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Saturday
Jan262008

The Nagyrev Poisonings

I have just noticed this little program on BBC Radio 3 tonight (Saturday, 22:00-22:30 GMT).  It is about a series of poisonings carried out by women in the village of Nagyrev in Hungary between 1914 and 1930.  A midwife started supplying women with arsenic to solve their relationship problems but things got a bit out of hand.  It has been estimated there were about 300 victims [but see comments].  More details here and here.  I am surprised that this story hasn't yet been made into a film.

Reader Comments (2)

For a scholarly book on the subject see Bela Bodo, Tiszazug: A Social History of a Murder Epidemic, Columbia University Press, 2003. The BBC documentary drama was based to a large extent on this book, which is still the only reliable work on this subject. For a shorter version of the book see, Bela Bodo, Teh Poisening Women of Tiszazug, Journal of Family History (2001).

A few remarks and corrections:
- the poisoning was not started by the midwife
- it was not the result of the war; the first murder occured in 1911; only two or three of the victims were war veterans. The majority of people poisoned were over 60,and there were a number of women among them. The majority of perpetrators were indeed women; however, in many cases, their husbands also knew about the poisoning.
- the number of victims were much lower: about 45-50. There is no proof whatsoever that more people were killed. Less than 20 people died every year in this small community; no more than two or three could have been poisoined.
- Please do nto read women liberation and other nonsense into this story: we are talkign about a very traditonal peasant society -- in crisis.

Bela Bodo
Assistant Professor
California State Universtity Stanislaus
Department of History






February 11 | Unregistered CommenterBela Bodo
Thanks for this. I have added your figure for the number of victims and references to your book and paper to the Wikipedia page on the subject.

From what you say, I suspect that the figure of 300 is an estimate of the number of people in the village who died FROM ALL CAUSES between 1914 and 1929. It seems too much of a coincidence that 20 per year over 15 years = 300.
February 11 | Unregistered CommenterTristram

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