Lukas Fasora, Jiri Hanus, Malir, Jiri. Clovek na Morave. 19. stoleti (The Human in Moravia. The nineteenth century). Brno: Centrum pro studium demokracie a kultury, 2004. ISBN 978-80-7325-038-6.
Reviewed by Halina Beresneviciute-Nosalova
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (October, 2006)
L. Fasora u.a. (Hrsg.): Clovek na Morave. 19. stoleti
The present collection attempts to sketch collective portraits of various social groups in nineteenth-century Moravia. The editors were inspired by three prominent publications: "Der Mensch des 19. Jahrhunderts" edited by Ute Frevert und Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, "Der Mensch der Aufklärung" edited by Michel Vovelle and "Der Mensch der Romantik" edited by François Furet. Frevert, Ute-Haupt, Heinz-Gerhard (Hrsg.), Der Mensch des 19. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt am Main 1999; Vovelle, Michel (Hrsg.), Der Mensch des Aufklärung. Essen 2004; Furet, François (Hrsg.), Der Mensch der Romantic, Frankfurt 1998. This book, which contains the German resumé "Der Mensch in Mähren des 19. Jahrhunderts", took a methodological track, which happened to be an unintended turn of some studies in the work of Frevert and Haupt. The contributors of the selected volume had to confront collective biographies with individual ones – one or a few representatives of the social group. The four chapters of the volume address the relations of each social group to the process of modernisation and their specific social position. Under headlines like "Vehicles of Modernisation" entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, lawyers etc. are treated; the chapter "People with Various Relations to Modernity" deals with peasants, servants, innkeepers etc. and under "Representatives of the Pre-modern" nobles, army officers, clergymen etc. are examined. The fourth chapter focuses on the stories of marginal groups of the society for example Roma-Gypsies and criminals.
The editors asked the authors to concentrate on the question of what was typical for these social groups in nineteenth-century Moravia and to give an answer in two steps. The first part of the articles should describe the history of the emergence or development of a given social group. So most of the articles discuss legal situations and statistical data and attempt to sketch the social and geographical mobility as well as income, lifestyle and mentality. The second part had to introduce individual biographies. The difficult task to joint the macro and micro historical perspectives in a short essay clearly paid off, especially through the plasticity of the social portraits and the general charm the book got that way.
As many collective works in social history the collection displays a certain incoherence among the methodological tools employed and the perspectives taken by various authors. While the bulk of the articles gain their most valuable arguments from the quantitative research, there are to be found contributions which enlarge the scope: The portrait of the Catholic priest by Jiri Hanus Hanus, Jiri, Katolicky knez, S. 375-388. can be characterised as a good attempt for the intellectual history of Catholic Romanticism. The biographies of tradesmen by Jiri Matejcek Matejcek, Jiri, Zivnostník, S. 355-366. are recognizably written by someone, who gained experiences in research on on mentalities and everyday life. The study of Moravian nobility by Radmila Slabakovs Slabaková, Radmila, Slechtic, S. 323-341. focuses on the symbol capital of the aristocracy. The research on the servant maiden Machkova Prajzova, Nada, Sluzka, S. 250-261. , the middle class women Machackova, Jana, Zena ze strednich vrstev, S. 262-277. , the innkeepers' wives and the waitresses Altman, Karel, Hostinsky, S. 236-249, here S. 240-242. are representations of the discourse on gender studies and integrated the feminist perspective in the volume. Despite the diversity of approaches, most of the authors however did not fail to go along with the editorial matrix, to give insights into the questions of the social mobility of various social groups. Confronting the collective biographies with individual careers, the authors gained the opportunity to consider the unusual social careers and the barriers, which had to be overcome. Jiri Malir – one of the editors – for example, analysed the careers of the Czech lawyers, who came usually from more modest social origins than the well-established German lawyer families. Malir, Jiri, Advokat, S. 79-110. The article by Ales Zaricky on entrepreneurs, on the other hand, compared the life-stories of a business-oriented nobleman, a non-noble professional and a Jewish businessman. In this way the author revealed the specific circumstances, which could influence the scale and limits of success in modernisation of business activities. Zarícky, Ales, Velkopodnikatel, S. 28-46.
While studying how the outstanding careers used to be made, some authors touched upon the theme of the socialisation of the traditional and ascending elites in nineteenth-century society. The chapter on the "Vehicles of Modernisation" is particularly worth of interest in this respect. The articles here explain the tension between the emergence of the professional groups which were gradually taking over by their new roles in governing and shaping the modern society on the one hand and their aspirations, which were rather characteristic for the Ancient Regime, on the other. The lawyers may be taken as a case. Malir mentioned their craving for nobilitation, the strife to build political carriers and to penetrate the political spheres, which were still dominated by aristocratic circles, as well as to copy the aristocratic ways of family representation. The same as note 8, here S. 95, 105-107, 110. The article about the doctors Pokludova, Andrea, Lekar, S. 61-78. as well as the story of a middle class woman, the doctor’s wife The same as note 6. , mark clearly the split in the aspirations and the possibilities of this professional group. Many of the young doctors looked forward to become employees of municipalities or state servants and to develop private praxis besides. Their engagement in the "noble" charitable activities as the way, how to gain plausible publicity, deserves wider research as the study of the source of symbolical capital and important social connections. On the other hand, the life-story of Doctor Stretti in private aristocratic service sketches the position of a pre-modern court-servant. The farming activities of the doctors in the countryside, which are mentioned in both articles, reveal the obstacles for the financial emancipation of this professional group.
The individual biographical approach, while confronted by statistical social data, allowed explicating the importance of the marital strategies within particular social groups, and the social capital of the family for building the professional careers. Jiri Malir followed not only the social descent of the lawyers but also the intermarriages inside this social group. The story of the head of municipality in Brno, written by Lukas Fasora, gives many insights into the formal and informal power strategies in the city municipality. The author presents a curious debate on the question, what person was acceptable for the office of the town Major. The preferences used to be given to the people of local origin. The local connections used to be juxtaposed to professional training. Lukas Fasora, Prdstavitel obecni samospravy, S. 124-139, here S. 130-131.
The article by Lukas Fasora, which concentrates on the German-speaking municipal elite of the Moravian metropolis, as well as quite a few others made a serious attempt to fill the gap in the studies of the non-Slavic social groups in Moravia. A couple of authors made a fruitful attempt to put into comparison the professional careers of people of different ethnic and social descent. This method was used by Dusan Uhlír, who analysed the possibilities of the military career among the nobles and non-nobles. Uhlír, Dusan, Vojak, S.342-354. A particularly interesting perspective into the relations between the different ethnic groups is opened by Karel Altman’s article on innkeepers. The article points to the eagerness to profit from the variety of ethnicities in the city: the author mentioned the exchanges of children between the German and Slav innkeepers in order to help the future generation to learn languages as well as the practices of the other people in the branch. On the other hand, the author also analysed various practices by which the level and prestige of certain inns used to be created. Among them, the division into exclusively German as well as Czech intellectual restaurants in the era of nationalism is described. The same as note 7, here S. 244-247. The articles on the Jewish Rabi Nezhodova, Sona, Rabin, S. 401-416. and Roma-Gypsies Necas, Ctibor, Rom – Cikan, S. 460-472. are also rich in insights into the inner hierarchies of those communities as well as into their relations with the various power structures and segments of the society in whole.
The book gives a wide perspective on the status-creating representation of the individuals and families in the cultural and intellectual sphere. The reader may certainly gain the overview about the scale in which the elite culture influenced the lower strata of the society. The articles obtain information about the professional, political, cultural and reading societies, which played an important role not only among the highly qualified professionals but also among the peasants. There is a good reason to conclude, that those societies were of great importance in the process of shaping national identities as well as in building individual careers. The study of agricultural societies in peasant milieu testifies for this. Pavel Novak notes the tendency to create the regional agricultural societies instead of joining the more elitist and centralist "K.k. mährisch-schlesische Gesellschaft zur Beförderung des Ackerbaues, der Natur- und Landeskunde", what gave them more space for individual influences and representation of the local interests. Novak, Pavel, Rolník – Vysocina, S. 182-201, here S. 191. Cultural leisure activities in salons are mentioned by quite a few of the contributors. The cultural salon of the Czech family of a provincial shopkeeper described by Jiri Matejcek surprises by its ambitious agenda. The same as note 3, here S. 358.
Concerning the sphere of culture, the editors could be reproached, perhaps, for failing to provide collective biographies of other groups of intellectuals, which became "vehicles of modernisation" in the nineteenth century: the journalists, the scientists and the professional artists. Scientific activities of a forester Novotny, Gustav, Lesník, S.217-235. for instance are grasped occasionally. There is however a story of a vagabond comedian among the marginal groups Marek, Pavel, Kocovny herec, S. 417-430. , but that marginal group of artists could hardly compensate the lack of the collective biography of the artists, who were active in creating the elite culture and the “modernist values” and who gained much in respectability throughout the century. Nevertheless, the article on servant maid, which analyses the biography of a servant in composer Leos Janacek's family, gives some insights into the everyday life of this social group. The same as note 5. )
Another theme, which is present in most of the articles, is the geographical mobility of the social groups discussed. The book focused on the region, which was as compact as Moravia, a historical land within the Habsburg Empire. Historically and ethnically linked to Bohemia and geographically close to Vienna, Moravia in the nineteenth century became the playground of the strife of identities. The historical Moravian and political imperial patriotisms were challenged by rising German and Czech nationalisms. The authors of most of the articles analyse political and national identity of the given group and try to give answers to the question, what were the attitudes towards ascending nationalism. This question was surely relevant for discussing the aristocracy The same as note 4, here S. 339. , priests The same as note 2. and a working class activist with a social democratic orientation. Pokorny, Jirí, Delnicky funkcionár, S.140-151, here S. 146-148.
Clovek na Morave is a valuable contribution to the historiography of the Bohemian lands not only as the coherent and original attempt to grasp multifarious social life in nineteenth-century Moravia. Because of its attention to the complexity of the multiethnic and socially segmented society and because of many good questions asked the book may serve as an inspiration further researches.
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Halina Beresneviciute-Nosalova. Review of Fasora, Lukas; Hanus, Jiri, Malir, Jiri, Clovek na Morave. 19. stoleti (The Human in Moravia. The nineteenth century).
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