The monograph depicts the private life both of the bourgeoisie and the working class in the capital city of Hungary between the mid-19th and mid-20th c. The framework for this privacy is the home. Not just the physical outlook and the changes shaping it with the time passing, but the modes of use and even the subjective notion of private domain are also discussed. The main issue dealt with is the physical layout and the furnishing of these homes, the values attached to them and the whole mentality one can deduce from the historical traces. The author heavily relies on the most diverse historical sources, the probate inventories, statistical data, newpaper articles, household manuals and etiquette books, memoirs or even photographs are involved in them. The main findings of recent historical account show that the luxurious although not too convenient homes rented by the upper middle-class families at the turn of the 19th and 20th c. meant the apparent code and one of the main sources of identity of their own status. Due to the economic decline of the middle classes in the interwar period, however, reduced the relevance of private domain in defining someone's social standing.
The obviously low standard of urban workers' housing throughout the entire period discussed meant a highly stratified quality of housing even in that case. The prime importance of the slums in the daily life of the urban lower classes was counterbalanced in the interwar era by the far better residential conditions and the more sophisticated domestic culture of the skilled factory workers. The latter seemed more to resemble even as early as the late 19th c. the life style of the petty bourgeoisie than their workers counterparts. The author tends to provide an account even on the social housing policy emerging at the early 20th century. The book is a microhistory reconstruction and analysis of a neglected sphere of society of the Central European metropolis, Budapest, which was among the biggest and most characteristic Continental capitals of the age.
Gabor Gyani, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of History, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and professor at the Institute of Sociology of the Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest. His expertise is Hungarian urban and social history of the 19th and 20th century, and the theory of historical scholarship. His two recent books are as follows: Social History of Hungary from the Reform Age till the WW II. Budapest, 1998. (co-authored with Gyorgy Kover); Remembering, Memory and the Narrativity of History. Budapest, 2000.
I. City planning and urbanisation in Budapest on the turn of the century; II. A sanctuary of privacy: the bourgeois home in Budapest in the 19th and 20th centuries; III. Private space in a community - the Budapest working-class apartment in the 19th and 20th centuries.