Biography and mentalité: The forgotten life of Gedeon Ráday
On the basis of available archival sources, this study attempts at drawing a picture of Count Gedeon Ráday, the character of a historical personality who is considered less important today. Apart from his activity as a royal commissary of Szeged between 1869 and 1872, Ráday lived his life in nineteenth-century Hungary leaving no trace behind. Yet, through his deeds, in the said period, he affected the lives of several hundreds of thousands of people.
This study cannot be separated from the volume treating the history of the royal commissariat of Szeged, of which, according to my intentions, it will form an organic chapter. Ráday played such a critical role in the operation of the royal commissariat of Szeged that without unravelling his personality and interpreting his way of thinking – although, perhaps, they can be described by the outside observer – we cannot understand the message of the series of events that brought about a great response at the time.
In the lack of sources and due to the difficulty of interpretation, I divided the study into three chapters. In the first part, in accordance with the tradition of biographies, on the basis of the available data, I tried to reconstruct the relevant events of Ráday’s life. In the second part, highlighting certain groups of sources, examining these from the viewpoint of mentalité, I attempted to answer my original questions. In the third part, there was an opportunity to compare my conclusions with the analysis of a professional graphologist. However, due to the ambiguous reaction of the historical profession to graphology, in this chapter I refrained from any interpretation, and therefore, with a somewhat peculiar move, I publish the entire analysis, leaving it to the reader to draw the conclusions.