The counties, run by the nobility, the most important elements of the middle-level administration of Hungary had been the most important guarantee of the separate standing of Hungary within the Habsburg Empire for centuries. By the nineteenth century, professionalism having become increasingly significant in performing administrative duties, county offices were filled with persons with expertise and training in law, politics, and administration. Most of the county officials came from the Hungarian nobility.
The basic question the essay asks is to what extent the personal, ethnic composition and origins of the officialdom were modified during the revolution and war of independence of 1848-1849, a watershed in itself in the nineteenth-century history of Hungary, and the subsequent era of Austrian oppression. According to the view widely held in Hungarian historiography, the Hungarian nobility withdrew to their estates, refused to hold offices, and the administration of the counties was run by officials from Austria, Bohemia, Galicia and by untrained Hungarian officials with no experience in the counties.
The present paper, which is part of a research into the composition of the county officialdom serving between the 1840s and 1867, covers three counties with different geographical, economic, social, and national conditions, Borsod, Csanád and Somogy counties.
The analysis of the data has revealed that after the failure of the war of independence the principles prescribed by the Austrian absolutist government concerning the complete overhaul of the Hungarian administration and the removal of persons „with a record” from the body of officials cannot be shown to have been put into practice completely, and a considerable number of men „with a record” were employed by the absolutistic administration. It can be shown that a set of high ranking officials with ample administrative experience survived in the counties, often coming from other counties, nevertheless establishing a connection between the officialdoms of the two eras through their very presence. The officals of the three counties were mostly highly competent persons born in Hungary, with a significant though diminishing proportion of officials from before 1849, especially in leading positions.
The central government organizing the counties probably had its original intentions modified by an emergency since in order to ensure the continuity of administrative activities, it needed professionally competent personnel with administrative experience, even if regarded politically not entirely reliable. The motives, on the other hand, of taking office should, in most of the cases, not be sought in the sphere of individual political views because pressing economic and life style factors played a decisive role.