Interview with Mate Rigo--May 14, 2017

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Interview with Mate Rigo, Assistant Professor of History at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. The interview was conducted in Florence, Italy on May 14, 2017. Rigo received his PhD from Cornell University in 2016. The title of his dissertation was “Imperial Elites after the Fall of Empires: Business Elites and States in Europe’s East and West, 1867-1928,” which won the Messenger Chalmers dissertation prize. During the academic year 2016-2107, he was in Florence on a postdoc at the European University Institute. In addition to his other scholarly work, Rigo has also written articles and blog posts on a number of topics, most notably on debates around the Holocaust in Hungary. He has also been a long-time collaborator on this blog, so it's about time he was interviewed for it.

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Interview Themes 01:00 East-Central European history camouflaged as Hungarian history in Hungarian primary and high schools? 03:00 Learning Slovak and Romanian in graduate school 04:00 Early retirement of grandparents and great-grandparents as an opportunity to talk history with them 06:00 World War II, grandparents, Károlyi estate, Transylvania, grandfather’s degree from Kolozsvár law academy, post-1945 social mobility, “fényes szelek,” family memory of the “Horthy-regime” 11:00 1990s and interest in the holocaust as a generational experience 15:30 The 1990s and the transformation of Hungarian history 21:00 The changing evaluation of the holocaust in Hungary since the 1990s, growing interests in Jewish culture and the holocaust vs anti-Semitism; revival of 1930s anti-Semitism? 28:00 Interest in financial history, money fluctuation in the 1990s collection of Roman copper coins gathered in Pécs, Hungary in the 1990s; HVG; pocket money and currency exchange in the 1990s 30:00 History of Capitalism school at Cornell 31:00 The study of nationalism, the works of Pieter Judson, Tara Zahra, Timothy Snyder 32:00 Dissertation project, interwar business elites as atypical actors amidst rising nationalist mobilization, Mózes Farkas, Ferenc Chorin 34:00 CEU as crucial hub for research on East-Central European history 36:00 Mass mobilization in Budapest for CEU in 2017 37:00 The evolution of the dissertation as a comparative history project 40:30 Challenges in the archives 43:20 Is there European history as such? Breaking down divisions between Eastern and Western Europe 46:15 The experience of living in contemporary Italy, Eastern vs. Southern Europe, traditionalism in Florence; the advantage of Southern over East-Central Europe 48:00 Experiences of studying history at ELTE 49:45 Studies at Bard College, studio arts 51:00 Literature and studio arts as inspiration 53:00 Max Weber Fellowship at the EUI, History of Capitalism Reading Group 47:00 Decisive books, Fernand Braudel’s Material Culture 58:30 Writing the history of Europe 1:01:00 Schools of history, The renaissance of the field of East-Central European history 1:06:00 Unexplored connections between East-Central European and Middle Eastern history 1:09:00 Learning languages and learning from senior colleagues 1:12:00 Yale-NUS College and the popularity of humanities majors in Singapore 1:14:00 Grandparents teaching “anti-fascist” refugee children from Greece, 1950s


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business elites; Alsace-Lorraine; Transylvania; history


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