Curriculum Vitae 

Balázs Trencsényi is Associate Professor in the History Department of Central European University, Budapest. His main field of interest is the his­tory of political thought in East Central Europe. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Principal Investigator of 'Negotiating Modernity': History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe (, a project supported by the European Research Council. He also serves as associate editor of the journal East Central Europe (Brill). His publications include the monograph The Politics of 'National Character': A Study in Interwar East European Thought (Routledge, 2012) and, as co-editor, the series Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945), vols. I-II and IV (CEU Press, 2006-7, 2014); Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe (Brill, 2010); Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements (Peter Lang, 2013); and 'Regimes of Historicity' in Southeastern and Northern Europe: Discourses of Identity and Temporality, 1890-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Research project at the Kolleg

Political Thought in Twentieth-Century East Central Europe
The history of political thought in East Central Europe is one of those subjects that have not be studied in a comparative regional framework despite the availability of many country-based case-studies and a certain number of works focusing on transnational ideological transfers. The literature on the global history of political thought also offers very limited insights; and, although the region features relatively prominently in the literature on nationalism studies, authors working in this paradigm tend to offer broad-ranging generalizations on the history of nationalist political ideas in the region, without however being able to conduct actual research on the intellectual complexities of the cases analyzed. They thus often unwittingly and paradoxically reproduce the ideologically-laden self-perceptions of national(ist) scholarship in these countries.

While not rejecting completely the relevance of the above-mentioned interpretative frameworks, my research - which will result in a chapter of a planned collective volume being edited at the Kolleg, Intellectual Horizons - seeks to offer an alternative model for placing these various local discussions into a multi-dimensional dialogue on key issues of recent European political thought.

With this in mind, I intend to analyze a set of thematic discussions that reflected the complex processes of socio-cultural-institutional transformation that shaped this region throughout the twentieth century. Choosing key authors and drawing on a broader contextual reconstruction of intellectual milieus and subcultures, I plan to organize my material along two axes: thematic and temporal. With regard to the thematic axis, I will focus mainly on the problem of overlapping nation-building projects, political thought about the role of the state and its relationship to its citizens, the social question and the rise of mass societies, the relationship of politics and religion, the political thought of and on totalitarianism, and, lastly, political ideas associated with the ongoing identity crisis characteristic of East Central European intellectuals, a crisis motivating their search for identity narratives that could weave the divergent threads of past, present and future into a coherent narrative. As for the temporal axis, there are obvious shifts in the social-cultural-political context that are conveniently linked to the two world wars and that structure the intellectual history of the region according to the following scheme: pre-1914 belle époque, the interwar period with its ambivalent combination of cultural boom and socio-political collapse, the period of communist domination starting immediately or almost immediately after WWII, and finally, as an optimistic coda, the post-communist period after 1989 (or in some cases 1991).

Main areas of research

  • Comparative history of political thought in East Central Europe
  • History of historiography
  • History of nationalism
  • Cultural and intellectual history 

Positions and Memberships

  • Co-director of Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies at CEU Budapest
  • Associate Editor of the journal East Central Europe (Brill)
  • Co-editor of the Hungarian cultural periodical, 2000. 
  • Member of Academia Europaea since 2012