“Its beginning and end have been the subject of many debates and its historical significance is beyond doubt but understanding its legacy still poses a challenge. As with any great culturally complex period it is overladen with contradictions and ambivalences. It is characterized by an ever-widening socio-economic space, material affluence, technological innovation and infrastructural development as much as by a kind of optimistic liberalism, a vibrant cultural-intellectual atmosphere and relative peace. At the same time, however, sharpening ethnic conflicts, social tensions and a level of complexity that was culturally exciting albeit politically difficult to contain came into being. This essay attempts to highlight some of the horizons and spaces that widened unexpectedly in this particular historical context. These spaces manifested in the unprecedented, rapid growth of Budapest, the exciting changes in the relationship between the two capitals, and the aspirations of the Empire to become a modern, constitutional state that reformulated its civilizing mission.
The period deserves to be rethought for many reasons. Most importantly, the widening intellectual and creative spaces were fed into creativity in much the same way as the possibility of becoming the melting pot of diverse cultures, linguistic as well as religious communities, and social classes was bred.”
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