Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Habsburg Monarchy c. 1765-1918: From Enlightenment to Eclipse, PART ONE

Here are some ideas from this book I'm reading. I have not finished it yet, so I'll add more as I do.

Okey, Robin. The Habsburg Monarchy c. 1765-1918: From Enlightenment to Eclipse. (New York, N.Y.: Palgrave MacMillan, 2001).

In 1782, there wasn't actually an official collective name for the Austrian/Habsburg Empire/Monarchy...which began way, way back in 1278 with Rudolf of Habsburg. It wasn't the "Austro-Hungarian Empire" until 1848. The way I understand it, in 1848 Hungary gained the autonomy to rule itself in Hungarian matters, but it was still subject to the monarchy for foreign matters.

And that concession of granting Hungary some measure of autonomy was basically the beginning of the end of the Habsburg monarchy, because once one state wanted its freedom, the others soon followed. No wonder Czech nationalism started to really grow in the mid 19th century, as did the nationalistic feelings of many of the other states within the monarchy. The question I have is this: is it possible for an an enlightened monarchy to exist indefinitely? Are the ideals of the dissemination of knowledge and freedom incompatible with absolutist rule? Will they eventually lead to the fracture of centralized power? And if so, is this an absolute truth, or is it just, "well...it depends!" I really have no idea. But certainly these are ideas that are highly relevant to us today in 2016, with Brexit and :::shudder::: Mr. Trump vying for the US presidency!

Between 1445-1792 the head of the family was regularly elected Holy Roman Empire. But even more significant were the political marriages between 1519-26 which brought the thrones of Spain, Hungary (and thus Croatia), and Bohemia (and thus Moravia and Silesia) into the empire.

One unifying factor of the Habsburg Empire was the, "defense of Christianity against Islam." But, perhaps equally unifying was the defense of Catholicism against Protestantism. Or, from a Protestant point of view, the squashing of Protestantism.

The end result of the Battle of White Mountain was Habsburg control over Bohemian legislation, citizenship, appointments, and most importantly the creation of a small all-Catholic non-Czech aristocracy where there had once been a larger mostly protestant all-Czech medium-wealthy noble class.

The contributio is a direct taxation for military purposes.

Vienna was the center of the European world in the 18th century. I guess I hadn't realized that. I have really only studied this history of France, and not the bigger European picture. It's really fascinating, but mainly because of its application to my ancestors. Decisions of these fancy-pants royalty/policymakers definitely influenced my ancestors. Like, no doubt whatsoever. A boring snooze-fest royal patent is not interesting to study...until you realize, "Oh my gosh, that law suddenly meant that my male ancestors between the ages of x and x were required to go into military service unless they inherited the farm! What does that mean for them? Would that have influenced which son would have inherited? Was that a factor in their immigration?" etc.

Frederick the Great seized Austrian Silesia in 1740.

There were some really difficult things about the bureaucracy of the Habsburg lands, including slow methods of communication, low literacy, loyalty to historic local tibunals/tariffs, and even differences in measurement units. For example, the geometric German mile was ~4 English miles, the Bohemian mile was 1/3 shorter and ~4755 geometric paces. (As a side note, measurement units are just so frustrating to me. I wish I could have a master list with all of them in one single place. Siiigh)

The dynasty relied on German speakers. There were tensions because Bohemia was not natural Habsburg territory in the way that German-speaking Austria was. Basically, the ethnic and linguistic identity, which the author believes was maintained in part by descendants of Hussites, was a huuuuuuuuuge deal, and hugely important for the future outcome of the Czech world.

The author thinks the royal patents of 1680, 1717, and 1738 were ineffective and screwed up the robota tax system. I will have to look into those specific patents because I have no idea what they are for yet.

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