Idea of National Superiority in Central Europe, 1880 - 1918

Author: Turda, Marius
Focuses on the ways in which biological discourses of race and ethnicity affected and shaped nationalism and the idea of national superiority in Central Europe between 1880 and 1918. Emanating from Britain, Germany and France, various discourses on racial superiority and survival of the fittest deeply intermingled with the hospitable terrain of nationalist doctrines. Their interaction in Central Europe, however, has never been analysed thoroughly.


"[This] book provides fascinating insights into Central European thought that will be valuable to students and researchers of fin-de-siecle Hapsburg Empire. The bibliography is extensive. Highly recommended. Upper division undergraduates and above." - CHOICE

“In this book, Dr. Marius Turda shifts a familiar and topical debate on to unfamiliar and neglected ground. Since the shattering events of the 1930s and 1940s much has been written about the genesis of notions of race in Central Europe. The blending of organic and collectivist traditions in German thought with the evolutionary arguments which derived especially from Darwin and with biological ideas about heredity was catalysed from the 1860s onward by increasingly intense nationalist sentiments. None of this led directly to Nazism, but it did create a climate in which such racist conceptions might be able to thrive. Their relation to forms of ethnic self-assertion was direct and immediate ... Dr. Marius Turda has been uniquely placed to bring this project to fruition. Bringing good knowledge of all the relevant languages, including German and Hungarian, as well as his native Romanian, he has studied and researched in a number of different environments and acquired a notable scholarly detachment for dealing with these highly controversial issues. His book both fills a conspicuous gap in the existing specialist literature and opens up broad and rich new perspectives on the political thought and intellectual culture of a part of Europe which contributed greatly to the instability of the whole continent in the early twentieth century.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor R.J.W. Evans, Oxford University

“I am pleased to commend and comment on the illuminating book by Dr. Marius Turda. His thoughtful and wide-ranging analysis provides a valuable bridge between studies of race and Social Darwinism in Western Europe in order to provide a fresh and pioneering perspective on nationalist discourse in Central Europe. Dr Turda dissects the Western European discourse on race and nation as multifaceted, and he identifies diverse philosophical and natural scientific roots (eg Blumenbach, Kant and Darwin). He shows how a succession of influential commentators in Britain, France and Germany addressed issues of social solidarity through the lenses of biology and anthropology, which were complex and changing arenas of academic and public debate. Dr. Turda devotes considerable effort to reconstructing the importance in their contexts of different modes of sociobiological discourse, and to explain how race and evolutionary sociology were academically and politically contested areas ... Overall, this is a carefully contextualised, comparative survey of different but at times also interacting strands in the ethnic racial discourse. The analysis is a valuable corrective to assumptions about race as a monopoly of the ultra-right. Dr Turda has identified certain distinctive and overlooked contexts to illuminate facets of the Hungarian national and Romanian discourses on national identity. His book provides a scholarly and well-written series of interlocking arguments. I find the portrayal of the various racial ideologues and ideologies to be a thoroughly convincing work of historical analysis.” – Professor Paul J. Weindling, Oxford Brookes University

“I have been following Dr.Turda's work for the last 5-6 years and commented on the various drafts of his book that he is now submitting for publication. In my qualities as deputy director of the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and visiting professor of various American universities and study abroad programs I have numerous opportunities to observe the "making" of new generations of scholars in the study of Eastern and Central Europe. Dr. Marius Turda is one of the most promising young talents in this field and I am sure that with the publication of this book you can substantially contribute both to opening new interesting vistas in the research of the causes of the dismemberment of the Habsburg Monarchy and help a bright young scholar's career … This work will appeal to many: firstly, those who are interested in new research on the intellectual history of the Habsburg Monarchy from the perspective of the causes of its dissolution, including professors and students of numerous history, anthropology and political science courses; secondly, theoretically oriented readers looking for innovative approaches to the history of modern European nationalism; thirdly, students and professors of many courses dealing with ethnic, national tensions of pre- and post-communist Eastern and Central Europe and, of course, non - professionals interested in these problems; fourthly, 'Transitologists', i.e. scholars who are looking into the peculiarities of transition from authoritarian to democratic societies in general and the special features of the post-communist East Central European transition in particular. Namely, the book gives insight into the 'trouble-making potential' of the surviving reminiscences of the racial thought so brilliantly analyzed by Dr. Turda, and finally, intellectually demanding active decision makers of projects related to the culture, the economy and the politics of Eastern and Central Europe who want to understand the deeper-lying elements of current ideological, political, social and cultural confrontations in the region. All that considered I wholeheartedly support the publication of this book.” – Attila Pók, Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest

“ ... Dr. Turda’s study shows us how strongly contemporary intellectuals were influenced by Darwinist concepts of competition and survival. In doing so, he adds an interesting facet to the picture of prewar Magyar nationalism.” – Slavic Review, Summer 2006

Table of Contents

1. Racial Thinking, Nationalism and Social Darwinism in Nineteenth-Century Europe
2. Social Darwinist and Racial Theories of National Superiority
3. Cultural and Historical Theories of National Superiority
4. National Darwinist Theories of Superiority