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  • A cigányság történetének atlasza. Térképezett roma történelem [The atlas of Gypsy history. Mapped Roma history] by András Bereznay
  • Tamás Hajnáczky (bio)
A cigányság történetének atlasza. Térképezett roma történelem [The atlas of Gypsy history. Mapped Roma history]. András Bereznay. Budapest: Méry Ratio Kiadó, 2018. 123 pp. ISBN 978-80-8160-062-3 (hbk)

András Bereznay is a historian and cartographer; having emigrated to London in 1978 he continued his work and created numerous maps for noted publications in both the United Kingdom and the United States. He is responsible for the maps found in such famous volumes as Richard J. Evans trilogy on the Third Reich, and The Times atlas of European history and The Times Kings and Queens of the British Isles. His work in Hungary includes the Atlas of the history of Transylvania. This present work, though, is something completely different. The atlas of Gypsy history strives to illustrate and explain the history of the Gypsy people from ancient until modern times through 52 maps with explanatory notes, with its focus mainly on Europe. What is more, this work sought to map not only Gypsy history but the evolution of Gypsy/non-Gypsy relations, that is to say between Gypsies and local authorities, rulers and states, including the measures these took regarding Gypsies. Furthermore, the book gives the reader an insight into the academic history of Gypsy research. In his introduction András Bereznay shares his thoughts on the difficulties of this project and the dilemmas presented by this groundbreaking initiative. He summarized his thoughts thus:

The reason for the lack of motivation for a comprehensive historical atlas of Gypsy history, to date ... must be that this history is without the most common topic of historical atlases, a particular state. ... Some may think it obvious that territory does not play a role in the visual representation of Gypsy history, however such thinking is mistaken. The Gypsies may not have had their own state, but they did live in the states of others, all of which affected their lives in many, often very varied, ways.

(p. 7)

Despite the challenges it faced, the atlas is a breakthrough, even if in reading it we may find inadequacies or the inclusion of parts that seem to lack sufficient justification for being there.

For centuries theories of the ancient Gypsy homeland abounded in Europe. The first true assertion concerning their origins was made by István Wáli, from Hungary. During his 1753 stay in the Netherlands he noticed that the [End Page 236] Sinhalese-speaking Ceylonese he met there spoke a language similar to the Gypsy language spoken in his town of birth. This realization spread throughout academic circles resulting in numerous eighteenth to twentieth century linguists formulating theories of an Indian origin for the Gypsies and speculating which parts of the subcontinent they may have come from. In the first map presented by the author these theories are mapped with the accompanying researcher's name and date. Relying mainly on linguistic evidence he then portrays the medieval period of Gypsy wandering, which took the direction of the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire. Another map illustrates the ninth to fourteenth-century Empire and especially its capital Constantinople, including further historical details. He denotes which settlements mention the presence of Gypsies and at what date, in addition to including whether the text could be interpreted as having an "approving, neutral, or condemnatory tone." Moving on to a broader horizon the author shows the fourteenth to fifteenth-century wanderings of the Gypsies through the Balkans. He notes if the Gypsies worked in agriculture, the military or as tradesmen, and where they lived in the Balkans and their increase in number. This information is supplemented with further details presented in a map showing the appearance of Gypsies in the territories of the Venetian Republic during the same time period. Presented are those Gypsies in the fourteenth century in vassalage or under some sort of authority's rule, in addition to other Gypsy communities such as those within military...


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