Posted: Monday, April 27, 2009
Prince Windisch-Graetz in an 1852 lithograph.

Prague, Barricades during the revolution of 1848, June 1848

Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Graetz (German: Alfred Candidus Ferdinand Fürst zu Windisch-Graetz) (May 11, 1787, Brussels — March 21, 1862, Vienna) was an Austrian army officer who distinguished himself throughout the wars fought by the Habsburg Monarchy in the 19th century.

Windisch-Graetz came from a Styrian noble family and started service in the Habsburg imperial army in 1804. He participated in all the wars against Napoleon and fought with distinction at Leipzig and in the campaign of 1814. In 1833, he was named Feldmarschall.

In the following years of peace he held successive commands in Prague, being appointed head of the army in Bohemia in 1840. Having gained a reputation as a champion of energetic measures against revolution, during the Revolutions of 1848 in Habsburg areas he was called upon to suppress the insurrection of March 1848 in Vienna, but finding himself ill-supported by the ministers he speedily threw up his post.

Having returned to Prague, his wife was killed by by a stray bullet during the popular uprising. He then showed firmness in quelling an armed outbreak of the Czech separatists (June 1848), declaring martial law throughout Bohemia. Upon the recrudescence of revolt in Vienna he was summoned at the head of a large army and reduced the city by a formal siege (October 1848).

Appointed to the chief command against the Hungarian revolutionaries under Lajos Kossuth, he gained some early successes and reoccupied Buda and Pest (Jan. 1849), but by his slowness in pursuit he allowed the enemy to rally in superior numbers and to prevent an effective concentration of the Austrian forces.

In April 1849 he was relieved of his command and henceforth rarely appeared again in public life.


Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Karl Wilhelm von Willisen

The revolutionary crisis of the middle of the nineteenth century which shattered most of the European countries in protest against the political system established by the Congress of Vienna is usually associated with the memorable year of 1848, with the so-called “spring of the peoples.” It was indeed in the spring of that year that the movement started in Western Europe and in the western, German part of Central Europe. In East Central Europe, however, where the tension was deepest and the claims for national freedom even stronger than those for constitutional reforms, the crisis started exactly two years earlier, in the spring of 1846.

It started with the utopian project of a Polish insurrection which would be directed against all three partitioning powers at the same time. From the outset it proved impossible to include any direct action against Russia, which dominated by far the largest part of Polish lands and where the oppression was most violent. For Nicholas I who in the thirties had already crushed all conspiratorial activities of the Poles, now succeeded, and even in the decisive year of 1848, in stopping all revolutionary movements at the border of his empire. It was therefore Prussian Poland which was selected as a basis for the new struggle for freedom. Here the prospective leader, Ludwik Mieroslawski, had already appeared in 1845. The reasons for such a decision must be explained against the background of the general situation in Prussia.

As far as her policy toward the Polish population was concerned, earlier attempts at reconciliation, in agreement with the promises of 1815, had been followed by the systematic repressions of Edward Flottwell who in 1830 replaced the Polish prince, Anton Radziwill, as governor of the grand duchy of Poznan. On the other hand, not only in that purely Polish province but also in West Prussia and Silesia all government efforts toward Germanization met with strong resistance. This was not at all limited to the Catholic clergy and to the nobility, who were considered the main representatives of Polish nationalism, but it was also organized by a Polish middle class which had been formed in these western lands earlier than in any other part of Poland. It was there that the most advanced cultural, social, and economic progress had been made by the Polish people, while such progress was entirely impossible under the regimes of Metternich and Nicholas I. Even under Frederick William IV, new King of Prussia since 1840, who recalled Flottwell, only the methods of anti-Polish policy were changed. But the apparently anti-Russian attitude of the government, and some sympathy displayed by Prussian liberals, created the illusion that eventually the planned Polish action would find Prussian support.

What really happened was, on the contrary, the arrest of Mieroslawski and his collaborators in February, 1846, when their conspiracy was discovered and all attempts to liberate Prussian Poland failed completely. At the same time, however, a real tragedy took place in Austrian Galicia. Alarmed by preparations for a Polish insurrection which had also started there, the Austrian administration incited the peasants to rise against the noble landowners in some districts of western Galicia, promising rewards for the killing or capturing of any of them. The peasants were told by the Austrian bureaucracy that the nobles wanted to restore old Poland only to enslave them, while the emperor was ready to abolish serfdom completely. As a matter of fact it was precisely the leaders of the insurrection who, though of noble origin, like the eminently prominent Edward Dembowski, had the most advanced ideas of social reform. Their radicalism was best evidenced when at the end of February they seized power in the free city of Cracow, where Jan Tyssowski, later an exile in the United States, was proclaimed dictator. But his inadequate forces were defeated by the Austrians, Dembowski was killed, and after a brief Russian occupation the republic of Cracow was annexed by the Austrian Empire.

Even that obvious violation of the treaties of 1815 was accepted by the Western powers which in spite of the aroused public opinion in France and England limited themselves to weak diplomatic protests. And a new wave of violent repressions set in, both in Galicia where the new governor, Count Stadion, tried to play off the Ruthenians against the Poles, and in Prussia, where in December, 1847, Mieroslawski and seven of his associates, after a long imprisonment, were sentenced to death. But before they could be executed, the outbreak of the 1848 revolution opened entirely new prospects not only for the Poles but for all the submerged nationalities of East Central Europe.

As a matter of fact there were several revolutions in 1848, not only in different countries but with different objectives. In the French February Revolution, the issues were exclusively constitutional and social, but just as in the case of the great Revolution of 1789, the general ideas of liberty which were spreading from Paris all over Europe had a special appeal for those peoples who were deprived not only of constitutional freedom—and this in a degree much greater than under Louis Philippe’s French monarchy—but also of their national rights. Hence the growing excitement in various foreign-dominated parts of Italy and particularly in the non-German parts of Prussia and Austria. Not later than in March there appeared in both monarchies a rather confusing combination of nationalist movements and general revolts against autocratic regimes.

In Prussia, in spite of the disappointments of 1846, the situation of that year seemed to repeat itself so far as the Polish question was concerned. The liberation of Mieroslawski and his friends by German crowds in Berlin was very significant in that respect. Returning to Poznan, the Polish leader also returned to the plan of a war against czarist Russia with the support of a liberalized Prussia, whose new minister of foreign affairs, Baron H. von Arnim, was in favor of such a conception. The latter was also supported by Prince Adam Czartoryski who came from Paris to Berlin. But all these plans were doomed to failure for two different reasons.

First of all, a war against Russia was seriously considered in Prussia only so long as there was fear of Russian armed intervention in the German revolution and a prospect of the active cooperation of other powers. But Nicholas I, well advised by his ambassador in Berlin, remained passive, while the ambassadors of Britain and even of revolutionary France made it quite clear that the Western powers did not desire a conflict with the czar any more than Austria, who was involved in her own troubles. On the other hand, the impossibility of Polish-Prussian cooperation became obvious as soon as the “national reorganization” of at least the province of Poznan was considered. Contrary to the initial promises of the government, any administrative reform in favor of the Poles who hoped for complete separation from Prussia was opposed by the German minority. A compromise negotiated by General Willisen, as royal commissioner, was rejected by both sides, and after a decree which announced the division of the grand duchy into a Polish and a German part, open fighting started with the result that on May 9, 1848, the insurrectionary Polish forces had to capitulate.

There followed a violent anti-Polish reaction under the new commissioner, General Pfuel, who was even ready to cede to Russia a part of the Poznan province. Finally such drastic changes were abandoned, but even the Frankfurt Parliament, where a few liberals had spoken in favor of the Poles and the reconstruction of their country, fully approved Prussia’s policy in the name of a “healthy national egoism.” Such an attitude was in agreement with the general program of German nationalism which in 1848 claimed the unification of all German states in one empire, whether under Prussian or Austrian leadership, but which also wanted to include many non-German populations that were under the control of both these powers.

In the case of the Habsburg monarchy, such an approach had implications of a much larger scope, affecting at least all those possessions of the dynasty which in the past had belonged to the Holy Roman Empire and which since 1815 had been included in the German Confederation. For that very reason the Bohemian lands were invited to send representatives to the Frankfurt Parliament, a claim which was rejected in the name of the Czechs by the historian Palacky, who now became the political leader of the nation. Nevertheless, when in March, 1848, almost simultaneously with the revolution in Berlin, a similar movement broke out in Vienna, here too at the beginning there seemed to be a possibility of cooperation among all those who, irrespective of nationality, had suffered under the Metternich regime. This cooperation was to include Austrian Germans, who were chiefly interested in constitutional reforms and other peoples who hoped that under a liberal constitution their national rights would also receive consideration.

In Austria, too, the Polish question, which had received such a harsh blow two years before, was immediately reopened, and in Galicia, as in Prussian Poland, concessions were made at the beginning of the revolution. These included the creation of national committees in Cracow and Lwow, and the raising of hopes for a reconstruction of Poland in connection with the Habsburg monarchy. But there was even less chance of cooperation against the Russian Czardom—the main obstacle to such a reconstruction—than in Prussia. On the contrary, on April 26 Cracow had already been bombarded by the Austrian commander, and when Polish activity was transferred to the eastern part of Galicia, the Austrian government favored the claim of the Ruthenians. This was to cut off that part of Galicia as a separate province with a Ruthenian majority. In November drastic anti-Polish measures also set in there. Lwow, too, was bombarded. The first Pole, Waclaw Zaleski, who had been made governor of Galicia, was recalled, and although the partition of Galicia did not materialize, the whole province was again subject to efforts of Germanization and to strict control by the central authorities.

Here, however, the analogy with the fate of Prussian Poland ends. In the multinational Austrian Empire the Poles did not limit themselves to another abortive uprising in their section of the monarchy, but took an active and sometimes a leading part in all other revolutionary movements, including even that of the Viennese population. A first important step was the Polish participation in the Slavic congress which was opened in Prague on June 2. Like the whole earlier purely cultural phase of Pan-Slavism, that congress, naturally under Czech leadership, had nothing in common with the later development of that trend which was sponsored by Russia. Except for the isolated extremist Bakunin, who hoped in vain to use Bohemia as a basis for a communist revolution, the Russians were conspicuously absent from the congress. There was indeed in Prague a difference between conservative partly aristocratic leaders who were defending traditional regionalism, and a liberal, even radical, majority. There were also individual delegates from outside the Habsburg monarchy. But all of them represented those Slavic peoples who, crushed between German and Russian imperialism, hoped that a reorganization of that monarchy on democratic principles would give them a chance for free development.

In spite of such a positive attitude toward Austria, whose existence even Palacky considered indispensable in that phase of his activity, the imperial authorities were suspicious. In Prague, as in the two Polish cities, the end was a bombardment, the congress being dispersed. In addition to that hostility of the military and bureaucratic elements in the central government, however, there was another difficulty which made the Slavic congress and its whole program end in failure. It had already appeared during the deliberations that the Slavs, though a majority in the Habsburg monarchy, were not the only non-German group which had to be taken into consideration in any reform project. Besides the Italian and Rumanian question of a rather special character, there was the big issue of Hungary with her Magyar leaders and her own nationalities problems.


Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009

The same scale, from purely cultural to distinctly political nationalism, can be found among the nationalities of the Austrian Empire. Metternich, more than the emperors themselves, Francis I and after his death in 1835, Ferdinand I, who were rather weak and insignificant rulers, represented the idea of absolute government. He was hardly afraid of the cultural revival of the Czechs in spite of its steady progress. The foundation of the Museum of the Bohemian Kingdom in 1818 was indeed rather an expression of interest in regional studies. But when in 1830 the Matice ceska (literally “Czech mother”) was attached to it, that society also started encouraging the use of the Czech language. And it was obvious that the publication of Frantisek Palacky’s History of Bohemia (though first in German), covering the period of independence before Habsburg rule, would revive a national tradition in complete opposition to all that Metternich was standing for.

Some of the most prominent Czech writers, like the poet Jan Kollár and the historian P. J. Safarik, were of Slovak origin and interested in the past and the culture of all Slavic peoples. They contributed on the one hand to a feeling of Slavic solidarity in the Habsburg Empire, long before that movement was exploited by Russian imperialism, and on the other hand to a national revival even of those Slavs who never had created independent states, like the Slovenes and the Slovaks themselves. Though very close to the Czechs, the Slovaks under the leadership of Ludovit Stur decided to use their own language in literature, thus reacting against the backward conditions in which they were left under Hungarian rule.

Trying to play off the various nationalities against one another, the Metternich regime, for instance, would use officials of Czech origin as tools of Germanization in Polish Galicia, and would welcome the growing antagonism between the Magyars and the other groups in Hungary. In that kingdom, whose state rights even Metternich could not completely disregard, Hungarian nationalism was making rapid progress, particularly in the cultural and economic field, thanks chiefly to Count Széchenyi, called “the greatest Hungarian,” who in 1825 founded the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The Diet, which continued to function though with greatly reduced power, was slow to carry out the democratic reforms advocated by Széchenyi, but in its session of 1843 - 1844 it at last decided to replace Latin by Magyar as the official language.

At the same time the Hungarian Diet also decided to prescribe instruction in the Magyar language in the schools of Croatia where, therefore, Croat nationalism was more alarmed by the inconsiderate pressure coming from Budapest than by the centralization of the whole empire being promoted in Vienna. Furthermore, under these conditions, the idea of Yugoslav unity, in spite of the old antagonism between Serbs and Croats, was also becoming popular among the latter where the gifted writer and politician Ljudevit Gaj (1809—1872) propagated the “Illyrian” movement and also influenced the Slovenes in a similar sense.

Even in its rather modest beginnings, that movement was dangerous for the unity of the monarchy because it could not find full satisfaction within its existing boundaries. And such was also the case of Polish and Italian nationalism, as well as of the Ruthenian and Rumanian aspirations. The former clashed in eastern Galicia with Polish supremacy, and the latter in Transylvania with Magyar supremacy, while cultural ties were at least established with the Ruthenians or Ukrainians of the Russian Empire, and with the Rumanians in the Danubian principalities. But even more than these international implications, the two big national problems which affected the Austrian Empire alone, the Czech and the Magyar, were a growing source of tension because in these cases modern nationalism found strong support in the historic tradition of two medieval kingdoms. The Pan-Slavic trend among the Czechs was ready to use the Habsburg monarchy as a basis of action, and the Hungarian program did not exclude a dynastic union with Austria. But even so they were directed against the very foundations of Metternich’s system and could not be represented by the chancellor’s police measures.


Clash between Polish insurgents and Russian cuirassiers on bridge in Warsaw's Łazienki Park. In background, an equestrian statue of King John III Sobieski. Painting byWojciech Kossak, 1898.

Taking of the Warsaw Arsenal. Painting by Marcin Zaleski.

This 1836 map of Eastern Europe shows Poland.

The Polish insurrection which broke out in Warsaw on November 29, 1830, is sometimes called a Polish-Russian war. It was indeed a conflict between the kingdom of Poland, which was supposed to exist again after the Congress of Vienna, and the Russian Empire, to which that separated body politic was attached by a personal union only. But long before the Polish army rebelled against the czar’s brother, Grand Duke Constantine, who had been made its commander in chief, and before the Polish Diet on January 25, 1831, formally dethroned the Romanov dynasty, the whole conception of 1815 proved a fiction which could not possibly endure.

During the fifteen years between the Congress and the Revolution, no little progress had been made in the kingdom, particularly in the cultural and economic fields. A Polish university was opened in Warsaw in 1817, and the most prominent member of the Polish government, Prince Xavier Lubecki, achieved a great deal as minister of finance. But already under Czar Alexander, solemnly crowned in Warsaw as king of Poland, even those Poles who had accepted the Vienna decisions as a basis for constructive activities were deeply disappointed. Alexander's vague promises that the eastern provinces of the former commonwealth would be reunited with the kingdom proved impossible of fulfilment, even if they were sincere. Although under Russian rule Polish culture continued to flourish there, particularly in the former grand duchy of Lithuania where the University of Wilno was a more brilliant center of Polish learning and literature than ever before, the Russians considered those “West-Russian” lands an integral part of the empire which the czar had no right to alienate. Already in 1823 Prince Adam Czartoryski was removed from his position as “curator” of the University of Wilno, where severe repressions against the Polish youth organizations started at once. The Russian senator N. N. Novosiltsov, chiefly responsible for these measures, was at the same time interfering with the administration of the kingdom where instead of Czartoryski the insignificant General Zajaczek was appointed viceroy. Novosiltsov’s role was of course contrary to the apparently liberal constitution which Czartoryski had helped to draft. The leading patriots in the Diet tried in vain to defend Poland's constitutional rights on legal grounds, while those who realized the futility of such loyal opposition engaged in conspiracies which even the most severe police control proved unable to check.

The tension rapidly increased when Alexander I died in 1825. After the abortive December revolution in St. Petersburg, whose leaders seemed to favor the Polish claims, he was succeeded by his brother Nicholas I. He too was crowned as king of Poland a few years later. But without even the appearance of liberalism which had been shown by Alexander, he considered the parliamentary regime of the kingdom as being completely incompatible with the autocratic form of government which he so fully developed in Russia. Hence the Polish radicals, under the leadership of young infantry cadets, rose in defense of their constitution. Public opinion was alarmed by the news that the Polish army would be used by the czar as a vanguard for crushing the revolutionary movements which in 1830 had broken out in France and Belgium and which received Polish sympathy.

Even the moderate leaders who were surprised by the plot of the cadets and who considered the insurrection as having been insufficiently prepared, joined it in a spirit of national unity, though much time was lost through the hesitation of those who still hoped to appease the czar and to arrive at some compromise. Among these was General Chlopicki, who was entrusted with practically dictatorial powers. Even later, the changing leadership of the Polish army, which for nine months opposed the overwhelming Russian forces, proved rather undecided and inadequate so that even initial successes and bold strategic conceptions of the general staff were not sufficiently utilized. Therefore the struggle ended in a victory of the Russian Field Marshal Paskevich, a veteran of the war against Turkey, and on September 7, 1831, after a siege of three weeks, Warsaw was taken by storm.

Two aspects of that greatest Polish insurrection of the nineteenth century are of general interest, one with regard to the problem of nationalities in East Central Europe, the other from the point of view of international relations in Europe as a whole. The uprising which had started in Warsaw as an action of the so-called “Congress Kingdom,” had immediate repercussions east of the Bug River, in the Lithuanian and Ruthenian provinces of the historic commonwealth. Particularly in the former grand duchy of Lithuania there was a strong participation in the revolutionary movement against Russian rule, not only among the Polonized nobility but also among the gentry and the peasants of purely Lithuanian stock. And though there were social controversies in connection with the promised abolition of serfdom, there was no Lithuanian separatism on ethnic grounds but a common desire to restore the traditional Polish-Lithuanian Union in full independence from Russia. Regular Polish forces came from the territory of the kingdom, and the movement spread as far as the Livonian border but was unable to liberate the main cities and broke down with the doom of the insurrection in Poland proper.

The leaders of the revolution also hoped to obtain the support of the Ukrainian lands. Here, too, they appealed not only to the Polish and Polonized nobles and to the idea of Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian cooperation in some tripartite federation of the future, but also to the peasant masses which, however, remained distrustful and passive. The young Taras Shevchenko, who was soon to become the first great Ukrainian poet, had contacts with some of the Polish leaders. But he was not won over, and later he made the significant statement that “Poland fell and crushed us too.” For the czarist government, after the defeat of the Poles, started a ruthless Russification not only in the Congress kingdom but also in all Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands where not only the Poles and the supporters of the Polish cause, but all non-Russian elements, were also the victims—a situation which greatly contributed to the rise of Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalism.

While these indirect consequences of the November insurrection appeared only later, the diplomatic repercussions in general European politics were simultaneous. All Poles realized that their fight for freedom could have notable chances for success only if supported by other powers. Therefore, turning exclusively against Russia, which controlled by far the largest part of Poland's historic territory in one form or another, they hoped for the complacence of Austria and even for some sympathy among the liberals in Germany. Decisive, however, seemed the attitude of the Western powers, France and Britain. Well realized by Polish public opinion in general, the necessity to find outside assistance was the main concern of Prince Adam Czartoryski, Poland’s greatest statesman of the nineteenth century. After years of endeavor toward a reconciliation with Russia he now recognized the hopelessness of such a policy and for the remaining thirty years of his life was to be Russia's most persistent opponent.

Although Czartoryski never was popular among the leftists led by the famous historian Joachim Lelewel, his authority was so great that he was placed at the head of the national government. As such he made every effort to make the revolution an international issue, and he sent diplomatic representatives abroad, particularly to Paris and London. After the dethronement of Nicholas I as king of Poland, even the election of another king was considered. In order to interest Vienna in the Polish cause, the candidature of an Austrian archduke or of the Duke of Reichstadt, Napoleon’s son who was kept at the Austrian court, was put forward, as well as that of the Prince of Orange or of a member of the British royal family. More realistic was the conviction that all signatories of the 1815 treaties ought to be interested in the violation of the promises then made to the Poles, and that they would therefore intercede in their behalf.

But all the diplomatic skill of Czartoryski and his collaborators proved to be of no avail. Even statesmen who seemed favorable to the Poles, such as Talleyrand and Sebastiani in France or Palmerston in England, wanted them first to gain substantial victories through their own forces. Prospects of a joint French-British mediation, with the possible participation of Austria, vanished when the Belgian problem created a tension between the two western powers, while Austria showed some interest in Poland’s fate only at the last moment when the defeated Polish regiments had already crossed over into Galicia, only to be disarmed there like those who crossed the Prussian border.

As a matter of fact the Polish insurrection had saved France and Belgium from Russian intervention, thus giving evidence that a really independent Poland would be a protection against czarist imperialism, as in the past. Therefore Czartoryski, who after participating as a volunteer in the last fights went into exile for the rest of his life, hoped that the complete conquest of Congress Poland by Russia would again raise those fears of Russian expansion which were so general in 1815 in Vienna. In Paris he tried to convince old Talleyrand that at least a restoration of the autonomous kingdom ought to be requested from the czar, but Sebastiani made the famous statement that “order reigned in Warsaw,” and in London, where the prince made many friends for Poland, he heard the objection that “unfortunately the Polish question was contrary to the interests of all other powers.

To convince the world that this was not so was Czartoryski’s main objective after his final establishment at the Hotel Lambert in Paris from 1833 on. He tried to accomplish his ends by connecting the Polish cause with that of all oppressed nations. Therefore that “uncrowned king of Poland,” with his diplomatic agents in almost all European capitals, was working for the liberation of the whole of East Central Europe. In the belief that the fate of Poland was part of a much larger problem, the whole Polish emigration, concentrated in France and inspired by great poets including Adam Mickiewicz, was united in spite of differences of method between the right and the left. The latter, eager to join revolutionary movements anywhere, was also eager to organize new conspiracies in the oppressed country at once, with another insurrection as ultimate goal, without sufficiently realizing that there was not the slightest chance of success under the regime established by the victorious czar in all his Polish possessions.

In addition to the ruthless persecution of everything that was Polish or connected with Poland in the eastern provinces where the University of Wilno and the Uniate church were the main victims, a period of reaction also started in the so-called kingdom under Paskevich as general governor. Considering that the Poles through their rebellion had forfeited all rights granted them at the Congress of Vienna, in 1832 Nicholas I replaced the constitution of the kingdom by an “Organic Statute” which liquidated its autonomy and made it practically a Russian province, subject to systematic Russification particularly in the educational field. The fiction of a restoration of Poland in union with Russia was now abandoned and the czarist empire advanced to the very boundaries of Prussian and Austrian Poland.

Under these circumstances the other two partitioning powers became convinced that close cooperation with Russia was indispensable. A secret agreement was therefore concluded in 1833 by the three monarchs, who guaranteed one another their Polish possessions and promised mutual assistance in case of a new revolution. Jointly, they also militarily occupied (without however annexing it) the Free City of Cracow where the November insurrection had found numerous partisans. The settlement made at the Congress of Vienna was thus revised in East Central Europe in favor of the imperialistic powers, and it became even more intolerable for the submerged nationalities. For the reaction directed against the Poles, whom Metternich considered the typical revolutionaries, was accompanied, both in the Habsburg Empire which he fully controlled and in the Russia of his ally Nicholas I, by oppressive measures against all other peoples who were dissatisfied with their fate.


Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009

Why was the Habsburg army slower and less brilliant than its European rivals between 1649 and 1918?

I am certainly no expert on this topic, having read only very generally on Austrian history, but in the interest of providing a basis of discussion, I’ll posit the following general ideas:

1) The Habsburgs were almost always broke due to shambolic administration and regional economic underdevelopment. As a result, they were more dependent upon using their soldiers to gather the harvest or to forage, most memorably in the Potato War. They were also dependent upon foreign subsidies to finance distant campaigns and were less able to modernize their equipment or to maintain large standing forces. Their chronic financial problems were accentuated by the Ausgleich of 1867, which required the military budget to pass not one but two legislatures.

2) The Habsburgs were restrained by the balance of power, internally and externally. Internally, the need to watch their subject populations absorbed large garrisons or armies (i.e. the Hungarian revolt during the War of Spanish Succession). Externally, the Austrians were often tied down by war on two fronts (typically the French and the Turks) or by the threat of war on two fronts (the French, Turks, Prussians, Russians and Piedmont-Sardinia/Italy). Further, as perennial Emperors, the frequent need to consult with independent-minded Imperial electors restrained the Habsburgs and reduced the possibility of conducting a reckless Prussian-style foreign policy along the lines of a Frederick the Great or Bismarck.

3) Poor interior lines of communication. Other countries, of course, were faced with the problem of two-front wars, but they were either more compact (Prussia) or had better roads (France). Being in control of an underdeveloped region in Europe, the Austrians were less able to conduct rapid troop movements, particularly in the impoverished areas in the south-east reclaimed from the Turks. On this note, it is worth pointing that even the lavishly equipped NATO has had difficulty moving troops into Bosnia and Kosovo.

4) Cultural passivism. A broad and problematic category, but nevertheless one worth considering. It encompasses Catholic fatalism, leadership, and a court which did not place an unduly high value on martial prowess. Whereas the Prussian military was based upon an aggressive, militaristic, barracks-hall culture, perhaps best embodied by Frederck William II’s kitchen cabinet, and by Wilhelm II’s personal involvement in field maneuvers, in contrast Vienna was a centre of culture and art, where a significant proportion of the aristocracy and court would rather attend opera, hunts, or masked balls. Here leadership played a role. Whereas France’s borders where shaped by adventurous and ambitious spirits such as Louis XIV and the two Napoleons, the final 150 years of Austrian history were dominated by leaders who were not themselves soldiers—Maria Theresa, von Kaunitz, Metternich, and Franz Josef II. Of the lot, Maria Theresa was the most warlike, but even she was more concerned about maintaining her inheritance from the depredations of that robber-baron Frederick to the north than in extensive territorial aggrandizement. Summing up, the Habsburgs preferred peace to war, diplomacy over fighting, and the status quo in lieu of imperial aggrandizement.

5) Lastly, and least importantly, one of their strengths was also a weakness. Austrian light irregular forces are generally conceded to be amongst the best in Europe in their day, but being specialists in the “small war,” these are not the types of soldiers likely to win dramatic decisive victories of the Napoleonic type.

I hope that these comments provide some food for thought.

All the best,

Rob Hanks.

Ph. Candidate

University of Toronto

Coming to that period, Monteccucoli indeed advised defensive tactics against the Turks. That changed after Vienna, and a commander like Prince Eugene of Savoy was by no means a defensive tactician, neither against the Ottomans nor on western battlefields in the war of succession. And at the end of the 18th century, Count Kinsky, a professor of military science rated the Ottomans rather low; due to the decline of Ottoman troop quality. Cf. my account Schwendi, Monteccucoli, Kinsky: Analysen der Osmanischen Kriegsmacht vom 16. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert, in: CIEPO VII: Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Ankara 1994, pp. 201 - 214.

As for later times, the Austrians’ seemingly mediocre performance was partially due to their bad luck—their armies were put against a bunch of military geniuses like Frederick the Great or Napoleon, who made almost every opponent look rather mediocre! But one should not forget that a commander like Archduke Charles was virtually the first one who succesfully made a stand against the so far invincible Frenchman at Aspern-Essling and fought him into a draw.

Thomas Scheben

I continue to be (cheerfully) amazed at the diversity of websites/discussion groups/etc. that the Internet has enabled to be created, that can so readily bring together people who share common interests . . . so now there’s a Habsburg discussion group!!! I love it!!!

As far as this question is concerned, I believe the ultimate answer to be “culture,” although I don’t really know how to go about proving this objectively. If you look at the entire history of the Hapsburg dynasty/empire, its development was never primarily “martial,” though they certainly made use of war as an instrument of policy when convenient. They seemed always to prefer other means of acquiring territory or power, particularly dynastic marriages. This character was encapsulated in the famous proverb that went something like “Other nations make war, you, happy Austria, marry.” They never tried to build an unitary state but continued the old medieval tradition of “localism in empire.”

One of the big what-ifs of modern history is what might have happened in the early 20th century if in the 19th century the Hapsburgs had worked with the rising nationalist spirit and capitalized on their empire’s diversity to build a kind of United States of Central Europe . . .

Notwithstanding Austria-Hungary’s poor showing in the Balkan Wars, significant elements of the empire’s foreign ministry as well as military continued to lobby for war—a localized, successful one, of course—to shore up the dynasty in the critical years right before World War I. The decay and centrifugal forces pulling the old empire apart were quite apparent to people on the scene at the time, not just in retrospect.

Strikingly like the Russian autocracy, whose solution for recovering the prestige and authority sacrificed by its incompetent, losing war with Japan was another war.


This is a question that has been bothering me since grade school:

how did a state with such an unimpressive military get to be such a great power? I looked through the few H-Habsburg responses to this and found that they tended to minimize Habsburg ineptness, which I would challenge.

My specialty is the Thirty Years’ War, and, in my opinion, if the (Austrian) Habsburgs had been only average, they would have come out of the war much better. Almost all of their victories were won in the first half of the war, and they tended to be against outsized rebel forces. Tilly was very successful, but he wasn’t Habsburg. Nordlingen was very successful, but that had a large Spanish contingent. That leaves Wallenstein, and his greatest accomplishment was Lutzen, a draw.

That’s the good half of the war. In the second half, it was nothing but one defeat after another: Wittstock (1636), Second Breitenfeld (1642), Jankov (1645), and Zusmarshausen (1648), not to mention several other disastrous campaigns that did not include a major battle (1644 and 1646 come to mind). I’m amazed that Austria managed to escape from this war in as good shape as it did.

I’m tempted to blame the political selection of leaders, especially Leopold Wilhelm (why the Spanish ever took him on as governor-general of the Low Countries after his previous career is a mystery). However, in 1647 they gave command to Peter Melander, who was not only not a Catholic, but was actually a Calvinist. He turned things around for a while, but then lost at Zusmarshausen; and that clearly can’t be blamed on politics.

After the death of Franz von Mercy in 1645, the Bavarians also had some highly inadequate commanders. Perhaps they and the Habsurgs look so bad at this time because they were facing some of the best generals of the century, including Turenne, Conde, Torstensson, and Wrangel. But that’s only a short-term explanation—if you blame commanders for more than a few years, you have to start asking why the Habsburgs couldn’t get better ones.

In conclusion, I have no idea what the answer to the question is. I do, however, think that it is a serious question that someone should deal with. Austria’s military not only seems bad, it was bad; yet somehow, they survived and even prospered for centuries. Perhaps this is a tribute to amazingly successful statecraft.



My former colleague Charles Ingrao asked the question what factor, or indeed factors, were the causes for the Habsburg army earning the respect of its opponents, but ‘rarely the kind of admiration that we associate with the military instruments of notable adversaries like Louis VIV, Frederick the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte or even the tiny Serbian kingdom of World War I’. He goes on to declare that the Habsburg military usually were less aggressive and less likely to achieve a decisive victory and that these shortcomings were contributing factors to the Monarchy’s ‘decline’ and eventual dissolution in 1918.

This statement, of course, is correct and the question is very well put. As a French historian, A. Sorel, once pointed out, ‘the Hapsburg always were one idea and one army behind, but they always had an idea and an army.’ The idea was the preservation of the dynasty and its empire and as Jaszi pointed out, the army was one of the main—I would assert—the main, pillar of the dynasty.

At the same time, however, the Habsburg rulers had few martial talents, while since the days of Wallenstein they were suspicious of military commanders and always hesitated placing too much power into the hands of any one general. Hence the famous conflict between the Emperor Francis and his brother the Archduke Charles discussed by Rauchensteiner and Craig, suspicions and misgivings which survived into the long years of the Emperor Francis Joseph. For that matter, even the most talented of the Habsburg generals, the Archduke Charles, was a cautious conservative who clearly never was prepared to risk the army to achieve the complete destruction of an opponent, with his curious inactivity in the weeks following Aspern-Essling but one example.

No other army commander, save Eugene as Professor Ingrao points out, ever achieved decisive victory, though here I would add Radetzky who in a six week campaign in 1848 destroyed his Italian opponents to the short list of Habsburg generals achieving a decisive victory. Naturally, victory placed the Monarchy in a better geopolitical position, but one needs to ask what constituted a decisive victory? Montecuccoli defeated the Turks in 1664, but they returned in 1683, and only the campaigns in Hungary after 1683 achieved a ‘decisive result’. The Turks were driven out of Hungary, though the Ottoman presence in the western Balkans remained a worry to the Habsburg authorities. Eugene’s victories in Italy, Spain, Flanders all had no decisive impact. In 1714, the Monarchy clearly had become a great power but also was beset by continuing and intensifying internal problems which sapped its strength.

To be sure, the problem of a luxurious court and an often starving army were common in the eighteenth century, except perhaps in Prussia, and in fact the question how to pay for a large, well-equipped, and well officered army was never really solved either in Austria or in Austria-Hungary. By the last decade of the 18th century, the ‘Austrian Monarchy,’ a convenient misnomer for territories collected by an ambitious dynasty, stretched from the Lower Rhine to Galicia and from Bohemia to northern Italy, but such a collection of lands not only lacked unity and purpose but also created a geostrategic position where the Monarchy always faced the problem of war on several fronts.

This problem, recognized clearly as Ingrao has pointed out by Joseph I, became even more complicated from the second half of the century on, when proto-nationalism, with perhaps a full fledged nationalism in Hungary, began to take hold in the various lands. Given this, the only possible orientation for the army was to retain its traditional dynastic character. This had proved adequate in the wars against the Prussians and the French, but according to Wawro, by 1866 led to an army that while brave, was extremely poorly led and trained, and handled with remarkable incompetence during the decisive campaign in Bohemia.

Many historians have considered Hungarian resistance to make a proportionate contribution for military purposes of the Monarchy, and in fact to assert the right to maintain its own separate national army, as one of the major problems of the monarchy from 1790 on, becoming critical after 1867. The threat of another 1704 or 1848 was always present in the thinking of the Habsburg authorities, and by the third decade of the 19th century the feelings of the Slavic majority in the empire had to be taken into consideration. These matters were real and were hardly resolved by the Military Compromise of 1868, which Miskolcy described as the ‘greatest liability of the Ausgleich.’ Perhaps this goes too far, but Stone asserted that in 1914 the weaknesses of the k.u.k Armee were largely due to the obstinate politicians in Budapest.

There is the possibility that defeat in 1866, according to Friedjung primarily due to sociopolitical backwardness, could have opened the way towards genuine army reform, turning the army into a people’s army, a multinational rather than a dynastic force. This point was raised some years ago by Peball, but whether this ever was a realistic option may be doubted. As it was, the army went to war in 1914 lacking national cohesion and motivation, in part lacking training and modern weapons, but still managed, to the astonishment of many, to maintain itself against a superior enemy for over four years.

Given the constraints imposed by the character of the Austrian monarchy and the cautious conservatism of its rulers, with an administrative structure that still reflected much of an old particularism, its industrial resources perhaps not equal to the demands of the Material Schlacht, the army reflected the shortcomings of the body politic that created it, and to the extent that these problems could not be resolved outside the army, they also could not be resolved within.

Gunther E Rothenberg

Professor Emeritus Purdue University

Research Associate Monash University

Actually, I’m not reading the events of the mid-19th century back into the mid-18th. I’m reasoning almost entirely on the basis of contemporary evidence and modern scholarship. I’ve been reading scholarship on Theresian policy for over ten years now, and I’ve never even seen it suggested that Austrian policymakers seriously considered forcing Frederick to abdicate in favor of one of his brothers, let alone an entirely different dynasty. (If you do have a citation, please let me know.) As a rule, in eighteenth-century Europe one did not depose legitimate dynasties from the outside (Poland, being an elective monarchy, didn’t quite count). One might take pieces of territory, and one might wait for a male line to die out and fight over the spoils (which is essentially what happened to Maria Theresia, whose claim was contested, albeit on rather weak grounds, by the Saxon and Bavarian electors as well as by Frederick), but one didn’t simply depose reigning dynasties because they were considered dangerous (that would be reading the Napoleonic experience back into the eighteenth century, and we should remember that the rest of Europe didn’t really consider the Bonapartes legitimate in the first place). The only possible counterexample I can think of is that of Lorraine, to which the French had laid claim as early as the seventeenth century (if not earlier), and whose ruler was compensated with Tuscany once the Medicis died out a few years later.

Furthermore, Theresian policymakers (and here I’ll include Bartenstein here as well as Kaunitz and the Empress) knew perfectly well that Austria had connived in Prussia’s rise by relying too heavily on Prussian military prowess and political reliability in Imperial conflicts with the Bourbons, and in rewarding the Hohenzollerns a little too lavishly for their assistance. Charles VI was already aware of the House of Hohenzollern’s growing ambitions, but his own attempts to keep the problem under control were too little and too late.

And thus I return to my original point—the Austrian war aim was not to depose the Hohenzollerns, or even Frederick himself, but rather to reduce Prussia’s size and resources to the point where it could no longer be a threat to its neighbors. And, having done that, MT would leave a lesson for the instruction of future Habsburgs about letting little allies become big powers in their own right.

Ken MacLennan

BOOK REVIEW: Europe's American Revolution



Published by (February, 2008)

Simon P. Newman, ed. _Europe's American Revolution_. Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006. xvii + 201 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4039-8997-0.

Reviewed for H-Diplo by Gerard Hugues, Department of English, University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, France

Revolutionary Reverberations

The volume entitled _Europe's American Revolution_ puts together the proceedings of a workshop at the conference of the European Association for American Studies held in Prague in April 2004. Scholars from European countries confronted their views and discussed the impact of the American Revolution on Europe's political thought and experience.

The object was both ambitious and promising, since the participants refused to stick to old received values and questioned and measured the influence of the events of 1776 and 1787 on European soil. As recalled by Simon P. Newman in his introduction, Alexis de Tocqueville was among the first to celebrate the American experiment and extol the model of exceptionalism set by the newborn nation. At the outset is the apparent paradox of a groundbreaking event fought by people of European descent who chose to break with European traditions. Hence, a widely endorsed view of the Revolution is that it was a supranational event paving the way to other similar uprisings that took place on the European continent. It is precisely this construction of the Revolutionary War and its subsequent developments that this book challenges.

The Glaswegians, for instance, unexpectedly turned their backs on the social and economic turmoil in the New World, because it jeopardized their interests within a then powerful and affluent empire. Brad Jones provides a detailed and well-documented account of their reaction, against the backdrop of a thriving Atlantic trade badly hurt by the insurgents' misdemeanor. To combat this trend, the Scots developed a "patriotic imperial nationalism," fully and aptly analyzed by Jones, as a way to secure vested interests in the status quo (p. 2). This economic motive is further related to a religious concern following the French decision to enter the war alongside the Continentals. At that point, the Scots chose the side of British Protestantism against French Catholicism, thereby taking a distance with the values of the American Revolution that definitely failed to attract the sympathy of Glaswegians.

Similarly, Spaniards did not turn out to be first-hour admirers of the Revolutionary War. Spain had its own interests to defend in America that were specific to the old Catholic empire, and Anthony McFarlane's essay opens with a comparative study of New Spain and the British colonies, giving the latter a clear advantage in terms of economic and social development. Spain, under the circumstances, had several options, and it might have saved its own empire overseas had it secured an alliance with the French to capitalize on the difficulties of the British crown.

Despite solid reasons to side with the American rebels, first to protect its own possessions and then to emulate the superior model set by the British colonists, Spain missed the opportunity offered to her. This failure to seal an alliance with the French was, according to McFarlane, fatal to the Spanish presence and influence in the New World, while the values of the Enlightenment carried by the Revolution never seeped into Spanish society, so that the impact of the Revolution was virtually nonexistent.

The case of France is examined by Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, who deliberately chooses to analyze the issue from a historiographical angle. A longstanding tradition among French historians has been to analyze the French and American revolutions as two intimately connected events (e.g., Jacques Godechot, Andre Kaspi, and Claude Fohlen).

Rossignol, particularly, emphasizes the originality of Elise Marienstras's approach, which integrated the contribution of radical historians, while "the French academic world remained impervious to these new interpretations of the American Revolution" (p. 53). Rossignol, then, examines with great accuracy the historiographical trend leading from the instrumentalization of the American Revolution to its virtual exclusion. She embarks on a bold, but risky, survey of "the complex history of the French Revolution in French historiography" from 1800 until 1989, to conclude that a new perspective might be offered to researchers, within the concept of the Atlantic world lately defined by American and British historians, to renew the analysis (p. 60).

The way the British saw the American Revolution was deeply influenced by Sir Denis Brogan (1900-74), whose views are fully analyzed by Newman, who stresses the contribution of Brogan to the development of American studies in post-World War II years. The universal value of the American Revolution was then celebrated as the study of American history became "an act of faith among British academics" (p. 82). Newman depicts the disenchantment of British historians before the Bush administration's assault on American liberties, embodied by the Patriot Act and the systematic betrayal of the founding documents. His conclusion may sound overly pessimistic, but it certainly opens a fruitful debate about whether the "American Century" is over.

Csaba Levai gives a refreshing and original comparative study of Hungary within the Habsburg Empire and the colonies within the British Empire, with striking similarities between the two experiences, like the necessity of self-government or the issue of taxation. Levai convincingly demonstrates how much Hungarian patriots were influenced by American revolutionaries and how their common goals culminated with the drafting of the Hungarian declaration of independence of 1848 in a process that emulated the events of 1776. The rest of the essay is devoted to the changing perceptions of the American Revolution both in Hungary and Poland, from the nineteenth century to the fall of the Communist regimes, and it concludes that its star is now waning among the younger generations accustomed to democracy and pluralism.

In Germany, the impact of the American Revolution was also very limited, according to Thomas Clark, who develops his argument on solid evidence provided by a thorough knowledge of German constitutional thought. He argues that the events of 1776 and 1787 had little influence on German constitutionalism as the monarchical principle remained central to German liberalism. The most relevant concept, and one that deserves further analysis, is probably the distrust of the people shared by American federalists and German constitutionalists. The volume closes with Joseph Mullin's careful study of John Taylor of Caroline's "radical" options placed in the perspective of the modern debate on the European construction, followed by an essay by Andrew Pepper about the lack of interest of Hollywood for the American Revolution.

In conclusion, this is a rich volume teeming with rejuvenated views of the American Revolution and new insights into the concept of "American exceptionalism" that, by and large, seems to have lost most of its past luster.

Book Review: The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy.


Laurence Cole, Daniel L. Unowsky, eds. The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy. Austrian and Habsburg Studies. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007. viii + 246 pp. ISBN 978-1-84545-202-5; $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-84545-202-5.

Reviewed by Ian Armour (Department of Humanities, Grant MacEwan College, Edmonton)
Published on H-German (March, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher

The Case for Inertia?

One of the more welcome aspects of reviewing online is the freedom to devote appropriate space to an edited collection such as this. All too often the variety of the research on offer, and the genuine sense of a colloquium going on in what is frequently the record of an academic conference, get lost sight of in the need to summarize it all in a mere five hundred words or so. This seems particularly true of the present volume. Its nine contributions, together with the characteristically insightful afterword by R. J. W. Evans, are all excellent, thought-provoking reflections on the extent to which the Habsburg monarchy in its last half-century of existence, in particular during the reign of its last monarch but one, Francis Joseph, was capable of eliciting loyalty from its subjects. As the editors and several contributors point out, discussions of this question, and of the monarchy's general viability as a state, have been dominated ever since its 1918 collapse by the famous distinction drawn by Hungarian émigré political scientist Oscar Jászi, in The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy (1929), between "centrifugal" and "centripetal" forces. In an age of rising and increasingly irreconcilable nationalisms, Jászi argued, the traditionally centripetal elements of dynasty, church, bureaucracy, and army proved too weak to counter these centrifugal tendencies. Although Jászi was too acute a student of the monarchy to ignore the crucial importance of the First World War in facilitating the triumph of the centrifugal forces, the tendency ever since has been to see the monarchy as an institution living on borrowed time, beset by near-terminal challenges both within and without.

Of late, however, a countervailing tendency in historical scholarship has focused on the centripetal forces and highlighted how much staying power and real cohesion the monarchy had. This tendency is not so much a misplaced nostalgia for the monarchy as a more rational, humane alternative to the squabbling, internally riven successor states, let alone a sentimentalization centered on the "venerable" Francis Joseph of the sort still visible in the tackier tourist boutiques of present-day Vienna, but rather a commendable reaction to the implicit, if usually unstated, determinism in the original Jászi premise. In the hands of popularizers and, it has to be said, one's own undergraduates, Jászi's distinction between forces of dissolution and forces of cohesion tends to degenerate into an inevitabilist scenario: because the monarchy was a dynastic state, and absolutist in aspiration if not always in practice, it was bound to founder on the rocks of popular sovereignty and mass politics; because it was a multinational state, it was bound to fall apart. This travesty of historical reality, it should be stressed, was never the interpretation of the monarchy's earliest analysts and critics, such as Jászi or, before him, R. W. Seton-Watson and Henry Wickham Steed. Such pioneers of critical Habsburg studies, many of whom began their work while the monarchy was still alive and kicking, started from a position of wishing the monarchy well, and hoped that it would set its house in order for the sake of international stability as well as natural justice. The fall of the monarchy was always, to its more discerning critics and subsequent historians, contingent upon the mistakes of its leaders, the determination of its enemies, the catastrophe of the First World War, and the unprecedented strains placed upon the state by the duration and nature of that war. Yet Habsburg studies ever since, as Cole and Unowsky complain, have nevertheless been focused mainly on why the monarchy collapsed, rather than "what held it together for so long" (p. 2).

The particular focus of the present volume is the dynasty itself. How did Francis Joseph's kaleidoscopically different subjects see him and the institution he represented? How, if at all, did the monarchy project itself into the hearts and minds of individuals, from the Bukovina to Trentino, and with what results? In particular, is it possible to talk of what the late Péter Hanák called "parallel realities," of a monarchy where individuals acknowledged some sort of loyalty to the dynasty and the idea of the Gesamtmonarchie, while at the same time demonstrating their allegiance to the "imagined community" of their own nationality?

After a useful introduction by the editors, which highlights the relative paucity of scholarly work on centripetal factors, the nine main contributions do not manage to cover all geographical or national areas of the late monarchy in addressing this question, but then that was clearly never the intention. Instead, each focuses on a particular aspect of how, or whether, dynastic loyalty was generated, among a particular stratum of the population. The results represent a fascinating cross-section of opinion on the monarchy across the state.

Ernst Bruckmüller goes straight to the heart of how loyalty might literally be inculcated, by looking at the teaching of history and geography in the monarchy's school system. Following the example of Charles Jelavich, whose South Slav Nationalisms (1992) charted the same subjects for both the monarchy and Serbia in the couple of generations before 1914, Bruckmüller concentrates on primary school textbooks, while comparing them with the teaching of history at secondary level. This comparison exposes the fundamental paradox of education present in this multinational state ever since Maria Theresa's ordinances of the 1770s: in order to achieve a minimum standard of literacy, primary schooling, at least, had to start in the native language of the subject--whatever that language was. The surprising thing about Bruckmüller's findings is that, especially after the advent of constitutional rule in 1867, primary school textbooks managed to accommodate material that not only stressed the history of the dynastic state and the subject's obligation of loyalty to it, but also the national myths and history of particular peoples as well. In some cases, certain periods and topics were glossed over or entirely omitted. For instance, most of the seventeenth century was absent from Czech-language primers, and much of the nineteenth century from Italian ones. On the whole, however, "national culture and state patriotism could be simultaneously inculcated in schoolchildren" at this level (p. 21). The teaching of history in secondary textbooks, by contrast, was a thornier matter, clearly seen as more liable to politicization. The content of textbooks was more rigorously censored, and the material on offer was more consciously aimed at stressing loyalty to the state, while downplaying national and cultural consciousness.

Laurence Cole investigates the growth and role of veterans' organizations in Cisleithania after 1870. As one of the pillars of the dynastic state, the army was an ideal vehicle for teaching loyalty, even more so after the introduction of universal conscription in 1868. The army's role as an integrative institution, as Cole is at pains to stress, can still be argued, especially given the potential for controversy over the language of command; nevertheless, the military service to which the majority of the monarchy's male subjects were exposed probably did more to create a sense of commonality as subjects than any other factor. The interesting thing about veterans' organizations, however, is that they were entirely voluntary, even if the state undoubtedly encouraged their formation and monitored their activities. And as more and more men passed out of their three-year service and entered the reserves, the increasing number of such associations (some 2,250 by 1912) testified to the genuine popularity of this form of social activity. The original and abiding purpose of the associations was one of mutual insurance, to provide help for indigent or ill veterans, and to cover the cost of funerals. The associations rapidly took on a social function, however, following which veterans could don uniforms, march in parades and religious processions, and provide visible symbols of loyalty to the state on official occasions. Cole provides a striking case study of how this process worked in the largely Italian-populated Trentino, among subjects whose shared nationality with Italy, it might be thought, would make participation in veterans' associations less likely. Not a bit of it. Italian-speaking veterans, perhaps encouraged by the loyalism of the Catholic Church, proved just as capable as other Habsburg subjects of exhibiting an Austrian patriotism. Cole suggests that this might have been a class issue: the majority of veterans, after all, came from a relatively humble social stratum, whereas it was the urban middle classes of the Trentino that were most responsive to Italian nationalism and irredentism.

Nancy M. Wingfield's contribution focuses on the "after-life" of Emperor Joseph II, and the differing adaptations of his memory by various groups of the monarchy's subjects. As the symbol of would-be enlightened absolutism, and in particular the modernized, centralized, and bureaucratic state, Joseph was revered in his own time and ever after by the peasantry, who identified him as their "liberator" and well-wisher, and by Jews, who remembered his toleration edicts. In the nineteenth century this image of the "imperial humanitarian" (p. 66) was gradually (mis)appropriated, for instance in March 1848, when revolutionaries rallied around the equestrian statue of Joseph in the Hofburg in their demand for the lifting of censorship. Later that year, Joseph's will was cited as justification for completing peasant emancipation, and the young Archduke Francis adopted the title of Francis Joseph on becoming emperor in December, in a conscious attempt to portray himself as a "reforming" monarch. As Wingfield astutely comments, the neo-absolutist regime's most "Josephist" trait was its centralizing authoritarianism. Later still, in the constitutional period, Austrian German liberals appealed to the enlightened Josephist tradition in their defense of education, but they also increasingly stressed the Germanizing tendencies of Joseph's reign in their own struggles with the Czechs and other non-German nationalities. After the Liberals' fall from power in 1879, they increasingly exalted Joseph as the mascot of German culture and dominance, while clerical conservatives of all nationalities saw him as the epitome of godless secularism. By the turn of the century Joseph had become the poster child of German nationalists, who bizarrely "were able to turn an imperial figure against the dynasty" (p. 81).

Hugh LeCaine Agnew, in one of the best articles in the book, traces the problematic relationship between Francis Joseph and his Czech subjects who, throughout the emperor's reign, made repeated protestations of loyalty, but always without the desired result of some form of autonomy for the Bohemian crownlands comparable to that of Hungary's after the Ausgleich. Despite several tantalizing affirmations of his readiness to recognize Bohemian state rights by being formally crowned king of Bohemia, and despite his willingness to govern with Czech support in the Reichsrath after 1879, Francis Joseph never in the end abandoned the basic deal made with the Hungarians. The result was that Czech loyalism, as opposed to passive acceptance of the status quo, became increasingly perfunctory in the last decades of the reign, even if this fell a long way short of active disloyalty. Instead of the monarch himself, Agnew observes, the Crown of St. Wenceslas became the public symbol of Czech loyalty, and was thereby transformed into a national symbol.

Daniel L. Unowsky conducts the bold experiment of comparing Polish with Ruthenian reactions to imperial visits to Galicia between 1851 and 1880. Polish attitudes towards the monarchy were split into two, if not three, factions. The conservative noble elite appreciated that Poles in Austria's share of the partitions had a considerably better lot than their compatriots under Russian and Prussian rule, especially after the ad hoc arrangement after 1867, according to which Poles enjoyed something like autonomy, and hence dominance, within Galicia, in return for their acceptance of Habsburg rule. Polish nobles who had sympathized with and even participated in previous revolts against Russian rule and the emergent middle-class democrats of Galicia tended to evince more overtly nationalist sympathies. These factions clashed in 1880 over how enthusiastically to greet Francis Joseph on his visit, as well as whether, if at all, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the uprising of 1830. In the same year (1880), Galicia's Ruthenian community, by contrast, was firmly shut out of the centenary commemoration of Joseph II's emancipation edicts by the Polish conservatives in charge of organizing the official ceremonies. Not daunted in the least, Ruthenes held their own celebrations, and indeed made common cause with their allies in the Austrian Reichsrath, the German Liberals, in ostentatiously honoring the emperor's memory. Public events and anniversaries, in short, could demonstrate division and friction as well as loyalty.

Alice Freifeld provides a study of the empress Elisabeth's image in Hungary, in what she terms an early example of "celebrity monarchism" (p. 138). This article is in some respects the least impressive of the collection, not because of any lack of scholarship or erudition, but because of the rather strained interpretation placed upon the sources. Certainly Freifeld makes a convincing case for Elisabeth's genuine popularity among Hungarians, as a result of her perceived humanizing influence on Francis Joseph and her explicit identification with the Hungarian noble elite and Hungarian language and culture. She is on much shakier ground, however, in claiming Elisabeth's supposedly crucial intervention in the forging of the Ausgleich of 1867, an interpretation for which Freifeld adduces no further evidence than a generalized quote from Oscar Jászi. The article is not helped by its hyperbolic language, of which the description of Elisabeth as "the mater dolorosa of liberal monarchism" (p. 153) is among the more restrained examples; and given Elisabeth's palpable indifference to public life in her later years, including the Hungarian side of it, identifying her as an icon of Hungary's own "martyrdom" in the twentieth century seems fanciful in the extreme.

Sarah A. Kent utilizes a single royal visit to Zagreb, in 1895, to draw out some of the ambiguities and cross-currents attendant upon loyalism in Croatia. Francis Joseph's presence in Zagreb became the occasion for a demonstration by Croatian nationalist students, among them the later Peasant Party leader, Stjepan Radić, against Hungarian domination, in the course of which the Hungarian flag was set alight. Although the perpetrators of this minor outrage were duly sentenced to short prison terms, their demonstration was explicitly loyalist in tone. The students marched in their uniforms as a "corporative" body to the main square, cried out "Long live the Croatian King"--that is, Francis Joseph--and evoked the name of Ban Josip Jelačić, famous for his loyalty to the Habsburgs, instead of Hungary, in 1848-49. Their protest, in their eyes, was a legalistic one against the use of the Hungarian flag on Croatian soil during the royal visit, but more generally against the inadequate autonomy granted Croatia by Hungary in the Nagodba of 1868. According to Kent, much of the Croatian public made clear that it shared these views, and the unstated implication, for the dynasty, was that Croatians' loyalty to the dynasty, in these circumstances, "had its limits" (p. 173).

In one of the most interesting pieces included, Alon Rachamimov examines the writings of the hitherto unknown (to me, at least) Hebrew writer Avigdor Hameiri (1890-1970), born Avigdor Feuerstein in the Carpatho-Rus area of Royal Hungary. Hameiri was not only one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew as a literary language, and a well-regarded journalist and poet (in Hebrew and Hungarian) of the avant-garde in pre-1914 Budapest, but the author of two autobiographical novels and a whole raft of short stories and poetry chronicling his experiences as a soldier in the First World War. The novels in particular, Ha-Shigaon ha-gadol (The Great Madness; 1929) and Be-Gehenom shel mata (Hell on Earth; 1932), sound as if they deserve a wider audience, not least because they illustrate the conflicting loyalties and dilemmas of identity so acutely. Clearly, Rachamimov concludes, Jews in the Habsburg monarchy deserved their reputation for being among its most loyal subjects, since they owed their emancipation and favorable position to the relative liberalism of the late Habsburg state. Yet Jews like Hameiri were also, despite demonstrable bravery and sacrifices at the front, deemed incapable of true patriotism, or identification with any particular nation, by their fellow subjects. The whole piece demonstrates neatly the difficulty not only of assigning a clear "identity" to someone whose experience was so varied, but also of the distinction Rachamimov seeks to make between "loyalty to the state" and the much more contingent "identification with the state" (p. 180).

In the penultimate essay, Christiane Wolf undertakes a useful comparison of the Habsburg monarchy with Britain and Germany in this period, in particular of the way in which the institution of monarchy, once subject to constitutional restraints, acted as an integrative factor. In the cases of Britain and Germany, if for very different reasons, the person of the monarch became something like a national symbol. Queen Victoria and her successors, while evolving into politically neutral figures, acquired iconic status as emblems of both the "nation" (however that was conceived in the United Kingdom of the time) and the larger empire. William II, by contrast, though retaining far greater powers constitutionally, and despite his divisive attitude towards large numbers of his subjects, such as Poles, Social Democrats, Catholics, and Jews, also became intimately associated with the national idea, through his vocal advocacy of a German navy and German Weltpolitik. For Francis Joseph, of course, this identification with any one national idea was an impossibility. Paradoxically, in Wolf's view, the concession of constitutional rule in 1867 made it easier for the emperor-king to pose as above the fray, and although this "depoliticization of the emperor" (p. 200) did not ultimately alleviate the monarchy's chronic nationality conflicts, it did, in Wolf's opinion, make the monarch "a focal point for an emotional connection to the state" (p. 201).

Finally, the afterword by Evans is not only a deft round-up of the arguments summarized above, but also an engaging piece of devil's advocacy, in that it reminds us literally of the limits of loyalty in this peculiar institution. As Evans puts it, there can be no doubt that, in much of the literature until recently, "royalism ... has been underestimated" (p. 225). The majority of virtually all the monarchy's peoples, no matter their social stratum, were not only capable of loyalty to the monarch and the idea of the monarchy, but positively displayed it, not least by dying in hundreds of thousands during the final cataclysm. Only the hammer blows of war made the previously inconceivable conceivable. So, it is certainly time that the balance between the study of centrifugal forces and that of centripetal ones was redressed in favor of the latter. On the other hand, each of the contributions to this volume shows how subjects' loyalty was often conditional as well as limited. Czechs, Poles, South Slavs, Magyars, even Germans, repeatedly made clear that they expected the dynasty to come down on their particular side of this or that dispute; without that backing, alienation and even disaffection were all the more likely. In this context, as Evans gently points out, the pretence that the monarch was somehow above the fray, belonging to no one cause, was just that--a fiction. In reality Francis Joseph was, by definition, intimately involved in the management of his empire, not just in the traditional realms of foreign policy and the armed forces, but in the affairs of every province. It could not be otherwise, since for the Habsburgs "their continued involvement in government was essential for the running of the Monarchy" (p. 228). Involvement meant taking sides, or at the very least disappointing one side or the other, so that the further the politicization and nationalization of the monarchy's peoples went, the more the monarchy was bound to disappoint everybody. To be perfectly sure of alienating no one, and committing no foreign policy disasters, the monarchy would have been better advised to have divested itself of all effective power, as in Britain, and to have opted for a policy of quieta non movere. That way, possibly, the residual inertia governing the lives of its people might have kept them "loyal," at least after a fashion.

This volume is a splendid addition to the invaluable Austrian and Habsburg Studies series. Each of its contributors has approached his or her subject in a novel way, and the result is a collection that obliges the reader to look at things with a fresh eye.

Nizza Cavalryman 1848

Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009

One of the decisions of the Congress of Vienna (1815) was the creation of the kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont), which also encompassed the former republic of Genoa. The House of Savoy soon lost independence and became Austrian vassals, and the desire for freedom put Piedmont at the forefront of the struggle for Italian unification. From 1848 to 1866, with short intervals of peace, there were three wars against Austria, from which the small states of northern Italy emerged free and united.

The revolution in France in 1830 gave great hopes to the Italian patriots of the Risorgimento. In Piedmont, a restructuring of the army resulted in great improvements in the quality of training, especially in the cavalry, and the organization, armament and uniforms of the cavalry were regulated by the rule-book of 1833. In 1835, six cavalry regiments were converted into two brigades: the 1st, consisting of the Nizza, Savoia and Novara Cavalleria, and the 2nd, consisting of the guard Piemonte Reale, Genoa and Aosta cavalry. The next year, the same six regiments were grouped into three brigades, and in 1841, each had six squadrons, one of which was armed with lances. The peacetime formation had 825 men and 633 horses, in wartime there were 1,128 men and 959 horses.

The beginning of the nineteenth century saw the rise of classicism in French art, which drew its inspiration from Ancient Greece, a free civil society which was also the model for the French Revolution. In the field of military equipment, classicism found distinguished expression in the cavalry helmet, which was a copy of the Ancient Greek model. In 1811, it was issued to French line lancers and carabiniers; in 1815 to the English life guards and Belgian carabiniers; soon after, it was worn by nearly all the heavy cavalry forces of Europe. The Piedmont Rules of 1833 envisaged the use of such a helmet, and it was made in 1840 according to the design of court painter Palagio Palagi, and called the Minerva helmet.

The Nizza cavallieri were armed with heavy cavalry sabre, two pistols, and a very short carbine (pistolone). The lancers had a lance with a swallow-tailed pennant, in the Italian national colour - blue.

In 1848, upon hearing of the revolution in Vienna, the inhabitants of Milan rose and ousted the Austrian garrison, and Piedmont immediately declared war on Austria. The campaign lasted a year, and ended in the defeat of the Montagnards. The Nizza cavalry played a prominent role. A certain sergeant Fiora had his horse killed under him, and was surrounded by four Austrian uhlans; he killed one with his lance, wounded another, and chased off the remaining two, running after them. A similar feat was performed by a sergeant Prato, also surrounded by four Austrians, this time hussars; he killed one and chased off the remaining three.


A revolution against the Austrian Netherlands produced the seceding country of Belgium in 1830, a year that also saw another revolution in France. Unrest was in the air. The 1830 Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of an independent, Catholic, and neutral Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress.

The November Uprising (1830–1831)—also known as the Cadet Revolution—was an armed rebellion against the rule of the Russian Empire in Poland and Lithuania. The uprising began on November 29, 1830 in Warsaw when a group of young non-commissioned officer conspirators from the Imperial Russian Army's military academy in Warsaw directed by Piotr Wysocki revolted. They were soon joined by large parts of Polish society. Despite several local successes, the uprising was eventually crushed by a numerically superior Russian army under Ivan Paskevich.

The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout the European continent. Described by some historians as a revolutionary wave, the period of unrest began on 12 January 1848 in Sicily and then, further propelled by the French Revolution of 1848, soon spread to the rest of Europe.

Although most of the revolutions were quickly put down, there was a significant amount of violence in many areas, with tens of thousands of people tortured and killed. While the immediate political effects of the revolutions were reversed, the long-term reverberations of the events were far-reaching.

Direct cause of the outbreak of violence

In 1846 there had been an uprising of Polish nobility in Austrian Galicia, which was only countered when peasants, in turn, rose up against the nobles. The economic crisis of 1845-47 was marked by recession and food shortages throughout the continent. At the end of February 1848, demonstrations broke out in Paris. French King Louis-Philippe abdicated the throne prompting similar revolts throughout the continent.


In July 1830 when, on Sunday, July 25 Charles X signed the July Ordinances, also known as "The Ordinances of Saint-Cloud". On Monday, July 26 they were published in the leading conservative newspaper in Paris, Le Moniteur. On Tuesday, July 27 the revolution began in earnest Les trois journées de juillet, and the end of the Bourbon monarchy.


In 1847, a civil war broke out between the Catholic and the Protestant cantons (Sonderbundskrieg). Its immediate cause was a 'special treaty' (Sonderbund) of the Catholic cantons. It lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties. Apart from small riots, this was the last armed conflict on Swiss territory.
As a consequence of the civil war, Switzerland adopted a federal constitution in 1848, amending it extensively in 1874 and establishing federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters, leaving all other matters to the cantonal governments. From then, and over much of the 20th century, continuous political, economic, and social improvement has characterized Swiss history.


By late 1848, the Prussian aristocrats including Otto von Bismarck and generals had regained power in Berlin. They had not been defeated permanently during the incidents of March, they had only retreated temporarily. General von Wrangel led the troops who recaptured Berlin for the old powers, and King Frederick William IV of Prussia immediately rejoined the old forces.


Count István Széchenyi,the most prominent statesmen of the country recognized the urgent need of modernization and their message got through. The Hungarian Parliament was reconvened in 1825 to handle financial needs. A liberal party emerged in the Diet. The party focused on providing for the peasantry in mostly symbolic ways because of their inability to understand the needs of the laborers. Louis Kossuth emerged as leader of the lower gentry in the Parliament. A remarkable upswing started as the nation concentrated its forces on the inevitable modernization, even though the reactionary Habsburgs were obstructing all important liberal reforms.

On March 15, 1848 mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda enabled Hungarian reformists to push through a list of 12 demands. Faced with revolution both at home and in Vienna, Austria first had to accept Hungarian demands. Later, under governor and president Lajos Kossuth and the first Prime minister, Lajos Batthyány, the House of Habsburg was dethroned and the form of government was changed to create the first Republic of Hungary. After the Austrian revolution was suppressed,emperor Franz Joseph replaced his epileptic uncle Ferdinand I as Emperor. The Habsburg Ruler and his advisors skillfully manipulated the Croatian, Serbian and Romanian peasantry, led by priests and officers firmly loyal to the Habsburgs, and induced them to rebel against the Hungarian government. The Hungarians were supported by the vast majority of the Slovak, German and Rusyn nationalities and by all the Jews of the kingdom, as well as by a large number of Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers. Some members of the nationalities gained coveted positions within the Hungarian Army, like General János Damjanich, an ethnic Serb who became a Hungarian national hero through his command of the 3rd Hungarian Army Corps. Initially, the Hungarian forces (Honvédség) defeated Austrian armies. To counter the successes of the Hungarian revolutionary army, Franz Joseph asked for help from the "Gendarme of Europe," Czar Nicholas I, whose Russian armies invaded Hungary. The huge army of the Russian Empire and the Austrian forces proved too powerful for the Hungarian army, and General Artúr Görgey surrendered in August 1849. Julius Freiherr von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army, then became governor of Hungary for a few months and on October 6, ordered the execution of 13 leaders of the Hungarian army as well as Prime Minister Batthyány. Lajos Kossuth escaped into exile.

Following the war of 1848–1849, the whole country was in "passive resistance". Archduke Albrecht von Habsburg was appointed military governor of Hungary, and this time was remembered for Germanization and oppression pursued with the help of Czech officers.


The German national awakening following the Napoleonic Wars led to a strong popular movement in Holstein and Southern Schleswig for unification with a new Prussian-dominated Germany. However, this development was paralleled by an equally strong Danish national awakening in Denmark and northern Schleswig. It called for the complete reintegration of Schleswig into the Kingdom of Denmark and demanded an end to discrimination against Danes in Schleswig. The ensuing conflict is sometimes called the Schleswig-Holstein Question. In 1848 King Frederick VII of Denmark declared that he would grant Denmark a liberal constitution and the immediate goal for the Danish national movement was to ensure that this constitution would not only give rights to all Danes, i.e., not only in the Kingdom of Denmark, but also to Danes (and Germans) living in Schleswig. Furthermore, they demanded protection for the Danish language in Schleswig since the dominant language in almost a quarter of Schleswig had changed from Danish to German since the beginning of the 19th century.

A liberal constitution for Holstein was not seriously considered in Copenhagen, since it was a well-known fact that the political élite of Holstein had been far more conservative than Copenhagen's. This proved to be true, as the politicians of Holstein demanded that the Constitution of Denmark be scrapped — not only in Schleswig but also in Denmark. They also demanded that Schleswig immediately follow Holstein and become a member of the German Confederation, and eventually a part of the new united Germany. These demands were rejected and in 1848 the Germans of Holstein and Southern Schleswig rebelled. This was the beginning of the First War of Schleswig (1848–51) which ended in a Danish victory at Idstedt.