Professor Béla Tomka

Curriculum Vitae

Tomka is Fellow at the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena from January to December 2012. Since 2011 he is professor for Social and Economic History at the Faculty of Philology at the Univerity of Szeged. Béla Tomka was visiting professor and research fellow in Portland (OR), Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Berlin a.o. He completed his habilitation in 2004 with an comparative study about the history of social policy in Hungary in the 20th century. He received is PhD in 1995 with a thesis about the relationship between banks and Industry in Hungary in the 19th century. He studied geography an history in Szeged and Budapest.

Research project at the Kolleg

State welfare programmes were vital elements of state formation and nation building in 19th and 20th century Europe as well as represented crucial aspects of high modernity. They were also arguably central to the social development of the Eastern part of the continent in the last century as indicated by the experience of the communist regimes which based much of their legitimacy on providing high level of social security for citizens. Furthermore, recent East Central European welfare systems have attracted growing public and scholarly attention, since for many observers the divergence of social welfare arrangements between East Central European and Western European societies constitutes a disruptive potential for the European integration process demonstrated by the well-known blame of "social dumping". Against this background, the goal of the project is to identify the distinct characteristics and functions of East Central European welfare arrangements in their major formative and reform periods in the 20th century. We argue that the key to the understanding of East Central European welfare history is the analysis of the peculiar determinants which include the unfavourable class bases for social solidarity, the volatile political environment and state structure as well as the weakness of civil society. The project also claims that, on the one hand, historians should rely more on the recent achievements of comparative welfare state research in sociology and political science, and, on the other hand, they can counterbalance a considerable shortcoming of that research: the inability to grasp the dynamics of change resulting in static and ahistorical interpretations, such as mainstream typologies.

Research focal ponts

  • comparative Social and Economic History
  • East Central Europe 
  • 20th Century History, special focus on: History of Social Policy, consumption andsocial embedding of economic growth

Positions/ Memberships

  • since 2010: Board Member of the International Social History Association, Amsterdam
  • since 2007: Board Member of the István Hajnal Society of Social History, Budapest
  • since 2011: ISHA Newsletter (International Social History Association, Amsterdam), Editor
  • since 2004: Esély, Journal of Social Policy, Budapest, Member of the Editorial Board
  • since 1992: Aetas, a Quarterly Journal of History and Related Disciplines, Szeged, Co-Editor