Ather Hungary tells the stories of eight remarkable individuals: an aristocrat, merchant, engineer, teacher, journalist, rabbi, tobacconist, and writer. All eight came from the same woebegone corner of prewar Hungary. Their biographies illuminate how the region's residents made sense of ecomic underdevelopment, ethnic diversity, and relations between Christians and Jews. Taken together, their stories create a unique picture of the troubled history of Eastern Europe, viewed t from the capital cities, but from the small towns and villages. Through these eight lives, Ather Hungary investigates the wider processes that remade Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century. It asks: How did people make sense of the dramatic changes, from the advent of the railroad to the outbreak of the First World War? How did they respond to the army of political ideologies that marched through this region: liberalism, socialism, nationalism, antisemitism, and Zionism? To what extent did people in the provinces t just react to, but influence what was happening in the centers of political power? This collective biography confirms that nineteenth-century Hungary was earthly paradise. But it also shows that the provinces produced men and women with bold ideas on how to change their world.
Robert Nemes is Associate Professor of History at Colgate University. He is the author of The Once and Future Budapest (2005).