Google Bookshelf of Hungarian Social History

Google Books is my new favorite bookshelf. Searching for accounts of life in 19th century Austro-Hungary to  fill in the context of lives of our ancestors,  I have added several dozen free volumes to my reading list that were all published in the 1800s or very early 1900s. There are more contemporary volumes available for download for a nominal price. I’ll look at those later when I finish with the current virtual tower of books.

all books row 1

“Unknown Hungary” written by Victor Tissot and translated from the French by Mrs. A. Oswald Brodie was published in 1881. It contains this wonderful description of a visit to a Hungarian peasant cottage.

“Here we are in the kitchen carefully whitewashed every spring, and in the midst of which is enthroned a large square oven four feet high. Saucepans and frying-pans are conspicuous by their absence, and are replaced by large earthen pots; the walls, however, are artistically decorated with dishes and kitchen utensils of the brightest pewter. On the right and left of the kitchen are two tidy chambers, simply furnished, and indicating a prosperity that it does one good to see. An oaken bench, fixed to the wall, runs round each apartment. In a corner, on a very low bedstead, feather-beds are piled to the ceiling. These feather-beds, in all varieties of covers, are the pride and luxury of the mistress of a Hungarian household. A walnut-wood wardrobe guards as a precious treasure the linen woven in the winter. An earthenware stove like a monument, on which during very cold weather people sleep, occupies the place of honour in each room. Upon some shelves are ranged cups and globes, a mirror, a crucifix, or an image of the Virgin; lithographs representing Napoleon 1., Francis-Joseph in the costume of king of Hungary, and Deak, complete the furniture.

Hungarian Peasant Cottage 1830

Hungarian Peasant Cottage 1830

The houses were all alike, and had no numbers, so that it is difficult to distinguish them ; and in certain large hamlets the peasants, to remedy this inconvenience, make a coloured cross on the front of their houses, letting it be known, ‘ I live at the red cross, or the violet cross, or the white cross.’ Joseph II. (about 1780) wanted to number the houses; but the Hungarians thought they saw in this proposal an attack on their communal liberties, and opposed it.”

all books row 2

The illustration of the cottage is from John Paget’s “Hungary and Transylvania” (

“Unknown Hungary” can be viewed here:

Search Google Books for these and many more accounts of life in Hungary in years past.

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