Territorial revision at the service of European civilisation: The foreign links of a concept in interwar Hungarian geography

Room F
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
08.30 – 10.15
civilising mission, geography and war, Hungary, mobilities of knowledge, territorial revision

After being traumatised by the immense territorial losses resulting from the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty, Hungary’s political leaders, alongside a vast majority of Hungarian scholars, considered territorial revision as a major goal. Geographers played a crucial role in this process by creating a wide array of arguments to provide scientific justification for reestablishing the pre-1920 boundaries. One of these arguments presented the Carpathian Basin as the scene of a grandiose civilising mission, with Hungarians destined to bring civilisation to other nationalities who were, from the Hungarian perspective, “at a lower cultural level”. The geopolitical struggles of interwar Hungary were thus projected onto the European level by implying that the fulfilling of Hungarian revisionary goals should be of crucial interest to the entire continent, and to the flourishing of European civilisation. Similar to many other notions serving the revisionist aims of Hungary, however, this concept was not a uniquely Hungarian one, but it strongly relied on a language and methods already present in several national geographies in Europe and North America. Hence, the aim of my paper is to reveal the international roots of this narrative, to analyse the way it arrived in Hungarian geography in bits and pieces from various foreign geographies, and to compare the concept with its counterparts in other countries during and after World War I.

Ferenc Gyuris
Eötvös Loránd University
gyurisf [at]

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