A History of Hungary
A History of Hungary
A History of Hungary provides a comprehensive yet approachable survey in which politics and culture, economic, social and intellectual developments, and the wider European context are integrated in a single narrative.
László Kontler sets the stage through a discussion of conditions in the Carpathian Basin, the main theatre of Hungarian history, in prehistoric and ancient times. He then adeptly steers the reader through the complex process of migration and conquest at the end of which the scions of the last nomads who settled on the European landmass created a Christian monarchy. Amidst ups and downs, the emerging Kingdom of Hungary still became a force to reckon with in the region wedged between the Baltic and the Balkans, and the Germanic and Russian lands for half a millennium. Further on, he explores factors such as socio-economic backwardness and foreign hegemony, which put Hungary at a disadvantage in coping with the challenges of modernity – a centuries-long process marked by the thwarted heroism of revolutions and wars of independence, the triumphs and the costs of occasional opportunism and historic compromises, the trauma of territorial losses, the self-restraint imposed by a narrow scope of action, and the satisfaction of mere survival. The book includes a detailed discussion of the ’socialist’ period, while an Epilogue assesses the achievements and the difficulties of the post-1989 transition to democracy.
This revised edition is also marked by a new Foreword and an updated bibliography.
László Kontler is Professor of History at Central European University and also teaches at Eötvös Loránd University (both in Budapest). His research and publications focus on European intellectual history in early-modern times and the Enlightenment.
‘Whether we like it or not, the history of East Central Europe is that of individual countries...[T]he writing of national histories is further justified by the erudition and intellectual brilliance of the author.’ – Times Literary Supplement (István Deák, Columbia University)
‘This is a magnificent work and, indeed, the best survey of Hungarian history ever published in any language. It is eminently readable... This is a book which serves not only the general reader but also the specialist with an interest in just one part of Hungary’s history. It is comprehensive, inspiring and provoking.’ – Slavonic and East European Review (Martyn Rady, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London)
Hungarian History Unfolds, February 2, 2010
By Nicholas J. Petty "eupatrides" (hutchinson,ks. usa) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of Hungary: Millennium in Central Europe (Hardcover)
I cannot think of a book on Hungarian History that is any better written than this book is. Excellent presentation, and is an easy read for such a throuroughly reserched topic. Excellent all around. A must read for any student of Hungarian history, or even the ordinary reader who wishes to know more about Hungary, it`s history, and it`s people.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Scholarly and Historical Book, 24 Oct 2004
By Erika Borsos "pepper flower" (Gulf Coast of FL, USA) - See all my reviewsThis review is from: A History of Hungary: Millennium in Central Europe (Hardcover)
I was enormously pleased to discover this recently written Hungarian history book (published in 2002). I have searched for a comprehensive "English" Hungarian history book for over 20 years and FOUND IT AT LAST!!! While it is not *easy* reading, neither did I expect it to be. This is not fiction, it is a description of accurate, hard facts, "real life". One can not expect an author to make it "entertaining". Much of Hungarian history is filled with trials/tribulations, often caused by neighboring countries or the West who made treaties/alliances that worked against Hungarian autonomy. Hungary is situated in the center of Europe - hence the crossroads to the West, the Balkans, and Asia. The physical location of Hungary has created most of it`s past political/historical problems and wars ...
Chapter I: "The Land, The People, The Migrations" is one of my favorites. Laszlo Kontler manages to create enticing, intriguing titles to each chapter, that makes one want to continue reading more. Although, it is often dry reading, one can easily stop & later take up any section. One can open any section for a good overview of important names, dates, and places in Hungarian history. Chapter II: "The Making of a Medieval Monarchy (895 - 1301)" is a great description of how Hungary`s House of Arpad became a Catholic nation during feudalistic times. Kontler gives us a wonderful understanding of "The Golden Bull" and the rights/privileges and responsibilites of the nobility, landowners and peasants. He does a phenomenol job of revealing why Matthias Corvinus is a highly revered Monarch even today.
Hungary`s "deviation" from the West and Western thinking is given a thorough analysis. The section on the Turkish wars and occupation is well written. Hungary`s quest for expansion, even into Croatia and Serbia, & with some success almost as far as Naples, Italy is very fascinating. Chapter V is another absolutely thorough one which covers, the Enlightenment, Reforms, and the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The quest to become a modern nation, despite Hungary`s challenges, such as connection to the Austrian Empire is comprehensive and thoroughly covered. World Wars I and II are documented with precision and accuracy. The Chapter, "In Search of an Identity (1918 - 1945) is particularly well-written and an eye-opener. Chapter VII sums up the recent era, 1945 - 1989 with erudite accuracy.
A book of this magnitude and scope is difficult to write, I have great admiration for Laszlo Kontler 1)for his great breadth and depth of knowledge and 2) for his writing style which is flowing and precise. Mr Kontler does not interpret events for us, he gives us the facts and lets us examine our own feelings, thoughts or beliefs about the events as they unfold. He does not do modern day `reporting`, i.e., trying to sway the reader toward any political outcome or viewpoint. For this I give him the highest marks. This book is highly recommended for anyone of Hungarian origin or ancestry who wants to understand more about their roots or culture. Anyone else who has a keen interest in the origins of the Hungarian nation will also like this book, provided they are interested in "facts" rather than a "story". Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one history of Hungary, this should be it, 3 Oct 2010
By P. Haynes (Maidstone, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME) This review is from: A History of Hungary: Millennium in Central Europe (Paperback)
An excellent, comprehensive and balanced history of Hungary. It`s not cheap, but then no decent Hungarian history books are (the market for such things not being exactly huge).
Others have commented on the slightly convoluted writing style and this is a fair point. Hungarian sentence structure is very different from English, and tends to result in long sentences with many subclauses when translated directly into English. The best translations convert the text into English style sentences, but translation of this quality is quite rare (especially with non-fiction). This book is generally well translated, but still suffers a bit from the complexities of Hungarian sentence structure. Personally I don`t find this a problem, but then I am used to reading indifferent translations from Hungarian. If this is a subject you are interested in, you will soon get used to the style of translation.
For readers who are more interested in recent Hungarian history, I would recommend Ignác Romsics` `Hungary in the Twentieth Century` instead of (or as well as) this book. A dryer, more academic book, but very detailed, and an excellent history (and with English sentence structure!).
Few, if any, Hungarian history book cover the period after 1990 in much detail though, so if you are interested in what has happened to Hungary since about 2000, neither of these books will help you. I`m afraid you`ll need to do the research yourself, and the resources are fairly limited. I would recommend the Hungarian Quarterly archives and contacting British or American universities with Eastern/Central European departments, and of course Hungarian newspapers and blogs in English. But be prepared to cope with a great deal of disinformation due to the Fidesz v MSZP war now in full spate in Hungary.
This impressive survey provides a comprehensive, intelligently argued and clearly written overview of the rich history of Hungary. Overshadowed by the more powerful Ottoman, Habsburg, Nazi and Soviet empires, Hungary`s story is one of foreign domination punctuated by romantic but doomed revolts that, in 1848 and 1956, made Hungary the standard-bearer of freedom in the eyes of a rapt world. Kontler, a history professor at the Central European University in Budapest, tells this story in a brisk but detailed narrative that takes readers from Hungary`s ancient origins to its present-day transition to democracy and struggle to find a place in the post-Communist European order. But he goes well beyond kings-and-battles political history to examine broader social, political and economic issues: the tension between Hungary`s economic backwardness and its cultural and political affinity to the West; the difficulties of transforming a peasant society into a modern industrial economy; and the struggle to accommodate the competing nationalist aspirations of a multi-ethnic state within a liberal political order. These are important themes not just of Hungarian but of European history as a whole, and the author`s searching discussions illuminate them in profound ways. Kontler`s thorough scholarship, thoughtful analysis and skillful storytelling will impress students, academics and history buffs alike. (Jan.)