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Hungary 1956: a catalogue of British Library holdings

This catalogue was originally compiled to mark the 40th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution of 1956. It is intended as a reference guide for research students of post-war Central and Eastern Europe, the Cold War and Hungarian history.


Free Hungarian Radio: the radio headquarters after the fighting

Headquarters of the Hungarian Radio after the fighting (Image: courtesy of MTI)

It offers a survey of events in Hungary from the first attempts of reform in 1953, through the formation of the anti-Stalinist opposition led by Imre Nagy, the student movement leading to the armed uprising of 23 October - 4 November 1956, to the ensuing bloody repression and reprisal, and its resonance in the context of overall world politics.

Much of this material was acquired at or near the time of publication by purchase or as often by donation through networks of contacts in England, Hungary and elsewhere in the world. The earliest documents acquired were collections of pamphlets, handbills, manifestos, posters charting events that preceded the uprising and recording its progress. These are now very rare. Possession or distribution of such material was prohibited by the communist regime. What survives in local archives throughout Hungary would have been seized as evidence for the purges and show trials which followed the brutal suppression of the revolution.

During the last five decades the British Library collections have been strengthened by the acquisition of other contemporary material as well as more recent publications from various countries of diverse points of view. The wider historical background of the 1956 revolution has been researched and incorporated in earlier bibliographies of the event, therefore appraisals of the 1945-1956 period are here only selectively included. Communist propaganda, Marxist counter-revolutionary theories expressing the official, uncompromising Soviet, Hungarian, Romanian, East German and Czechoslovak reaction to the uprising occupy a large section of the present bibliography. Although most of the eastern-bloc countries managed officially to stifle any public expression of solidarity, the human reaction to news on the defeat of the revolution may be said to have been one of profound shock. The events of 1956 contributed to the decline of the extensive western communist movement. The French, British and Italian communist parties lost the best of their intellectual leaders. Both viewpoints are documented in this listing.

The legacy of 1956 was best preserved by emigrant circles who created a free Hungarian press in the West. The dramatic events of the revolution were observed by writers and journalists who emigrated to England at the time or before 1956. They encompass a large number of daily reports monitored on Radio Free Europe, the BBC, and observed in the columns of the national press.

Contemporary surveys of world press coverage of the Hungarian events coinciding with the Suez crisis reveal the cautious reactions of the British and French governments to the Soviet intervention in Hungary. In the late 1980s, in keeping with the 'thirty-year rule', a large number of documents on Suez and the Hungarian revolution held in the Public Record Office became newly accessible for research. Some of these include diplomatic reports from the scenes of action, comments and analyses, as well as texts of writings submitted to embassies and directly to the Foreign Office. In addition, since 1989 a wealth of new material, including domestic and foreign archives, records of trials, private papers, eye-witness accounts, first-hand reports have also become available. Such material also is included here.

Arrangement by subject is divided into 13 sections. Some works in the rather large 'Studies in retrospect' section do not deal exclusively with Hungary in 1956. Relevant passages are specified in notes. Certain titles in Hungarian or other less accessible languages are also clarified in notes.

Although acquisitions funds have suffered cuts in recent years, the British Library continues to acquire research-level material as comprehensively as possible. The original printed version of this catalogue, now available on the internet, has been enlarged with additional material acquired since 1997. A lot of it consists of interviews, memoirs, discussions published in Hungary by the 1956 Institute and the Committee for Historical Justice.

Works continue to be published in commemoration of the revolution, so the present list inevitably will be subject to further expansion and correction. Meanwhile, it is hoped that this catalogue of works held in the British Library will facilitate and encourage further research into the Hungarian events of 1956.

The present catalogue lists over six hundred titles, including some periodicals and newspapers, assembled from the British Library catalogues. Most books listed can be read in the St Pancras Reading Rooms or are available on interlibrary loan from the Document Supply Service in Boston Spa.

Explore the British Library makes available the items listed here either for requesting in our Reading Rooms or for remote supply such as photocopies or inter-library loans.

In the bibliography, codes that appear in square brackets after references ([YA.2000.a.42757]) indicate British Library shelfmarks.


Ildi Wollner, Curator, Hungarian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7583