A History of Modern Hungary, 1867-1994

By Jörg K. Hoensch; Kim Traynor | Go to book overview

Preface

Perhaps an art will come which, without words or even gestures, can convey the experiences of a people by looks alone.

Stanislav Jerzy Lec

Behind the widespread cliché of Hungary as a land of romantic steppes, grazing cattle herds, village wells, operetta melodies, gypsy ensembles, csárdás, paprika and tokajer lies a country whose historical development has witnessed a number of breaks in continuity and periods of decisive change since the abortive revolution of 1848-49, while at the same time displaying an astonishing capacity for renewal. While the Compromise of 1867, which regulated the status of the historic kingdom of St Stephen in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the collapse of the Habsburg Empire and the effects of the 1920 Trianon Treaty, Hitler's attempts to incorporate Hungary into his vision of a 'New European Order', its integration into the Socialist Bloc after the catastrophe of the Second World War and Kádár's independent 'Hungarian path towards Socialism' are generally known, a detailed knowledge of these developments and their context tends to be lacking. Although the past few years have seen a number of western tourists to the country straddling the Danube steadily increase, its history, ongoing traditions and the motivating factors behind the 'Hungarian model' of the present tend to remain obscured from view on these holiday trips.

Since 1956-57, when Gyula Miskolczy's lectures first introduced me to nineteenth-century Hungarian history during a year spent studying at the University of Vienna, I have repeatedly occupied myself with specific aspects of Hungarian history. This interest has been nurtured and strengthened by my own family's connections

-xiii-

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