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  • Aid for Understanding the Past

    Among other interesting topics, you can learn about the most recent findings concerning the history of the noble class in Transylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries in the recently published studies of the researchers working at the Institute of History.
    Aid for Understanding the Past 
    Four new books have come out lately, published by the research staff of the Institute of History at the University of Debrecen, covering historical time periods between the 15th and the 19th centuries, focusing on both Hungarian and universal history.
    Attila Györkös’s “Non debent predicare fabulas: An Analysis and Transcript of the Parables from a 15th-Century French Manuscript” has been written through transcribing and analyzing a codex containing 315 stories coming from a lesser-known French manuscript. The meaning of the Latin part of the title is: Do not preach tales. The religious stories called parables used to be popular in the Middle Ages, especially because of their oftentimes humorous or shocking content, which helped the contemporary reading public in making proper sense of what was preached to them.
    “Saint Antanasius burst into tears once, upon seeing an enticingly dressed woman. When asked about the reason for this, he said: ‘I’m crying because I cannot be liked by God the same way this woman would like to be liked by men,’” goes one of the stories in the recently published collection. An important trend in religious history research today is the (re)publication of medieval collections, as exemplified also by this internationally significant work by Attila Györkös.
    At best, less than one third of the old Zemplén County belongs to Hungary at present. In the majority of the cases, this county just happened to be the scene of certain events of national significance in the past, yet its inhabitants rarely had an important role in these. Nevertheless, it still featured as the central topic of investigation in the 2009 work of János Barta Jr., whose volume, titled old-fashioned Hungarian for “If a Traveler Examines the County of Zemplin,” gave a thorough presentation of the social classes, the structure of the economy, the ecclesiastic and bourgeois landowners, and even the wine-producing regions of this county. A database to complement the volume published seven years ago has just come out recently.
    As it was announced at the March 11 event to introduce the newly published books, this addition to János Barta’s earlier oeuvre may be of particular interest to those whose intention is to write studies in local history research about settlements located in Zemplén County.
    In the 19th century, there lived and worked in Transylvania a lord-lieutenant of Kolozs by the name Antal Jósika, about whose achievements there has been no definitive study published before. This deficiency has now been taken care of through a recent publication by Klára Papp and Orsolya Tóth, titled Jósika Antal The Activities and Writings of Antal Jósika, a Lord-Lieutenant of Kolozs.
    Antal Jósika wrote draft plans on the position of the Catholic Church, on the nature of education, and on the political activities and taxation of the members of the noble class in Transylvania. Apart from reading details of these topics, the perusal of the history of Antal Jósika can also pass for a process of learning about the way of thinking represented by the nobility in Transylvania.
    Antal Jósika was a Jesuit priest as a young man, which is very interesting because we have no idea of how his family could let him not to continue managing the family fortune as a single male child but to choose the Jesuit order instead. He would have made an excellent ecclesiastical office holder if Maria Theresia had not disbanded the Jesuit order in a decree of hers. Thus, Antal Jósika returned home after this, got into a good and advantageous marriage, and lived his life happily ever after as a lord-lieutenant of Kolozs,” said Klára Papp about an exciting detail of the life story of Antal Jósika.
    The fourth one of the recently published books, a collection of studies written during the past few years by Professor István Orosz, titled A főnix és a bárány városa [The City of the Phoenix and the Lamb],  introduces the readers into the past of the city of Debrecen in between the 17th and 19th centuries. Special emphasis is laid on how the citizens of Debrecen acquired their privileges at the end of the 17th century, on how the social hierarchy of the city was transformed in the 19th century, and how there could live so many entrepreneurs and landowners with titles of nobility in the city.
    There is also a study included in this collection that focuses on the role of Debrecen in the years of 1848 and 1849. In 1849, the Hungarian parliament resided and operated in our city for five months. At that time, added to the 27 thousand people living in Debrecen, there arrived about 9 or 10 thousand new inhabitants to live here from a variety of different parts of Hungary, most of whom were refugees. They managed to make the life of this city so colorful that it resembled more like the likeness of a capital city.
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