Das Historische Buch 2004
Prof. Dr. István György Tóth
István György Tóth was one of the founding members of the History Department. He passed away on Thursday, 14 July 2005, suddenly and tragically, on his way back home to Budapest from the Twentieth International Congress of Historical Sciences, in Sydney, Australia.
TIGY, as friends and colleagues knew him, was a scholar of the highest international repute, and a popular and successful teacher, in the field of early-modern social and cultural history. Having earned a first degree and later his PhD from Eötvös University in Budapest, he worked as a research fellow, more recently as head of department at the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He continued to teach at several universities in Hungary and Europe for a shorter or longer periods of time; at CEU this meant from the very beginning. He published pioneering articles and books on a wide variety of topics, from the history of literacy in Hungary and Central Europe, through to the history of everyday life, and on Catholic missionary activity in the Protestant and Ottoman territories of Central and Southeastern Europe. His latest achievement, perhaps the one dearest to him, was to edit a multi-author survey of the whole of the history of Hungary, a work intended both for a Hungarian, and an international, readership. Just last year he had conferred upon him the title of Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences¾at an unusually early age for a historian. He served on many international boards, and had a reputation for organizational skills and efficiency, as well as a genuinely sociable nature.
In a department like ours, much devoted to theoretical exploration and risk-taking, his hardly paralleled anchorage in familiarity with sources never failed to have a sobering effect when needed: seeking, and applying, innovative approaches he, at the same time, always had both feet firmly on the ground. While in many other ways too, István was a pragmatist, he was also a historian whose scholarship permeated his attitude and responses to the problems of the day, and his judgements about situations, people, and life in general. For us, colleagues and students, he brought history to life.
He also knew how to enjoy life, and how to share such enjoyment with others¾whether as playing Santa Claus for the youngsters of the CEU community (as some of us still remember from the early days); or as a convivial fellow with a very characteristic sense of humor over a dinner table; as a guide on field trips, or even as a committee member, who would predictably season his scholarly accounts, evaluations and comments with tokens of his unmistakable irony. Travel was in fact one of his passions¾one which he often combined with academic pleasures. It is still hard to believe that from this last journey on which he was able to combine his academic and personal interests he can never return.
As a father, lately, he had been speaking with fondness and enthusiasm about the growing intellectual companionship between himself and his son, Olivér, just coming of age. Sadly, they are now both deprived of the experience of this strongest of ties reaching full blossoming.
Farewell, István. All these things will be painfully remembered. But when zero week starts in September 2005, the History Department will not, cannot, be the same. We stand in incomprehension and anger, confronted with the unacceptable. But we stand with you, and with your beloved ones, in their grief and mourning.
Head, History Department
Fragen zur historischen Forschungslandschaft und zu aktuellen Debatten
2. a) Wie kamen Sie zur Geschichtswissenschaft? Was hat Sie motiviert, Geschichte zu Ihrem Beruf zu machen?
Ich wollte immer ein Historiker werden, als Enkel zwei Anwälten, die sich aber nur für Geschichte interessierten. Schon mit 13 Jahren habe ich einen Wettbewerb in Geschichte gewonnen, jedenfalls ein geteilter erster Preis: ich habe einen häufigen Namen, so zwei Istvan Toths kamen als Erste heraus.
2. b) Die Geschichtswissenschaften haben in den zurückliegenden Jahrzehnten zahlreiche Erweiterungen und Neuorientierungen der Frageansätze und Forschungsperspektiven erfahren. Welche halten Sie für die interessanteste und folgenreichste?
Die Kombination der quantitativen Gesellschaftsforschung mit der Forschung der Mentalitaeten, da sehe ich die grössten Möglichkeiten für Fortschritt, z.B. Hexenprozesse, Ernährung, um nicht meine eigenen Felder zu nennen.
2. c) Sehen Sie Forschungsfelder, denen man künftig mehr Aufmerksamkeit widmen sollte?
Ich denke, dass Religions-und Kirchengeschichte in den nächsten Jahren revolutioniert wird: von der parochialischen Geschichte mit konfessionneller Animosität zur Mentalitäts- und Sozialgeschichte im innigsten Sinne. Ebenso wie vor 20 Jahren "histoire-bataille" für eine Militärgeschichte gewechselt wurde, wo der Soldat als Mensch und sein Pferd als Futterobjekt wichtiger waren, als Marschall Ney oder Friedrich der Grosse. Gerade weil sich die Role der Religion in der Gesellschaft rasch verändert, wird diese Revolution leichter sein.