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Change and continuity:

the public administration and the civil servants’ corps from Transylvania before and after the First World War (1910-1925)


Research project financed by UEFISCDI Romania

through the research grant PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0390

Contract no. 128/2017



Project overview


The current project addresses two issues: a specific one related to the historical evolution of civil service in Transylvania, and a generic one, related to bureaucracy’s reaction to systemic changes. Albeit them lying in different-level historiographical contexts (national and transnational history vs. European- and World-scale institutional and social history), their relation cannot be overlooked. Given the rather poor state of knowledge of the first issue, and its instrumental part in understanding not only the second one, but also general national evolutions in Hungary and Romania, our project focuses on the reconstruction and analyses of the civil service in Transylvania not as a purpose in itself, but as a way of understanding bureaucracy behaviour during troubled times, under regime changes and pressures.

The project focuses mainly on historical Transylvania (the former Great Principality) and on three counties divided between Hungary and Romania in 1919: Arad, Bihar, and Szatmár/Sătmar. Instead of a diluted horizontal inquiry we chose to focus on an in-depth research with the aim of providing a methodological ”golden-standard” which should support future geographical expansions of the topic.

The period 1910 to 1925 was chosen as to cover all the changes the civil service in Transylvania went through before the 1925 Administrative Law and allow research fitting the timeframe of the financing scheme time plan (30 months). 1910–mid-1914 were the last years the old system functioned properly, mid-1914–1918 brought in the war, end-1918–mid-1920 was the transition period of the Ruling Council and the Hungarian revolutionary governments, and mid-1920–1925 saw the continuity of old autonomous structures under a centralized rule.

Civil service rank stands as the main selection criterion for the research cohort. We aim at studying only the county-level administration, starting from the prefect and its office, continuing to the vice-prefects, county notaries, attorneys, high-sheriffs, etc., down to county clerks. Due to time limitations, the district (járás/plasă) administration falls outside the current project’s focus, except those cases in which early careers started at this level. Also, methodologically, the latter’s study requires a previous in-depth research of the upper county layer. Quantitatively (assuming a certain amount of relativity) we estimate about 1.500 civil servants will be researched.


The project objectives, as stated in the project proposal, are:

O1. Identifying, depicting and analysing the structural and functional changes underwent by the public administration system in Transylvania between 1910 and 1925;

O2. Analysing the composition of the civil servants’ corps at county level throughout the period;

O3. Reconstructing the everyday life and the social interactions of the civil servants and their families;

O4. Dissemination of project results.


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