Zsuzsa L. Nagy (ed.)
Iparosok és kereskedõk a két világháború közötti Magyarországon
(Tradesmen and Shopkeepers in Hungary between the Two World Wars), Társadalom- és mûvelõdéstörténeti tanulmányok 11
(Studies in Social and Cultural History No. 11),
Budapest: MTA Történettudományi Intézet, 1994. 128 pp.
Hungarian historians who undertake to study the petite bourgeoisie of past decades have quite a legacy to cope with. To begin with, there is the problem of the term itself. Used in a pejorative sense for over forty years to denote all that was to be surpassed by a victorious working class it was a catchword of political discrimination, with connotations beyond its original meaning. Regularly linked with the word "vestige", "petit-bourgeois", as part of the political vocabulary of the Communist functionaries, was used to castigate a middle-class mentality, taste, and attitude.
For years, no historian dared venture to research a social group which, both as a cultural and political configuration, had been pronounced anathema, and which even contemporary sociologists had condemned to a phantom existence. The short volume under review is an attempt to fill this void, presenting, rather belatedly, three studies summarizing the results of research started in the 1980s.
The publication is the brainchild of the editor, Zsuzsa L. Nagy, the first Hungarian historian to do serious research on the subject. Her own study, based on statistical data, provides an overview of the schooling strategy of the tradesmen and the shopkeepers. Lajos Timár's essay addresses the disparities in education, mobility and income on a regional basis. The question he sought to answer was how heavily location shaped the internal stratification of the social groups defined as the petite bourgeoisie. Edit B. Gál's contribution, a piece of micro-history that verges on local history at times, comes close to being a case study. Her largely qualitative narrative based, in part, on oral history, focuses on the life-styles and living standards of the tradition-bound artisan dynasties of a small town, Gyöngyös.