In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Kingdom of Hungary

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Renaissance and Reformation The Kingdom of Hungary
Szabolcs Varga
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0145


The age of the Renaissance and the Reformation brought significant changes in the history of the Kingdom of Hungary. The country had been a great power during the reign of Matthias I and under the Jagiellon dynasty, but the Ottoman campaign of 1526 destroyed the medieval central administration. After the Battle of Mohács (29 August 1526), the kingdom split into two parts. The western part was ruled by Ferdinand I of Habsburg, while its eastern territories came under the rule of János Szapolyai (Zápolya). The latter part developed into Transylvania. As the capital city, Buda, was occupied by the Ottomans in 1541, the central part of the Kingdom of Hungary became a border province of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary split into three parts, and it became the buffer zone of two world powers. However, the Kingdom of Hungary’s influence did not wear off, and the Hungarian systems of political institutions kept on working under the control of the Habsburg dynasty. Belonging to the sphere of influence of the Ottoman Empire, Transylvania could also be regarded as heir of the medieval Hungarian state; nevertheless, it had to operate in harsher conditions. Apart from political events, Hungarian economy, society, and culture remained unified, where the impacts of all the European intellectual trends (Renaissance, humanism, Reformation, and Catholic renewal) could be felt. Several ethnic groups lived within the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, where different religions (Catholic, Orthodox, and Judaism) could also be found. Some parts of the state (Transylvania, Slavonia, the Croatian Kingdom, Dalmatia) experienced a certain autonomy, and thus the administration of the Kingdom of Hungary was of the nature of a composite state. The Kingdom of Hungary in the 15th and 16th centuries developed close diplomatic relations with the Italian states, the Habsburg hereditary provinces, and the Kingdom of Poland, whereas the weakened kingdoms of the Balkan became its vassals in the late Middle Ages. The Hungarian state engaged in flourishing trade with Venice, the southern German territories, and Poland. These connections survived well after the partition of the country.

General Overviews

Hungarian historical writing generally deals with the history of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 15th and 16th centuries separately: the Battle of Mohács 1526 is considered an important dividing line. The first scholarly monographs were written in the second half of the 19th century. The interpretation of social and intellectual changes started in the first half of the 20th century. In this period, single- or dual-authored works characterized history writing. Marxist historical writing concentrated on economic history and the history of the peasantry, while several collections of studies were published as well. Since the Hungarian change of regime (1990), historians have attempted to integrate the age of the Hungarian Renaissance and that of the Reformation into a wider context: into both the history of the Habsburg Empire and that of the Ottoman Empire.

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