Historical Study Examines Educational Patterns of Over 1 Million Students
Through an international project funded by the European Research Council, CEU History Professor Victor Karady and his colleagues traced the educational patterns of the emerging middle classes in the Carpathian Basin along with two Baltic countries (Latvia and Estonia) from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Karady and his team identified over 1 million students and graduates in extensive historical-sociological surveys and the results will be published in a series of research reports in conjunction with Pasts Inc., CEU's Center for Historical Studies.
“The main idea was to study what happened in the educated middle classes in connection with the building up of modern educational provisions during the post-feudal period of modernization and nation-building preceding the communist takeover,” Karady says.
The schooling authorities of the Habsburg Empire, which dominated the majority of modern-day Central Europe from the 16th century up to 1919, kept good records of individual students, many of which still exist in archives. Similar records can be found in the Baltic universities too, though fewer at lower levels of education. By poring over standardized basic biographies, Karady and his colleagues succeeded in identifying and studying all students who were admitted to universities and other schools of advanced learning. “This is the largest-ever historical enterprise of this kind in any society that I know of,” says Karady, whose project extended over more than three years.
All these societies and regions were heavily multiethnic. One of the main aims of the study was to measure ethnic and denominational inequalities in terms of educational and professional mobility in various subcultural clusters. Disparities have proved to be considerable, following the main independent factors investigated: family background (social class), regional origins, ethnic roots, and religion. These factors likely affected the probabilities of access; choices of schools, universities, and study tracks; academic performance; length of studies; and professional prospects of graduates, including intellectual creativity. The analysis of the information obtained takes into account the political transformations, changes in ruling elites, public schooling policies, specific effects of war situations, and the unequal agency of educational mobility among the social and ethnic clusters from which the educated middle class emerged. Researchers paid particular attention to cultural minorities.
Karady also found concrete evidence of the devastating effects of changes in educational policies. For example, Hungary's 1920 Numerus Clausus Act – the first anti-Jewish law in modern European history – drastically reduced Jews' access to higher education and paralyzed, to some extent, the renewal, extension, and modernization of educated elites in the country. In the Baltic states, just like in the Carpathian Basin, the Nazification in the 1940s and the ensuing Sovietization gave rise to similarly drastic state interventions in elite training with long-term consequences for the societies concerned.
“The numerous historical conflicts and turbulences in this area are closely reflected within the biographical records of students under scrutiny,” Karady says. “For example, the deportation of Jews by the Nazis as well as large sectors of the rest of the middle class in Latvia and Estonia by the Soviets and the emigration and ultimate extermination of many brilliant Jewish-Hungarian intellectuals has left indelible marks in the regions studied.”
Photo: CEU/Daniel Vegel
Click a term to initiate a search.
- Public Policy (137)
- Environmental and Energy Studies (130)
- International Relations and European Studies (128)
- History and Medieval Studies (89)
- Economics (78)
- Business and Management Studies (70)
- Political Science (62)
- Media and Communications (48)
- Nationalism and Religious Studies (39)
- Cognitive Science (38)
- Gender Studies (37)
- Human Rights Studies (37)
- Constitutions, Law and Regulation (34)
- Sociology and Social Anthropology (26)
- Mathematics (25)
- Arts and Culture (20)
- Philosophy (19)
- Development Studies (15)