intensively used and discussed on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Isabelle Gouarné describes the intense dialogue between the French planners and their colleagues from the Soviet bloc. In the next chapter, Katja Naumann describes how two UNESCO organizations designed to support social sciences research cooperation acted as spaces of encounter, cooperation, and even competition across the Iron Curtain. This chapter demonstrates how scientific knowledge undoubtedly benefited from East-West cooperation.
In the next chapter, Sandrine Kott elucidates an important piece of the still unclear puzzle of the emergence of the new managerial class as a key actor in all the communist countries. This contribution describes in detail how management knowledge was transferred from the West in an institutionalized form strongly supported by the communist leadership in the 1960s.
Sari Autio-Sarasmo explores how scientific-technological cooperation (STC) between the Soviet Union and Finland were managed over almost four decades. The discussion of the means and specific details of this cooperation is very insightful and sheds light on behind-the-scenes technology transfer to the Soviet Union. The chapter ultimately concludes that the dissemination, implementation, and diffusion of the transferred knowledge into the Soviet industry was not terribly successful. Moreover, the way STCs were run during the Cold War (paying with raw materials and energy for technology imports) remains deeply rooted in Russia’s trade pattern today.
The following chapter looks into the origins of a debate organized by the World Council of Churches (WWC) among Christian theologians, Marxists from both sides of the Iron Curtain, and scholars from the Third World. The author uses the Czech case to show how the anti-religious social engineering supporters, initially chosen by the communist leaders for their commitment to the party’s objectives, progressively emancipated themselves and began to spread an independent and critical discourse, usually under the influence of forbidden literature and contact with Western scholars.
The next chapter examines one of the most important structures of the Soviet bloc, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and, more specifically, the Soviet Union’s attempt to integrate the communist economies into a centrally coordinated system. According to the author, the communist countries manipulated the negotiations in order to shift the balance of power within the Soviet bloc and to accomplish national economic and political objectives. While generally correct, the argument of this chapter could have been improved with the inclusion of two other facts in the discussion. First, the Soviet-led integration initiative came soon after a decade of blatant exploitation of its satellites’ economies and resources, so the local communist leaders’ preference for national sovereignty over a supranational initiative could have shaped their strategies to deal with integration plan. Second, the Romanian leaders used the so-called Valev plan to undermine the integration plan actively from its very beginning. The plan proposed the creation of a vast agrarian transnational area, including a large part of Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine. While perhaps economically rational, the Valev plan was ideologically and economically not sustainable for a less developed country such as Romania, where the Communist Party had to rely on extensive industrialization to pursue modernization and the creation of its political base, the working class.
The third part of the book is entitled “Alternatives to Planning.” It begins with a chapter on the Western perception of the self-management model developed in Yugoslavia as an alternative to the centralized planning system. The notion of self-managed planning had wide circulation and was quite popular in Western political and academic circles. As a path which was distinct from the Soviet model, it influenced debates and policy evolutions in the West. Even if its validation by the real economic performances was rather weak, it provided a useful theoretical concept, helping Western Europe to deal with its labor challenges.
The second chapter of this part focuses on the evolution and the role played by management theory in Czechoslovakia over the course of more than two decades. Vítězslav Sommer describes in detail how Czechoslovak management studies progressed and developed continuously since 1950s and was successfully adapted to the changing political circumstances. It is worth mentioning here that the Czechoslovak example is perhaps less relevant to other communist countries, considering the high level of industrialization and development of Czechoslovakia.
The next chapter brings into the discussion the role played in international cooperation, policy making, and planning processes by the ecosystems research starting in the early 1970s. The outbreak of the budworm became the trigger of a new approach on environmental management based on computerized modeling and systems analysis developed by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
The following chapter focuses on the rise and decline of the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Founded in 1964, it aimed to redefine world trade relations by considering various regional groupings, but also different ideological and economic systems. Planning and regulation were two key concepts in UNCTAD’s attempt to create a common framework. However, the organization’s relevance declined rapidly in 1980s as a result of rising neoliberal economic conceptions.
The final chapter of the book is also related to the rise of the neoliberal order, describing a research project launched by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1975. The project aimed to investigate alternative patterns of development for the Western economies in the new globalized world. The author argues that the project was a key carrier of a proto-liberal worldview, which was actively diffused by OECD into the global environment in the following decades.
Overall, the book constitutes a valuable contribution to the understanding of the role played by the concept of planning at the global level and in the dialogue between the West and the Soviet bloc. It also offers a fresh perspective on the dynamics of this concept and the multiple ways central planning was discussed and applied in various countries. Some essential aspects of the communist managerial class rise and the complicated dynamics of the attempts to plan and regulate world trade are perhaps the two most important contributions of this book.
There are also a few disputable contentions and notions in the book. The idea that there is no strong opposition between market economy and a centrally planned one still demands further evidence. While it is correct that there is a wide range of possible economic systems between a dogmatic centrally controlled economy and an unregulated free market economy, it is the political system and the ideology behind it that defines the red line. It is also correct that various socialist countries experimented with various small changes, but allowing a larger space for maneuver to state enterprises in managing their plans and eventually allowing them to compete to a small extent does not qualify as market reform. On this question, the book does not sufficiently address the consistent criticism of the planned economy which emerged in early 1960s, especially in Hungary, including its impact on political decisions and the outcomes of various reform attempts. Furthermore, the book would have profited from deeper exploration of the impact of dogmatic central planning on the communist societies and how this impact influenced Western thinking on economic planning.
Voicu Ion Sucală
University of Exeter