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Narratives of Adversity
Jesuits on the Eastern Peripheries of the Habsburg Realms (1640–1773)

Paul Shore, Brandon University, Canada

Addresses the experience of Jesuit missionaries, teachers and writers along the peripheries of the Habsburg lands, which stretched to Moldavia, Ukraine, Serbia and Wallachia, and which were continually torn with ethnic tensions. The time scale of the study is from the “high tide” of the Society (often labeled “the first multinational corporation”) in the fourth decade of the seventeenth century, until its suppression in 1773 by Pope Clement XIV. The book examines several of the communities situated along the periphery and the records that they left behind about their interactions with the local populations. It constructs a vivid picture of Jesuit life on the frontier that is built up in mosaic fashion and livened by compelling anecdotes. The Jesuits of Royal Hungary exercised a baroque expression modeled after the larger western cities of the Habsburg lands, which was a fragile splendor in part defined by the need to defend Catholicism from the hostility of Orthodox, Lutherans,
Calvinists, and others.

“There is no comparable work in any language on this subject. The book is wide-ranging, covers a large chronological and geographic space, is informed by careful study of a variety of different manuscript and archival sources, and built on complete familiarity with the secondary literature, in many languages. The author is an acknowledged international authority on the Jesuits in Central and Eastern Europe. There are no competing books.“
Martyn Rady, Professor of Central European History, University College London

"Praca adresowana jest do wąskiego grona specjalistów, dobrze znających dzieje jezuitów. Dodanie rozdziału wprowadzającego w historię tego zgromadzenia, a także przybliżenie złożonej sytuacji polityczno-społecznej i kulturowej Węgier, opatrzenie publikacji mapkami, zwłaszcza ukazującymi jezuickie rezydencje na Węgrzech i w Siedmiogrodzie, znacząco ułatwiłoby jej recepcję i poszerzyło krąg czytelników. Za wielce pożyteczny natomiast należy uznać „Register of Geographical Names” z nazwami w języku węgierskim, słowackim, niemieckim, rumuńskim, serbskim, ukraińskim i angielskim.
Książka jest cenną, erudycyjną publikacją dla wielu historyków, nie tylko jezuitów, stanowi nieocenione źródło, umożliwiające zrozumienie powiązań między kulturą a religią w tej części Europy."
Kazimierz Puchowski, Czasy Nowoźytne (28/2015)


Acknowledgments; Introduction: A Fragile Splendor; Prelude; I Narratives of Adversity; II Peripheries; III “In Campos”; IV Campaign in Prešov; V Sex and Demons; VI Detrimenta, Damna; VII Theatre and Suffering; VIII Jesuits in Banská Bystrica, Kláštor pod Znievom, Sárospatak, and Levoča; IX In Pursuit of History; X An Unredeemed Loss: The Jesuit Mission in Belgrade; XI Trnava; XII Conclusion; Bibliography; Index; Registry of geographical names

394 pages
978-615-5053-47-4 cloth $60.00 / €55.00 / £50.00

"Using an impressive array of primary sources in several languages, the author discusses the experience of challenge and adversity amongst some of the Jesuits of the Empire from the moment of ‘high tide’ of the Society, in the fourth decade of the seventeenth century, to the Society’s suppression by papal brief (breve) in 1773. That experience emerges, in the documents generated by the brothers and priests, ‘as a complex mixture of subjective and individually varied reactions to events’.
Shore explores the subjective, recorded responses of Jesuits to a variety of situations, amongst them adversity, doubt, miscommunication and failure. His exploration is aided significantly by our growing understanding of the different ways in which Jesuits collected, categorized and recorded information. In this regard, Shore raises questions which exercise every conscientious historian when confronting his or her sources.
Shore’s study shows us that Jesuit culture in the Habsburg East thrived on adversity, an adversity most evident in the ‘clear-cut if infrequent moments when a Jesuit was given the choice between renouncing his identity or death’. His book is a invaluable source for our understanding of interplay between culture and religion in this part of Europe". - The Slavonic and East European Review

"Duty on the eastern rim of the Kingdom of Hungary was no plum assignment for a Jesuit in those days. It entailed the laborious restoration of the church in a region that was historically Catholic, for the most part. So it off ered no dazzling prospect of winning vast numbers of new souls as in the more exotic mission lands. Still, the Reformation and the Ottoman conquest and occupation had done great damage to Catholicism there that would require much hard, unglamorous work to undo. This imposed a regimen of grappling with the swarm of 'adversities'of the title—chiefly, plague, isolation, privation, and a recalcitrant populace—that yielded meager successes for the Order, apart from the spiritual gains of persevering in the Lord’s work despite stubborn obstacles. In this way, Shore argues, the Hungarian mission provides an instructive comparison with the more celebrated and colorful
Jesuit enterprises across the oceans". - Slavic Review

"Paul Shore examines the role played by Jesuits on the periphery of the Habsburg monarchy during the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He has examined an impressive range of archival sources to construct a series of related essays about the Jesuit center at Trnava, as well as Jesuit residences in Kosice, Presov, and Levoca in eastern Slovakia and at Sárospatak in northeastern Hungary. Efforts to revive the Catholic cause faced entrenched opposition from Evangelical and Reformed communities in this region.
Although the Jesuits directly benefited from state support, this also endangered their mission. Repeated revolts against Habsburg rule in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries brought violence and disruption to the region. Protestant bitterness was frequently directed against the Jesuits during these revolts. In the wake of success for anti-Habsburg forces in 1706, Ferenc II Rákóczi announced that the Jesuits had two weeks to leave Hungary. In the midst of all these challenges, Shore argues that the Jesuits found comfort in a shared narrative of triumph in the face of adversity". - The Catholic Historical Review

"The history of Hungarian Jesuits is a challenge. While most of their writings may be in Latin, the fathers of the Society were the earliest advocates of Magyar as a literary lanuage. Moreover, to tackle modern scholarship, one needs to consult works in German, Hungarian, and Slovak. Extant manuscripts are scattered in many archives and libraries, from Rome, the headquarters of the Society, to Vienna and Budapest, the former imperial and present national capitals, Košice in Slovakia, and Alba Iulia in Romania, erstwhile regional centers of the Jesuit enterprise. Readers, therefore should be grateful for the scholarship and hard work of Peter Shore, author of a study on the Jesuits of Bohemia, who has turned his erudition to this new subject." - Austrian History Yearbook

"This is an impressionistic history of the Jesuits in towns located in parts of what are now Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, and Serbia, all ruled by the Habsburg dynasty in Vienna, from 1640 to 1773. The book has two themes: narratives of adversity, in which Jesuits overcome difficulties, and fragile splendor, meaning that despite the wonderful Baroque churches erected by or for Jesuits, they faced much opposition. Plagues, ethnic diversities, and anti-Habsburg sentiment offered additional obstacles. The author has done a good deal of reading in archives and printed literature, and the bibliography is large. There are many interesting anecdotes and tales. Recommended". - Choice