February 24, 2011 - Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary, New York

Organized by the Hungarian Scientific Society of New York and
the Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary, New York


Lecture by Professor Gábor Vermes


Photos: Lily Érdy

Greetings by János Bergou, President and László Záborszky, Vice President
of the Hungarian Scientific Society of New York

Introduction by Professor István Deák

As opposed to a history that is ideologically-motivated, Professor Vermes aims at situating people and events in Hungary during the 18th and 19th centuries in what he perceives as the reality of those times. In that context, liberalism was not the dominating idea, certainly not in the first three decades of the 19th century. Conservativism was, supported by deeply-entrenched cultural trends and traditions. The real struggle during those decades was not between conservatives and liberals, because the latter were very few in numbers and were isolated; the real struggle was between the majority of conservatives, who thought that all was well in Hungary and an activist minority, the cultural nationalists. They too were conservatives, because they did not wish to alter the basic socioeconomic structure of the country either but hoped to uplift Hungary and make it "western" by improving culture, the Hungarian language, literature, an the theater. This idea of changing the country through improvements in culture led to partial successes in
various fields of culture but failed in its primary objective of altering feudal society. This recognition led to the evolution of political liberalism in the 1830s and even more so in the 1840s. Nevertheless, the trajectory of this political liberalism was not smooth but was characterized by many setbacks and reversals. However, by the end of the decade of the 1840s, by 1848, this liberalism triumphed under the leadership of Lajos Kossuth.

About the speaker
I left Hungary in 1956 as a recent graduate of the Eötvös Loránd University. My field then was geology. After several months of camp-life in Austria, I arrived to the United States in 1957. I worked as a geologist in oil-exploration in Texas, Luisiana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. It was in Luisiana that I realized that notwithstanding the fact that I had a very interesting life, I was in a profession that did not suit me. I always wanted to become a historian, but in Stalinist times the humanities were so distorted that I rather chose a career in a natural science. However, once I was in America I could follow my heart's desire. I started to apply to universities and was very fortunate in having been accepted by Stanford University in California. I started my new university studies at Stanford in history in October, 1958. I received my Master's Degree in 1961 and my Ph.D. in 1966.

After temporary teaching jobs and scholarships (to Austria for a year), I became employed by the Newark Campus of Rutgers University in 1972; I retired as professor emeritus in 2001.

My research field has been Hungarian history. In addition to articles and book reviews, my major work so far is the biography of Count István Tisza, which attempts to offer a portrait and analysis of his period as well. It was published in 1985 in the East European Monograph Series and distributed by Columbia University Press. Agnes Deak, an outstanding Hungarian historian translated it, and Osiris-Kiadó published it in two editions, in 1994 and in 2001.
Currently, the title of my manuscript is: "In the Whirl of Cultural Changes: Hungary between 1711 and 1848." I have a contract with the Balassi-Kiado of Budapest, and if all goes well, it will be published in Hungarian translation by Hungarian Book Week in June, 2011.

Gabor Vermes

Hungarian Scientific Society of New York contact:

Dr. Bergou János, Ph.D., D.Sc. jbergou@hunter.cuny.edu

Dr. Záborszky László, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc. zaborszky@axon.rutgers.edu

 Related links:


More photos of the event by Lily Érdy

Gabor Vermes on gimagine:
Szabadkőművesek és egyetemi hallgatók
Magyarországon a XVIII. században >>>

Gondolatok az újkori magyar történetírásról >>>

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