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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Summer Universities, within the international relationships of the Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University between 1920-1946

by Adrienn Sztana-Kovács                                                   

What kind of foreign educational opportunities did the Hungarian students have at an university, that was founded in Pozsony (Bratislava) in 1914, and quickly changed its seat  twice between 1919 and 1923? In our short writing we try to give an impresson of the summer universities' utilisation as a part of our wider research into the foreign relationships of Hungarian universities.

The birth of the Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University and its seat changes

The foundation of the University of Pozsony (Bratislava) and the University of Debrecen was declared by the Hungarian Parliament in 1912. The University of Pozsony was named Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University, and started the education with only the Faculty of Law opening in 1914. The organisation of the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Medicine had to wait until 1918. At the end of World War I. on the 1st January 1919 Bratislava was annexed by the Czechoslovak Republic. The new Slovakian administration took over the managment of the Hungarian University from the Council of  the University between the 22nd and the 25th of September 1919. At this time the university was cut into two parts. The Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Medicine moved to Budapest, while the Faculty of Law stayed in Pozsony (Bratislava) until the autumn of 1921.

The Hungarian Royal Ferenc József University moved to Budapest from Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca) because of similar circumstances. The Erzsébet University in cooperation with The Ferenc József University continued their existence in Budapest between 1919 and 1921. The Ferenc József University changed its residence again, and moved to Szeged in 1921, than two years later the Erzsébet University also moved to its final residence to Pécs.

After the Treaty of Trianon was signed on 4th of June 1920, the diplomatic isolation of Hungary slowly started to disolve. The foreign cultural and academic relationships of the Erzsébet University started to develop from 1923.

The main building of The Royal Erzsébet University in Pécs

The major directions of education policy in Hungary between 1922 and 1946

One of the most important makers of Hungarian education-policy was Kuno Klebersberg Minsiter of Religion and Education (1922-1931), who in his cultural-political conception condemned - particularly in the case of small countries - the policy of  cultural isolation. He organized the network of  the Collegium Hungaricum-s [1] (Berlin 1924, Wien 1924, Rome 1927), the foreign scholarship programmes, and supported the creation of new positions of native speaker language teachers at universities, in the spirit of cultural and educational opening, but the great depression broke his initiative.

The other big influence as Minister of Religion and Education was Bálint Hóman (1932-1938, 1939-1942). In the first period of his ministership the budget of his portfolio was 33% less than during the time of his predecessor.[2] Hóman criticized Klebersberg’s exaggerated and expensive scolarship-system. He developed the relationships of higher education institutions through the cultural exchange agreements between Hungary and other countries.[3]

Hungary in the 1930’s built very close diplomatic links with Germany and Italy.[4] World War II. damaged the academic relationships with the Allied Countries in spite of the efforts Ministry of Religion and Education not to create difficulties over these. After the ratification of the Treaty of Paris the inter-state relations were restored. It serves as an example that a new hostel was opened in London for scientists, and that about this fact the Hungarian universities were informed by the Hungarian Ministry of Religion and Education. [5]

The holiday courses

The summer programmes of universities appeared at the Hungarian universities as an another alternative way of access to foreign education. Among the registered files of the Erzsébet University we found numerous application forms and brouchures for summer universities and summer language courses. Most of these arrived from Germany, France, England and Italy.

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII.101.b. 17d. 744/1928-29
Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII.101.b. 17d. 744/1928-29
We don't have any details on the numbers of applicants from the 1920s. This may be so, because students participating had to pay directly to the foreign institutions themselves. As far as we can see it, this was mainly true in the first half of 1920s. This situation changed, when the summer universities and courses were integrated into the national scholarship programme or when they became a part of the international cultural exchange agreements and they were subsidized by travel-aid. An example for this occuring was the German-Hungarian Cultural Exchange Agreement in 1934. The agreement included  six student-exchanges, German students participation in Hungarian summer universities and two university- or college-lecturer exchanges in each semester.

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII. 104.b. 18d. 366/1929-30

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII. 104.b. 18d. 366/1929-30

In the 1930s the applicants' number was very low, compared to the number of students at the faculties.  In 1935 two-two law students were supported by the programme to travel to Berlin and Perugia for holiday courses.[6] The travel-aid was 40 Pengő per person in that year.[7] 

Pécs University Archives, reference number:  VIII.101. b. 53. d. 1287/1933-34

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII.101. b. 53. d. 1287/1933-34

Pécs University Archives, reference number:  VIII.101. b. 53. d. 1287/1933-34

The number of the successful applications did not rise in the 1936/37 academic year. One law student went to study in Berlin, at the summer course of the Hochschule für Politik, a male arts sudent traveled to Munchen and a female arts student could study in Perugia. [8] In the 1938/39 academic year from the Faculty of Arts three students went to Germany and another one visited Italy. We have only sporadic data about medical students because some the files of the faculty are missing. The sources just mentioned one assistant-lecturer’s name in the summer of 1940, who travelled to the summer course of the Intstitute Forlanini in Rome.

After the end of the World War II., the students of the Erzsébet University got to Munchen and Oxford for the summer holiday courses.

What were the reasons for the students not taking advantage of summer courses? On one hand the cause was the monetarly cirsumstances of the students, on the other hand the lack of foreign-language skills, in spite the fact, that the Erzsébet University stressed the neccessity of the same skills.

Available foreign-language courses at the Royal Erzsébet University between 1918 and 1949
Academic year/time period
1918/19.; 1923−1949
1918−1923; 1925−1948
1918/19.; 1926−1948
1926/27. II.;1930−1936
1926/27. II.
1933−1935; 1942−1948

Language learning wasn’t an obligatory part of the university studies, therefore we don't have exact data about how many students learnt languages at the university, but we have some idea from the three notes of National Scholarship Council [9] about the lack of sufficient language skills amongst the applicants to study abroad.

[1] Hostels and studies for Hungarian students during their scholarship stay at foreign universities.
[2] Miklós Mann: Oktatáspolitikusok és koncepciók a két világháború között. (Educational Politicians and conceptions between the two World War.) Budapest. 1997. 105.
[3] Agreements: Poland, Italy, Austria (XVII., XVIII. and XIX. Acts of 1935), Germany  (V. Act of 1937 and XXXIV. Act of 1940) Estonia and Finland (XXIII. and XXIX. Acts of 1938), Japan  (I. Act of 1940) and  Bulgaria ( XVI. Act of 1941).
[4] Hungary joined to the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1939 and to the Tripartitive Pact in 1940.
[5] Society for Visiting Scientist, 5. Old Burlington Street, London. Pécs, University Archives VIII. 104. b. 411/1946–47., 27. April. 1947.
[6] The number of law students at the end of the 1934/35 academic year was 892, but only the third of them attended the seminars. The other two-third of them usually held a job and they just took their exams at the university in Pécs.
[7] A normal salary for an official in the private sector  was 200 Pengő. In 1937 1 USD was 5.40 Pengő. 1 GBP was 4.94 USD. 1 GBP was approx. 26.67 Pengő.
[8] Pécs, University Archives reference number: VIII. 101. a. 1936/37. Academic Year. Minutes of the first meeting of the University Council. 30. Szept. 1936. 19. point. The number of arts students was 120 at the end of the 1936/37. academic year.
[9] It was founded in 1927 with the main mission of award scholarships and travel aids. Pécs, University Archives reference number: VIII. 104. b. 294/1929–30., VIII. 107. e. 190/1930–31, VIII. 107. e. 67/1930–31.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

'Fors Clavigera', the Young Women of Whitelands College, and the Temptations of Social History

By Christopher Bischof

On the first of May each year from the 1880s onward the young women at Whitelands teacher training college in London celebrated by throwing to the wind the timetable that normally dictated how their every moment would be spent.  Instead, they adorned the college in flowers, donned in white dresses, and spent the day dancing, singing, and reading poetry.  The tradition of May Day helped to poke a hole in the rather dour institutional regimen of Whitelands, which opened the way for many smaller, everyday acts that gradually reworked the ethos of the college.

The women of Whitelands on May Day, c. 1923.  Whitelands Archive: Student Albums and Memorabilia, Box N-P.

Whiteland sanctioned these May Day activities at the suggestion of John Ruskin, the famous author and social thinker, who was a patron of the college.  Ruskin sought to revive May Day as part of his campaign to overcome the effects of industrialization on social relations and culture by returning to the perceived organicism of medieval traditions.

In the afternoon, the young women elected a May Queen, who handed out copies of Ruskin's books to her fellow students.  Ruskin himself donated copies of all his books that he had on hand – all except for Fors Clavigera, his famous book of letters to working men encouraging them to radically reimagine society, which he declared was "not meant for girls."  The women of Whitelands, however, secretly acquired and distributed Fors along with the rest of his works.[1]  This was part of a remarkably widespread and passionate culture of intellectual curiosity at Victorian training colleges.[2]

What is even more remarkable is that the young women of Whitelands not only acquired, read, and probably discussed Fors Clavigera, they actually helped to make its index – unbeknownst to Ruskin himself.  Ruskin had asked John Faunthorpe, the principal of Whitelands and one of his intellectual protégés, for assistance compiling an index for Fors, which was to be published separately.  Faunthorpe shouldered most of the work himself, but at several key points he enlisted the help of his wife and the young women at Whitelands.  At one point he had twenty-six Whitelands women, one for every letter of the alphabet, assembled in a room scanning Fors.  "This took me about two years of leisure time," Faunthorpe recorded later in his never-published autobiography, "and without my wife’s and my college girls’ help it would have taken me much longer."

Though built on the backs of the young women of Whittelands, the index of Fors also cemented the budding friendship and intellectual relationship between Ruskin and Faunthorpe. "I am really aghast to-day at learning the toil that index has cost you," a grateful Ruskin wrote Faunthorpe in February of 1886.  Fors, Ruskin believed, "will be thrice the book" once it had a "well done" index.  In fact, the index inspired him to a new project: "I think with the help of this index of writing a systematic commentary on Fors and you to be partner in profits.”  Faunthorpe counseled Ruskin against this project, arguing that the nature of Fors did not lend itself to a commentary.  Ruskin heeded this counsel, marking a shift in their relationship.  Before Ruskin had been mentor to Faunthorpe.  Now Ruskin took advice as well as gave it.  The work which it appeared Faunthorpe had heroically and single-handedly put into indexing Fors – and the mastery of the text that work implied – helped to bring about this shift.[3]

This is another chapter in the hidden contribution of women to intellectual work, much like the contribution of women to some of the nineteenth century's great works of history as revealed by Bonnie Smith.[4]  What makes this story particularly interesting is that the contribution of women was hidden even from Ruskin himself, who would have been aghast at this violation of the gendered sensibilities which he held so dear.

It also reveals the challenges of doing social history, especially in the context of the history of education.  For historians of education working on the nineteenth century or earlier, recovering the story of teachers, pupils, parents, and other on-the-ground actors is a major struggle.  We still know remarkably little about what actually went on in the Victorian classroom, a lacunae that owes largely to the lack of sources.  To compensate for this gap in our understanding, it is tempting to lean heavily on the histories of ideas or people we do know well – and who are well known to contemporary readers. 

Figures like Ruskin can grab a reader who might otherwise flounder on the unfamiliar terrain of a narrative dominated by unknown teachers and pupils.  They also shaped teachers’ way of seeing the world and, as a narrative device for the historian, they provide an organic link to the larger social, cultural, and political context in which teachers and others operated.  Yet they threaten to steal the show from on-the-ground actors like the teachers-in-training at Whitelands.  Writing a social history of education that connects up to big issues like gender, intellectual work, and ideas about the nature of institutions requires walking a fine line.

[1] Whitelands Archive (WA): The Whitelands Annual, 14 (1895), 31-38.
[2] Christopher Bischof, “‘A Home for Poets’: The Liberal Curriculum in Victorian Britain’s Teachers’ Training Colleges,” History of Education Quarterly 54, 1 (2014), 42–69.
[3] WA: James Faunthorpe, Ilicet. Being [My] Life and Work in Three Training Colleges: Battersea, Chelsea, Whitelands, 1874-1907 (unpub. manuscript, 1908), 57-64.
[4] Bonnie Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998).