CAMIL MUREŞANU The Nobleness of Profession and the Assimilatory Function of History
MOTTO: “I consider that history and the historian are not authentic founders of a certain discipline if they confine themselves to the narrative stage of the knowledge of the past. A history that is not philosophical, contemplative about the human evolution and destiny, then it is not complete”. The School of History from Cluj recognizes Professor Camil Mureşanu as a prestigious member. A legitimate successor of the great historians of Cluj, Professor Camil Mureşanu considerably increases the field of knowledge for the Romanian historical research, being one of the most important figures of the 20th century in the University of History from Cluj. The work of Professor Camil Mureşanu, represented by its main components, stands behind the elaborate and distinguished themes that he approached in his creative works, as a scholar dedicated to science and to his profession which he pursued with great passion and enthusiasm. A manifestation of his valuable devotion to the field of history, his writings, articles, lectures and research are showing an accomplished concern towards political and social history, the history of the establishments, the history portraiture, the history of ideas and mentalities. His study of Romanian and universal history of the Middle Ages and contemporary times excels in the lore of information, an example of the large documentary material studied with great consideration for the accuracy of history and its unabridged expression. A promoter of a rational and harmonious historical discourse, in which the accuracy of vocabulary is maintaining criticism for the rigorousness of knowledge, Mr. Mureşanu describes characters, happenings, deeds, establishments, ideas and notions in pages of history that had significant influence and applicableness for the Romanian and universal history. An important number of titles illustrates this captivating image of the past as in: Ioan of Hunedoara and His Times; The Middle Class Revolution from England; The British Empire; Downing Street No. 10; President for The White House; The Presidents of France; Nation, Nationalism. The Evolution of The Nations; A Fire Strengthened by The Waters – Pages of Universal History and many others. Camil Mureşanu nourished his creativity in the history domain through the science that certifies all – as the great logician E. Godot said – a moral virtue which became obvious in the professor’s biography and activity as a significant devotion for the truthfulness of history. He is a grand personality that combines inherited abilities with intelligence, one that is both analytic and synthetic and which becomes a malleable logic in a field with great encyclopedic extent. Professor Camil Mureşanu is capable of creating images of history, of responding to them emotionally and of making intelligent and serious discourse through his extended intellectual preparation increased by an innate knowledge. As an intransigent figure,


Professor Mureşanu assimilates intellectual honesty, profoundness and stringency in thinking, preoccupation and restlessness in descovering details. A man of probity for his discipline, through his enthusiasm and vocational competence, Camil Mureşanu is a master of refinement in all respects: thinking, appearance, attitude and most of all intellectual charm, derived from his remarkable eloquence, based on a bright diction with a lithe resonance. As one of his former students who had the chance to attend his lectures, I remember the suggestive and fascinating art of speech that Professor Camil Mureşanu ownes. “In order to accomplish great things, you have to be neither a genius, nor above the people, but beside them”. Montesquieu Professor Mureşanu, the Ancients said “Historia magistra vitae”. You are a wellknown character for the History department here in Cluj and not only, and probably one of the reasons for which you chose this discipline is the profound significance that it has for the human existence. My first question would be one related to the most important points in your intellectual evolvement. For a scientific formation there are a few elements that are important, as the adage sais: “one was born as a poet but became an orator”. The same thing happens with the historian. This profession does not appear as love at first sight, although there is a certain impulse of that kind. In my case, there were the following circumstances. First of all, my family. I am the descendant of an intellectual family, at least from a first generation. My father was a Romanian literature teacher which was a very close domain to history: the history of literature, cultural history and so on. And then there was my highschool, a very good one by that time, and where I had a few great teachers of philosophy, of history, in one word, teachers of humane studies who confirmed one way or another my aptitude towards this field. And there is another detail which I do not always mention: in our family, there was a true worship of the one who was George Bariţiu, a kind of a relative of my mother, and I remember her and my grandparents saying that, at the end of the 19 th century, this grand personality of Transylvania was very much disputed. This might be one more reason for which I chose history. But anyway, as I said before, there was a first calling, one inherited from my father, who was both a writer and a poet. And then, there followed my student years in the university, where all of this strengthened, then my didactic activity and research. Are there any mentors who influenced you and who determined a certain course towards the historical times that you explored later on? As I said before, a certain influence on me had my highschool teachers. Unfortunately, their names are no longer resounding for these times. At the University, between 1946-1950, I could not make a clear distinction among my professors. Each of them had even the smallest influence on me. But I would specifically mention my great intellectual and moral appreciation for professor Ioan Moga, a refined man who passed away prematurely. I was also encouraged by and worked with professor Ştefan Pascu. These two men made me see the value of Medieval history, my first speciality. Soon after, through an administrative move, I was recommended to make my option for the Modern history. I had to accept the change and therefore it remained my second speciality for more than 40 years, if I remember well. But I repeat, I am firstly a professor and bachelor of Romanian and universal Medieval history. 2

Which we can see also from your work. Here I have one of them, dedicated to the great leader and voivode Ioan of Hunedoara. The Francis Bacon – John Stuart Mill inductive methodological register generates, under the rigour of the historian Camil Mureşanu, a valuable cognitive accumulation for the episodes that occurred under the emblem of the raven with ring, episodes in which, besides challenges and deceptions, Ioan of Hunedoara appears as a true strategist strongly engaged in a struggle with two forceful enemies, leaving through his battles an inestimable historical heritage for the Romanian Middle Ages. In Ioan of Hunedoara and His Times we find the pulse of an age through a deserving exponent – defender of Christianity. Yes, indeed. I could say that it was my work of debut. But I must say that afterwards I concentrated more and more upon universal history, because as we all know, it was almost a necessity for those times when any door towards international and european dialogue was closed. But still, there were a few disciplines in our university and someone had to teach them. And so I decided to specialize in this discipline of Western european and modern history, through which I had the chance to find the great ideas of constitutionalism, democracy and liberty, things that with all the subversion from that time were interesting to talk about for both professors and students. This way, my teaching activity was on universal history, I have also written books about it, but I have never abandoned Romanian history, a domain for which I wrote and collaborated in many works that described for example the history of Transylvania and many other. But your long time concern was for a Western history, The Middle Class Revolution from England and The Middle Class Revolution from the Low Countries being your main preoccupation for a while. Your strong inclination towards the great ideals of the modern world explains the publishing of some important titles about the most significant characters and events that marked the modern times. Are there any other motivations for this approach? It was the transition period from the Middle Ages to the modern times, when innovating and even revolutionary ideas were elaborated within the european political events and thinking. They happened gradually in Holland, England and in France, a cardinal event for the modern history that structured the entire organization of the democratic modern society. This period of transition fascinated me with its way of giving rise to something totally new. There was something striking about this struggle for a better, brighter, more open and more prosperous world. You have reached profound analysis, if we think about the work entitled Downing Street No. 10, from 1806, also the address of the prime-minister of the British government. Yes, indeed. The same street and the same number. The work was, let’s say, a wish for symmetry and a little bit of delectation too. After a larger work, the one about the presidents of the United States, my co-workers and I decided to complete the image of this Anglo-Saxon political world and try to describe the portraits of the first British prime-ministers, and not to entertain the readers, but because many of them were people of political and doctrinaire importance. And when I say that, I think about William Pitt, Disraeli, Gladstone or Winston Churchill. They were epoch-making figures and writing about them completed in a way my interest in what meant the evolution of a great society and of a state that began what we know as democracy and modern constitutionalism. A great number of works illustrate this road of writing that you have chosen. Are the titles The Presidents of France and The Presidents of the United States situated in the same place?


It was one of my concerns. Let me explain you why. I consider that history and the historian are not authentic founders of a certain discipline if they confine themselves to the narrative stage of the knowledge of the past. History becomes true history when it deals with the most important sides of the development of a society, which are institutions and ideas. A history that is not philosophical, contemplative about the human evolution and destiny, then it is not complete. I have always been concerned of seeing far beyond simple facts. And from here my interest in institutions derived from my preoccupation for Medieval history, because it is very interesting to see that from a shapeless matter of Middle Ages rise the first components of modern thinking, not to mention the well-known English magna carta. You do not abandon the epic side of writing, if I can say that, the story being very pliant here and there, as in your more recent works named Nation. Nationalism. The Evolution of the Nations and Lives, deeds and thoughts or even the title that we have in front of us, Inside the Temple of Janus. I would not consider these last works as epic. The first one includes important analysis of the birth and typology of nation, a writing stimulus that came from the way in which the national problem is seen in Central Europe and even here in Romania. I mean that people looked at it emotionally and without enough rational and sociological analysis, without taking the nation as a phenomenon in itself. We have to analyze scientifically every phenomenon and not be taken away by the emotional side of facts. So this is where I started from. It is indeed a work with many chapters of analysis, but the other two, as their title shows us, were, besides the narrative configuration, a kind of temptation of dialoguing with a few grand minds in the sense of confessing my way of understanding them. You should mention a few names. It is about John Locke, Milton and so on… Yes, Milton. But how about Columbus, a major history maker, or Lord Clarendon, an important historiographer. I tried to reach beyond a black-and-white portrait and to enter the radiography or even the holography of a certain character. At this point, you should mention the functioning of comprehension in history, comparing it with its philosophical provenance. The term comprehension that you used has aroused a lot of interest in history for the last one hundred years. Until 1880, 1890, the modern historiography, based on the method of exploring the sources, the critique, therefore organizing its sources of documentation, has longed for the ‘noble illusion’, as an American historian named it, of being able to describe history ‘exactly how it was’. It was capable of realizing that the historical truth is a reflective one, because the historian is never in a direct contact with it, but he is able to create a veracious image of the past through its contemporary sources. In a word, it was about the possibility that the historian could separate from events and be an accurate mirror of facts. After more than one hundred years historiography, in a strong connection with philosophical ideas (as neokantianism), began to realize that any image of the past is not a reflection, but a synthesis of his personality combined with what he observes and expresses. It is the same relation as in the famous pair of knowledge described by Kant: ‘the thing in itself and the thing seen by us’. The historical image is a subjective one. When selecting historical material we decide based on a certain preference, one that combines complex elements as our temperament, our intellectual formation, prejudices, political adherence and so on. Therefore comprehension decided, first with the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, Introduction in the Science of the Spirit, that in order to be a good historian you need this faculty that the Germans call Einfuhlung, an kind of empathy, an ability of the historian to understand the thinking and psychology of the past. This ability is very needed or at least an effort to accomplish it, and than the rest is up to everyone’s capacity of understanding. It is, for 4

example, as in literature, where an author, poet or novelist, is more profound in his writing than another. That’s how it happens with us the historians, we are prisoners of our own competence. When thinking about your working method, where would you place yourself? As an extention of the previous question, I would say that I consider myself a historian who tries to understand the psychology of characters and events, and not only the psychology of a single person but of an entire group, a matter which became the object of significant studies, if we think about Jung, Gustave Le Bon or others. So, there are a lot of ways through which the historian could comprehend the human soul. We can not describe images of history as series of inert paintings or as conventional photographies in an old album. Man should be animated in all historical works, so as to make the reader to feel the personage. In other words, to live the events of the past. I would like you to talk about contemporary historiography, comparing in the same time a few stages from the historical biography. You said once that the historical biography was considered worthless and inconsistent. The historical biography had to surpass a crisis. Firstly, because at the beginning it was studied in a strong relation with literature and became a sentimental biography. It was a long existence genre, sometimes described in an impressive way, but soon the historians realized that it neglected rigorous documentation. It was also seen as a genre that stimulated the historian’s subjectivity, which had no sufficient affinity with reality. And secondly, because inside these historiographical theories dominated the holistic concepts. So, the historians from the past one hundred years realized that history does not mean a single and isolated individual, but great social groups, significant economic phenomena and the continuity of institutions. It was an attempt to see the typology of a society with all its major aspects and not isolated parts of it, a matter which left biography far behind as a genre that had no justification in its way of comprehending preculture. Nowadays, there is a trial to return to the classical methods of historiography. For example, together with biography, the political history was strongly discriminated, unlike the economic or the social one. Even the most vanguardist historiography, the French one, pleads for returning to the political history, saying that politics is a very important element in knowing the historical evolution. If the politics is rehabilitated, then so it is the personality and therefore the biography, because politics has significant manifestation in many of the grand personalities. It is about a reaction against changing the individual into something faded. It is the rediscovery of initiative and its role, of the individual genius. Biographically speaking, where would you place the school of history from Cluj? It is a difficult question, because the history studies here in Cluj were of medieval and ancient history. From 1920 there was strong research in archeology and medieval times, and I could mention Ioan Lupaş, Moga, Silviu Dragomir, Ştefan Pascu, David Prodan and so on. The school of history from Cluj, with its modern and contemporary politics and intellectual aspect, is now forced to give up to those traditional domains, except archeology. As long as there is one more piece of land to be searched in Transylvania, archeology will survive. But still there is a strong need for the historical research to be brought up to date. For this reason, I would say that the school of history from Cluj needs a retraining, because although we have great young and old researchers, they do not have the strong experience of those who studied medieval history. Therefore, the research, although significant, should center its strength to bring historical information up to date. And there is also oral history. The events which aroused interest for the tragedies in the last few years could be a stimulus. As all the other things that happen in our


country, historiography is also finding itself in a time of transition, but I hope that it will find stability sooner than all the other matters. We talked about your major preoccupations, about different approaching methods and about the historiography from Cluj, but how about describing the man Camil Mureşanu? Someone asked me once why I never followed my father’s calling who was a poet and a writer. Giving my preoccupation for literature, I would have found support in a few interesting and bright professors. Everytime I hear this question I give the same answer: I am a reserved person and I do not like to express my feelings in a literary way, except maybe in private groups. You mean that you do not like to become extroverted, if that is not a too harsh word… Yes. I am guided by reason, discipline and organization in both my life and others’. Therefore I might seem a bit rigid, pedantic or finical. I think that it comes from a necessary experience and conduct: as a professor, I had to pay attention to the way of relating to the others, especially if they were students. Professors can not be too extroverted with students when they collaborate. We must have a certain limit when talking to them, encouraging or even punishing them, so we must grow our own attitude. It becomes a kind of deficiency in my profession. As for what I said about expressing my feelings, there are of course times when I am confident in sharing my affection. But I repeat, there is the stronger side of my personality, the rational one. That is who I am! And now, I would like you to describe a prospect for the intellectual, cultural and academic environment here in Cluj. There are two different but not opposite poles that define the situation. The first would be the significant opening and liberty in every field and domain, in choosing subjects for research and writing, in travelling abroad for foreign studies. In a word, it is about ‘intellectual freedom’, a meaningful word. Without it there is no culture, there is only a falsification of the society and the human personality. The second pole would be the absence of a complete cohesion and coordination in our activities, in our way of thinking and perceiving this new intellectual and socio-political reality. We are still isolated from our colleagues in different domains. A strong collaboration would be necessary, recurrence in our meetings, not the conventional ones, but the ones for open discussions and closeness. Maybe one of the many obstacles is the political interest. In my opinion, two or three or maybe a hundred intellectuals should be close friends and co-workers, despite their political orientation. A sort of cohabiting… Yes, indeed, and I am sure they should and could accomplish this idea. There still are in Cluj and not only certain ways of analysing and deciding based on political orientation, a matter that is absolutely unappropriate for an authentic intellectual and cultural environment. And here we are at the end of our discussion. If you had a question for the Professor Camil Mureşanu, what would that be? I think that the most important question for a man with a long career and life should start from the premise that people should always be satisfied with themselves and that from indignation and rebellion rises their creativity. Therefore I should ask: what and how much have I done till now, and let the answers for others… Professor Camil Mureşanu, we thank you for what you have done and for what you will do in your domain. And thank you too for you kindness and patience for a man who is now in the ninth decade of his life. 6