The Museum of Applied Arts, an Art Nouveau building designed by Ödön Lechner. Photo by Misibacsi from the Hungarian Wikipedia.
Question by Snowflake: Hungary history question.?
What was going on in Hungary around 1895-1910? Many of my relatives from Hungary came to America during this time and I am wondering what the political / social climate was like. What made leaving so appealing to so many of them? (specifically, by going to America)
Thank you so much for your help. It is genuinely appreciated…
Answer by ceewill
“Hungary’s population rose from 13 million to 20 million between 1850 and 1910. After 1867 Hungary’s feudal society gave way to a more complex society that included the magnates, lesser nobles, middle class, working class, and peasantry …
Some lesser-noble landowners survived the agrarian depression of the late nineteenth century and continued farming. Many others turned to the bureaucracy or to the professions …
The rise of a working class came naturally with industrial development. By 1900 Hungary’s mines and industries employed nearly 1.2 million people, representing 13 percent of the population. The government favored low wages to keep Hungarian products competitive on foreign markets and to prevent impoverished peasants from flocking to the city to find work. The government recognized the right to strike in 1884, but labor came under strong political pressure. In 1890 the Social Democratic Party was established and secretly formed alliances with the trade unions. The party soon enlisted one-third of Budapest’s workers. By 1900 the party and union rolls listed more than 200,000 hard-core members, making it the largest secular organization the country had ever known. The diet passed laws to improve the lives of industrial workers, including providing medical and accident insurance, but it refused to extend them voting rights, arguing that broadening the franchise would give too many non-Hungarians the vote and threaten Hungarian domination. After the Compromise of 1867, the Hungarian government also launched an education reform in an effort to create a skilled, literate labor force. As a result, the literacy rate had climbed to 80 percent by 1910. Literacy raised the expectations of workers in agriculture and industry and made them ripe for participation in movements for political and social change.
Hunyad Castle, Hunedoara, Transylvania, Romania. Photo by Todor Bozhinov.
The plight of the peasantry worsened drastically during the depression at the end of the nineteenth century. The rural population grew, and the size of the peasants’ farm plots shrank as land was divided up by successive generations. By 1900 almost half of the country’s landowners were scratching out a living from plots too small to meet basic needs, and many farm workers had no land at all. Many peasants chose to emigrate, and their departure rate reached approximately 50,000 annually in the 1870s and about 200,000 annually by 1907. The peasantry’s share of the population dropped from 72.5 percent in 1890 to 68.4 percent in 1900. The countryside also was characterized by unrest, to which the government reacted by sending in troops, banning all farm-labor organizations, and passing other repressive legislation.”
This was taken from the Library of Congress Country Studies: Hungary. They regularly update the URLs of these studies making bookmarking them impossible, so it’s best that you search for the article with a search engine – it will be worth the effort as they are very comprehensive and authoritative articles.