Historical Studies of Elite Groups in the Age of Computer Science: The Case of Post-Feudal Hungary

in East Central Europe
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This essay addresses the issue of social stratification, which is the basic organizing factor of life in human communities, since it defines one’s position in any societal environment as well as the fabric or the internal structure of societal togetherness. It deals with one essential aspect of social stratification, namely that of elite formation, taking as a relevant example the case study of Hungary. It is argued that new computer technologies make possible large-scale surveys of elite formation, opening up new vistas for the interpretation of major process of social change that took place in Central European societies. The first part of the essay provides a historical overview of processes of elite formation in modern Hungary. The second part presents an ambitious program of research on the evolution of Hungarian elites from the 1867 “Compromise” with Austria to the beginning of the Communist regime (1948). This unprecedented vast survey was initiated in 2005 and will be completed in 2009. The main target concerns educated elites, but the project also deals with other elite clusters, on a selective basis. The method employed is prosopographical, covering some 200,000 individual biographies. The essay provides a comprehensive description of the technical side of the survey and of the socio-historical scope of the problems it highlights.

Historical Studies of Elite Groups in the Age of Computer Science: The Case of Post-Feudal Hungary

in East Central Europe

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