Sources for Hungary


Primary Sources

     This is the biggest problem with researching Hungarian military history. Though there are a reasonable amount of primary sources for the period, they are almost impossible to get hold of. Very few of the sources below have been published in 'Western' Europe. Some like Bonfinius have been published in German but these date from the 18th and 19th Centuries and as a result are only available, on site, at some major libraries. Additionally even though there are much more recent Hungarian translations these do not usually come with the original Latin text. The latest combined Hungarian and Latin text of Bonfinius dates from 1911 and is in three volumes, again only available in major libraries. Select quotes on military matters do appear from the sources in English. These quotes however can almost all be traced to the few Hungarian history books translated into English. These means that these quotes have been translated from the Latin into Hungarian and then into English. Obviously these multiple translations could have distorted the original meaning quite significantly and is entirely dependant on the familiarity of the Translator with Hungarian and Latin military terminology. For example I have seen Hussar lances (original was spear) translated from the Hungarian into English as pike. Not really significant for a horsemen as pike is obviously incorrect. However had it been a description of an infantrymen the possibility for confusion is far greater.
I have used these English translations for the Hungarian pages, simply because they are the only 'source' material available. All I ask is that they be taken with a pinch of salt until such times as copies of the original sources become available.

Ioan Thuroczi, Chronica Hungarorum 1488

Anonymous, Chronicon Budense 1473

Marco Antonio Bonfinius (Bonfini), Historia Pannonica sive Hungaricarum rerum decades IV et dimidia- 1495
Bonfinius takes much of his information from the above two sources, adds new information and unfortunately heavily embroiders his work with fanciful tales.

Two important Byzantine writers that cover the period are;

Doukas, Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks.

Laonic Chalkondyles, Historical Chronicles

For a comprehensive list of primary sources for the period, see the opening chapter of the Biography of Janos Hunyadi by Camil Muresanu.

Secondary Sources

-Realm of St Stephen by Pal Engel. By far the best English translation book on Hungarian medieval history. This book has the most balanced account of the Hunyadi period that I have come across. It also contains the most military information outside of the dedicated Journals listed below. If you want one book on Hungarian history, this is it.

-Biography of Janos Hunyadi by Camil Muresanu. A close second. The author is Rumanian and this occasionally shows through as a slight bias in his writing. That said it is still a very balanced and very well researched and detailed history of Janos Hunyadi and his times. The first chapter is an extremely detailed look at the sources for Hungary at the time of Hunyadi. Well worth buying and again good from a military point of view. My only slight issue with this book is occasionally the standard of the English translation lapses into some very peculiar syntax and word usage.

-Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2 by Ian Heath

- Pechenegs, Cumans, Iasians (Steppe peoples in medieval Hungary) by Andras Paloczi Horvath

-Military reform in early fifteenth Century Hungary by Joseph Held, Eastern European quarterly, Vol. XL no 2

Articles of interest in From Hunyadi to Rakoczi ,
-Militia Portalis in Hungary before 1526 by Andras Borosy
-Society and War from mounted Knights to the standing armies of absolute kings Hungary and the West. Bela K Kiraly
-The Hungarian-Croatian border defence system, Ferenc Szakaly

-Nicopolis 1396, David Nicolle, Osprey Campaign series.

-Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe 1000-1568, Osprey Men at Arms Series by David Nicolle. On the whole a good introduction to the area and period. One minor niggle p38 Vlad Tepes (the Impaler) is listed as 1418-56. Vlad Tepes was born in c1431 and died in 1476.

-The Hungarian Hussar, Corvina publications Hungary (English) Only the first chapter is relevant.

-A Magyar Viseletek Tortenete by Nemes Nagy Tompos, Corvina publications. In Hungarian but plenty of drawings and illustrations on Hungarian personal military equipment/costumes.

-Transylvania a short history by Istvan Lazar Corvina publications Hungary (English)

-The Magyars, their life and civilisation by Gyulo Laszlo (English) pre 1300 only.

- Once again the notes and lectures of Professor Les Collins.



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