From Revolution to Revolution: Hungary from 1848 to the Present

Once a powerful kingdom in Central Europe, Hungary and the Hungarians have a rich history of interchanging periods of conquest, dominance, expansion and contraction. More recently, Hungary has been at the forefront of issues facing the European Union and Europe more generally with the rise of populism.


This 13-week course has its focus on the multiple transformations of Hungary:

From the revolutionary “Springtime of Nations” in 1848 when Hungary’s quest for independence was halted through political sovereignty and partnership with Austria in the Dual Monarchy between 1867 and 1918, to a truncated but independent existence in the interwar period; from there to subjection first to Nazi Germany and then to the Soviet Union, and finally to renewed independence in 1989, membership in NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004 and the constitutional revolution that started in 2010 with the election of the Fidesz Party to power.


The focus is on key watershed in Hungarian history. The revolutions of 1848-1849, 1918-1919, the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, Hungary in World War Two, the communist takeover, the 1956 Revolution against Soviet rule and the collapse of communism in 1989 and the Fidesz Revolution in 2010 and after. The story has not been invariably heroic, violent and tragic. In the long peaceful periods, long at least for East Central European conditions, Hungary changed from a patriarchal and rural country to an urbanized and industrialized nation.


The course will offer a chronological survey of the history of Hungary from 1848 until the present. It is ideal for students with little or no knowledge of Hungarian history but who possess an understanding of the main trends of European history in the 19th and 20th Centuries.


Course Requirements:


Mid Term Take Home Exam– 1.5 hours – 25% – Week after Reading Week –25 February 2018.

Short 1500 – 2500 word written assignment – due last class of term – 3 April – 25% – Book, Film or Art Review. Must be discussed with me in advance.

Participation and Attendance – 10%

Final Exam in April Exam Period – 2 hours: 40%


Late Penalty is 2 per cent per day including weekends.


Course Readings:


I have suggested a number of required and recommended readings for students.


The principle course text will be:

Paul Lendvai, The Hungarians – A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat.  It is available at the Bob Miller Book Room at 180 Bloor Street West (across from the ROM)


Students will also find Miklos Molnar’s A Concise History of Hungary to be useful, Laszlo Kontler’s Millennium in Central Europe and Bryan Cartledge’s The Will to Survive – A History of Hungary.


Weekly lectures – 2 hours per week.


COURSE OUTLINE2 per cent per day


Lecture One – Introduction

The syllabus. Who are the Hungarians? Hungary from Golden Age to Turkish Conquest to Habsburg Empire.


Read the relevant section from Lendvai. We will look at the Hungarian “conquest” of 896 and the emergence as a Christian kingdom in 1000.


Lecture Two – Road to Revolution

Hungarian society , culture and politics prior to the 1848 Revolution.

The First Reform Generation.


Readings for First Two Lectures:




Lendvai, Chapters 7, 8, 9, 19, 20.



*Peter F. Sugar, ed., A History of Hungary.  (Indiana Univ. Press,1990), chapter 11.

*Istvan Deak, The Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians, 1848-1849(Columbia Univ. Press, 1979), Introduction  and chapter 1.

*Istvan Deak, Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848-1918  (Oxford Univ. Press, 1990), Introd. and chapter 1.

 *Andrew C. Janos, The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, 1825-1945 (Princeton Univ. Press, 1982), chapters 1 and 2.

 *Sugar, chapters 1-10.


Lecture Three – Hungary in Revolution

The triumph of the Hungarian bloodless revolution and the anti-Hungarian revolt of Hungary’s ethnic minorities. War with Austria and the Russian intervention, 1848-1849. 

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