History in My Life

A Memoir of Three Eras
$58.00 / €48.00 / £42.00
$27.95 / €26.95 / £22.95
Paperback is forthcoming in September 2023
Part of series: 
Publication date: 
284 pages, includes 32 black-and-white photos

Ivan T. Berend is Distinguished Professor at the University of California Los Angeles, Director of the European Studies Program. He was one of the masterminds of regime change in Hungary. He made a career in Hungary as a university professor, Rector of the University of Economics (1973–79), and President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1985–90). He was President of the International Committee of Historical Sciences (1995–2000), and Vice-President of the International Economic History Association (1986–1994). His research interests are the complex economic, social, ideological, and cultural history of Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th–20th century; economic modernization; problems of European backwardness; transition from state socialism to capitalism. He published and 26 books and more than 120 studies.

Before he became a professor at UCLA, Ivan Berend had survived five regime changes and two revolutions in Hungary, had been in prison and German concentration camp in 1944–45.

His memoir offers an interesting case study, a subjective addition to the “objective” historical works on Central and Eastern European state socialism. It describes the hard choices of intellectuals in a dictatorial state: 1. remain in isolation, concentrate on scholarly works, and exclude politics in your personal life; 2. be in opposition, criticize and unveil the regime, accept discrimination and exclusion; 3. remain within the establishment and work for reforming the country using legal possibilities to criticize the regime and to achieve changes from within.

Berend’s book raises basic historical questions and debates, compares East European and American higher education systems, and presents an eyewitness’ insights on life in the United States.

List of Photos

Introduction and Acknowledgement
My Family in Budapest in the 1930s
The End of Childhood
Dachau—and the Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft’s Conference in Munich
The Gebirgsjägerschule in Mittenwald
Where is my Home?
The 1956 Revolution in My Life
My Universities
A Widening World, Learning by Traveling
In the International Community of Historians: Friends All Over the World
Experiencing and Writing History: a Special Friend, Books and Debates
Teaching in Two Different University Systems
My Globalized Family
In the Establishment
In the Storm of the Regime Change
Leaving Hungary for Los Angeles


"Berend stresses how much the inseparability of the historical and the personal defined his experience: 'History was not a subject but life itself, penetrating into the private and everyday life of Central and Eastern Europe'"
"Berend is correct in the description of the system and his own role in it when he writes: 'It was possible to work for reform and even criticize the system, with the exception of certain taboos.... Of course this meant that reformers had to make severe compromises. I made mine too'. People like Berend helped erode the communist order. The three eras in the title of Berend’s autobiography refer to interwar and wartime Hungary, communist Hungary, and post-1989 United States. They represent the three main political and social systems experienced in the Western world after World War I: fascism/Nazism, communism, and democracy. Berend’s story is colored by the fact that he made not only a Hungarian academic career but also an international one, both before and after 1989. He describes how he had a central position in establishing the discipline of economic history and research on East Central European economic history under the conditions of Marxist hegemony in Hungary.... more
"Berends Autobiographie ist eine ausschlussreiche Lektüre über einen tragischen Teil der jüngeren ungarischen Geschichte, aber auch über Begegnungen mit namhaften Persönlichkeiten aus Wissenschaft und Politik und über Erfahrungen im bewunderten amerikanischen Universitätsssystem."