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Crusading as Social Revolt: The Hungarian Peasant Uprising of 1514

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 1998

Abstract

On 9 April 1514 Tamás Bakócz, archbishop of Esztergom and cardinal-legate of Pope Leo X, initiated the preaching of a crusade against the Turks in Hungary. On 24 April György Dózsa Székely, a minor nobleman serving with the garrison of Belgrade who had experience of fighting the Turks, was appointed as commander of the crusading army. Dózsa marched southwards from Pest on 10 May with the main body of crusaders, some 15,000 strong, for the most part peasants. Five days later Archbishop Bakócz and the Hungarian royal council called a halt to the preaching. Their cancellation was provoked by the fact that the crusade preaching had generated alarming social unrest, and on 22 May an encounter occurred at Várad in which an army of crusaders defeated a force of nobles. The crusade was now showing all the features of an uprising, and two days after the battle of Várad, coincidentally on the same day that György Dózsa inflicted another defeat on the nobles at Nagylak, the king called off the crusade and ordered the peasant crusaders to return home. His command was ignored and attempts to organise local resistance against the various crusade armies met with only partial success. It proved necessary to recall János Zápolyai and the troops who were engaged against the Turks in the east. At the end of June Zápolyai marched in relief of Temesvár (Timisoara), the fortress which Dózsa was besieging, evidently with the plan to establish a strategic base between the Maros and the Danube. Here, on 15 July, the vojvoda smashed the crusading army and turned the tide of the revolt, which lasted for just a few more weeks.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1998 Cambridge University Press

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