Mark died on November 3. Two days earlier, on November 1, he wrote his last comment on this blog. He was a faithful reader of and contributor to Hungarian Spectrum for almost two years. At least this is what I was able to ascertain from my records.
Why was Mark interested in Hungarian Spectrum? Because he was an outstanding historian who devoted his scholarly life to modern Hungarian history. And by all accounts he was brilliant. As a fellow Hungarian historian wrote to me about Mark: "I usually don't use big words, but Mark is a loss not only to his family, his friends, but also to Hungary." He is certainly a loss to me and to Hungarian Spectrum.
Mark was born in Wakefield, England. He attended the University of Warwick as an undergraudate and moved on to the University of Liverpool for his postgraduate studies. His dissertation was entitled "Industrial Workers, Socialist Industrialisation and the State in Hungary, 1948-1958." As is clear from the title of his dissertation, his historical interests centered on Hungary's Stalinist period. At least in the beginning. But he ventured into the early Kádár period as well and also became quite an expert on Hungarian fascism. Among his publications one even finds books on the change of regime in 1989-90.
Reading some of Mark's publications, one is struck by his attention to detail. He even knew how many television sets were sold in Sopron in 1957 when the the state first launched a national television service. Why was this interesting or important? Because in Sopron, which is only 50 km from Vienna, people could watch Austrian television and thus could learn something about the outside world. Mark even found out that the owners of these sets made extra money by receiving weekend "television tourists." It tells a lot about the situation right after the revolution. I'm also convinced that he read all the party papers of every county and borough from the 1950s because he was equally at home in Sztálinváros and in Pit XII of the coal mine in Tatabánya.
But he was knowledgeable about a wide range of things. I, for one, learned a lot from him. He was the one who called my attention to an excellent source of information on national election results from 1920 on. If the question of Hungarian Jewry came up, Mark seemed to have known exactly how many Jews lived in such and such a city or county and what their social status was. And as everybody who wrote to me mentioned, he was extraordinarily generous with this body of knowledge. Always ready to share it with anyone who was interested. A former colleague wrote to me: "What stuck me about him aside from his brilliance and depth of knowledge was his generosity in sharing ideas and information with colleagues." Or from an other friend: "He was a friend to me …, and what was most extraordinary about him was not just that he was brilliant, but that he was so generous with it, always sharing his extraordinarily deep knowledge, and taking hours to explain." Two appraisals from two different countries.
Some people say that the Internet divides us, isolates us, instead of bringing us together. How wrong they are. I never met Mark in person, but I understand that he thought of me as a friend and the feeling was mutual. I have been thinking of practically nothing else since I found out that he died but how much we are going to miss him and what a void he is leaving behind in our lives and in Hungarian Spectrum.
What a tragedy. How cruel life can be.