Benedek Lang

Benedek Lang
Résidents Labex RFIEA+
Résidents Programme EURIAS

dates de séjour

17/09/2012 - 15/07/2013


Histoire des sciences et des technologies
Histoire médiévale
Histoire moderne

Fonction d’origine

Professeur associé

Institution d’origine

Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Hongrie)

Fonction actuelle


Institution actuelle

Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Hongrie)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

A social history of cryptography and secrecy in East-Central Europe – 1400-1700

A large number of early modern enciphered sources survived from the Central European area, which are as yet unsolved, even though mathematical and statistical methods are available to decipher them. These are usually most relevant sources for the political and social history of the period. A second problem is that the secondary literature of cryptography focus exclusively on the enciphering methods, which are hardly contextualized as far as the wider social and intellectual environment is concerned. A third problem is that the use of early modern cryptography is rarely researched outside the political sphere of diplomacy, even though noblemen, medical doctors, scientists, university students, engineers, and “everyday” members of the society often used enciphering methods for their own purposes. The aim of the present research is (i) to give a systematical catalogue of Central European enciphered sources, (ii) to decipher those sources which are not yet deciphered, and by doing so, to provide other historians with new sources, and finally (iii) to integrate this kind of sources into in the larger intellectual milieu of secrecy (private, medical, scientific, religious, alchemical, magical, and political secrets). I am going to offer a socially sensitive contextualizing monograph on the history of cryptography on the basis of this rich source material.



Benedek Lang is a historian (MA, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest, 1998) and a medievalist (PhD, Central European University, Medieval Studies Department, 2003). At present, he is a professor and the Head of the Department of Philosophy and History of Science at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. In 2012-13, he was an EURIAS fellow in the Collegium de Lyon. He is a historian of science, specialized on two major topics: late medieval manuscripts of learned magic, and early modern secret communication (artificial languages and cipher systems). His monograph in English, entitled Unlocked Books, Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, was published by Penn State University Press in 2008, and among many, two of his articles (“Why don’t we decipher an outdated cipher system? The Codex of Rohonc” and “People’s secrets: Towards a social history of Early Modern cryptography”) in the Cryptologia (2010), and in The Sixteenth Century Journal (2013). His article "Invented Middle Ages in the 19th century Hungary: The Forgeries of Samuel Literati Nemes" was published in Manufacturing a Past for the Present: Forgery and Authenticity in Medievalist Texts and Objects in Nineteenth-Century Europe at Brill (2015).