Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe

$69.00 / €56.00 / £50.00
Out of print
Publication date: 
288 pages

This unequalled volume’s key value is to place Hungary on the map of European literacy rates over the whole period between the initial stimuli of Renaissance and Reformation and the developed, state-organized educational systems of the (later) nineteenth century.

Suitable for academics across a wide range of subject areas, Tóth’s work is a broad international comparative analysis, concentrating on the long-term development of literacy rates and the use of written and oral culture in early modern societies. Tóth also examines the social history of elementary schools and its teachers, and book reading among peasants and noblemen throughout the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries in Hungary.

Literacy and Written Culture includes references to the development of libraries during the period and on the use of different languages – of particular importance is an examination of Latin usage. This volume is an extremely lively and stimulating guide providing fascinating insights into village life, legal and administrative issues and the role of the clergy. Its overall content contributes to major debates in the fields of language, literacy, linguistics and social history. 

List of Tables

List of Maps

List of Illustrations


1. A Window to the World of Literacy: A Social History of Elementary Schools 

2. The Slow Advance of Literacy in Peasant Culture

3. Literacy among the Nobility 

4. The Lower Nobility and the Oral Tradition 

5. An Outlook in Time: Nationalities and the Spread of Literacy after the Austro–Hungaryan Compromise 





"This book is a model study of scrupulous rigor in its numerically minded social analysis, of challenging methodological innovation in its approach to the problem, and of marvelous insight into the social and cultural meaning of early modern literacy and illiteracy."
"István Tóth is fully versed in the literature and provides a model of sensitive analysis and interpretation of the place of the written word in central European culture, from the peasantry on up tthrough the landed gentry and various levels of nobility... the depth of research, the felicity of the prose, the picaresque anecdotes, and the many insights into the nature of early-modern central European cultural and intellectual life should be enough to interest most scholars of the place and period in this book."
"This book's great strength lies in careful analysis of rich archival evidence, impressively documented in footnotes..."
"The author successfully combines quantitative research together with qualitative study of the place of reading among different social groups and by doing so, provides extremely valuable insights into religious life in different social groups.... The book is well translated and it has an index. The quantitative data does not disturb the flow of the description, and the colorful descriptions the author cited make this a very enjoyable read."
"This work should definitely finds its way into libraries and seminars examining written culture in early modern Europe. It is the first of such significance on the subject for a relatively poorly examined part of Central Europe."
"...offers a fascinating view of trends in literacy in Hungary in, basically, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but with some earlier material on the aristocracy and some later information on the peasants."
"The present work was first published in Hungarian in 1996 ... It is now published by CEU Press in not only flawless English but also under a quite different and rather more earnest title... may serve as an excellent introduction not only to the study of Hungarian literacy but also to the social history of the early modern period."
"...a very well documented work, with abundant maps, tables."