It is a generally accepted fact that the French Revolution took place in the realm of ideas before it started in the streets. The philosophes demolished the old regime prior to 1789 and prepared the public ideologically for a new political order. They also created new ideas about nationhood and redefined the meaning of the term for the French. Hungary experienced the transition from feudalism to civil equality approximately sixty years after France, and Hungarian men of letters played a role similar to that of their French counterparts in the period before the Revolution of 1848. Since Hungary was under Austrian domination, nationalist ideas became of much greater public concern there than they had been in France.
Many aspects of early nineteenth-century Magyar nationalism still need clarification. In this article I shall examine the ideas of Magyar writers and essayists on national identity in the 1820s and 1830s.