The Influence of the Elite on the Form of Social Care in Hungary from the Second Half of the 18th Century to the First Half of the 19th Century

Vplyv elít na podobu sociálnej starostlivosti v Uhorsku v období od polovice 18. do polovice 19. storočia

Typically, aid for the poor in Hungary was the responsibility of church representatives and social elites. However, Christian teachings only requested support for people in need in the form of alms, not permanent provisions. The level of care for the poor in the country adhered to this understanding until the second half of the 18th century when social support and health care became the agenda of the state. During the Enlightenment era, Hungarian elites started to address these issues under the guidance of the Emperor. The initiative was influenced, but not regulated by Maria Theresa. Joseph II considered assistance for the poor to be a political issue that needed to be thoroughly managed and checked by the official authorities. However, the care itself and its financing were the responsibility of towns and municipalities, primarily the inhabitants. The emperor expected that the generosity of the local elite would be a model for others and that they would personally participate in collecting and distributing financial contributions. Joseph II's intentions concerning reform of the support systems remained more or less only a vision that could not be fulfilled in Hungary in the given era. What he did not manage to impose by top-down regulation was gradually accomplished by a bottom-up initiative in the first half of the 19th century. Charity organisations established and managed by the local elite became the most significant entity helping the poor and they made considerable contributions to the modernisation, professionalism, and specialisation in that field. Assistance was also provided by churches, self-governments and official authorities.