The history of Austria covers the history of Austria and its predecessor states, from the farming communities of the early Stone Age to the present sovereign state. The name Ostarrîchi (Austria) has been in use since 996 CE when it was a margravate of the Duchy of Bavaria and from 1156 an independent duchy (later archduchy) of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (Heiliges Römisches Reich 962–1806).
During this time Austria was dominated by the House of Habsburg (Haus Österreich) from 1273 to 1806, when the old empire came to an end. Austria then emerged into the nineteenth century as the Austrian Empire, a part of the German Confederation until the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 excluded her, after which Austria continued as the Austro-Hungarian Empire(1867–1918) as a dual monarchy with Hungary. When this empire collapsed in 1918 after the end of World War I, Austria was reduced to the main German speaking areas of the empire corresponding to its current frontiers and adopted the name German Austria, since it wanted to join the new German Weimar Republic. This union was forbidden by the victorious Allies at the Treaty of Versailles.
Following the First Republic (1918–1933) Austrofascism tried to keep Austria independent from the German Reich, but in 1938 it was annexed by Nazi Germany with the support of the majority of the Austrian people.After the Second World War Austria again became an independent republic as the Second Republic in 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995.
On Leopold's death, he was succeeded by his son Frederick II the Quarrelsome (Friedrich der Streitbare) (1230–1246). In 1238 he divided the land into two areas divided by the River Enns. That part above the Enns became Ob(erhalb) der Enns (Above the Enns) or 'Upper Austria' (Oberösterreich), although other names such as supra anasum (from an old Latin name for the river), and Austria superior were also in use. Those lands below the Enns or unter der Enns became known as Lower Austria (Niederösterreich). The Traungau and Steyr were made part of Upper Austria rather than Styria. Another of Frederick's achievements was a Patent of Protection for Jews in 1244. (Beller p. 23)
However Frederick was killed in the Battle of the Leitha River against the Hungarians, and had no surviving children. Thus the Babenburg dynasty became extinct in 1246.
In an attempt to end the turmoil a group of Austrian nobles invited the king of Bohemia, Ottokar II Přemysl, Vladislaus' brother, to become Austria's ruler in 1251. His father had attempted to invade Austria in 1250. Ottokar then proceeded to ally himself to the Babenbergs by marrying Margaret, daughter of Leopold VI and thereby a potential claimant of the throne, in 1252. He subdued the quarrelsome nobles and made himself ruler of most of the area, including Austria, Styria, and Corinthia.
A number of challenges stood in Charle's way, and were to shape Austria's history for a long time to come. These were France, the appearance of the Ottoman Empire to its East, and Martin Luther (see below).
Following the dynastic tradition the Habsburgs' hereditary territories were separated from this enormous empire at the Diet of Worms in 1521, when Charles I left them to the rule of his younger brother, Ferdinand I (1521-1564), although he then continued to add to the Habsburg territories. Charles added Tyrol to Ferdinand's possessions in 1522. Since Charles left his Spanish Empire to his son Philip II of Spain, the Spanish territories became permanently alienated from the northern Habsburg domains, although remained allies for several centuries.
By the time Ferdinand also inherited the title of Holy Roman Emperor from his brother in 1558 the Habsburgs had effectively turned an elective title into a de facto hereditary one. Ferdinand continued the tradition of dynastic marriages by marrying Anne of Bohemia and Hungary in 1521, effectively adding those two kingdoms to the Habsburg domains, together with the adjacent territories of Moravia, Silesia and Lusatia. This took effect when Anne's brother Louis II, King of Hungary and Bohemia (and hence the Jagiellon dynasty) died without heir at the Battle of Mohács in 1526 against Suleiman the Magnificent and the Ottomans. However by 1538 theKingdom of Hungary was divided into three parts:
- The Kingdom of Hungary (Royal Hungary) (current Slovakia, Burgenland, western Croatia and parts of present-day Hungary) recognised the Habsburgs as Kings.
- Ottoman Hungary (the center of the country).
- Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, later the Pricipality of Transylvania under counter kings to the Habsburgs, but also under Ottoman protection.
Ferdinand's election to emperor in 1558 once again reunited the Austrian lands. He had had to cope with revolts in his own lands, religious turmoil, Ottoman incursions and even contest for the Hungarian throne from John Sigismund Zápolya. His lands were by no means the most wealthy of the Habsburg lands, but he succeeded in restoring internal order and keeping the Turks at bay, while enlarging his frontiers and creating a central administration.
When Ferdinand died in 1564, the lands were once more divided up between his three sons, a provision he had made in 1554. (Beller 53)
Austria in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (1517–1564)
Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation
When Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517, he challenged the very basis of the Holy Roman Empire, Catholic Christianity, and hence Habsburg hegemony. After the Emperor Charles V interrogated and condemned Luther at the 1521 Diet of Worms Lutheranism and the Protestant Reformation spread rapidly in the Habsburg territories. Temporarily freed from war with France by the 1529 Treaty of Cambrai and the denouncement of the ban on Luther by the protestant princes at Speyer that year, the Emperor's revisited the issue next at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, by which time it was well established.
With the Ottoman threat growing (see below), he needed to ensure that he was not facing a major schism within Christianity. As it happened he refuted the Lutheran position (Augsburg Confession) (Confessio Augustana) with theConfutatio Augustana, and had Ferdinand elected King of the Romans on January 5, 1531, ensuring his succession as a Catholic monarch. In response the protestant princes and estates formed the Schmalkaldic League in February 1531 with French backing. Further Turkish advances in 1532 (which required him to seek protestant aid) and other wars kept the emperor from taking further action on this front till 1547 when imperial troops defeated the league at the Battle of Mühlberg, allowing him to once more impose Catholicism.
In 1541 Ferdinand's appeal to the estates general for aid against the Turks was met by demand for religious tolerance. The triumph of 1547 turned out to be short lived with French and protestant forces again challenging the emperor in 1552 culminating in the Peace of Augsburgin 1555. Exhausted, Charles started to withdraw from politics and hand over the reigns. Protestanism had proved too firmly entrenched to enable it to be uprooted.
Austria and the other Habsburg hereditary provinces (and Hungary and Bohemia, as well) were much affected by the Reformation, but with the exception of Tyrol the Austrian lands shut out protestanism. Although the Habsburg rulers themselves remained Catholic, the mon-Austrian provinces largely converted to Lutheranism, which Ferdinand I largely tolerated.
The Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation was a conservative one, but one that did address the issues raised by Luther. In 1545 the long running Council of Trent began its work of reform and a Counter-Reformation on the borders of the Habsburg domains. The Council continued intermittently until 1563. Ferdinand and the Austrian Habsburgs were far more tolerant than their Spanish brethren, and the process initiated atTrent. However his attempts at reconciliation at the Council in 1562 was rejected, and although a Catholic counteroffensive existed in the Habsburg lands from the 1550s it was based on persuasion, a process in which the Jesuits and Peter Canisius took the lead. Ferdinand deeply regretted the failure to reconcile religious differences before his death (1564). (Beller 53)
The arrival of the Ottomans (1526-1562)
When Ferdinand I married into the Hungarian dynasty in 1521 Austria first encountered the westward Ottomanexpansion which had first come into conflict with Hungary in the 1430s. Matters came to a close when his wifeAnne's brother the young king Louis was killed fighting the Turks under Suleiman the Magnificent at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the title passing to Ferdinand. Louis' widow Mary fled to seek protection from Ferdinand.
The Turks initially withdrew following this victory, reappearing in 1528 advancing on Vienna and laying siege to itthe following year. They withdrew that winter till 1532 when their advance was stopped by Charles V, although they controlled much of Hungary. Ferdinand was then forced to recognize John Zápolya Ferdinand and the Turks continued to wage war between 1537 and a temporary truce in 1547 when Hungary was partitioned. However hostilities continued almost immediately till the Treaty of Constantinople of 1562 which confirmed the 1547 borders. The Ottoman threat was to continue for 200 years.
Redivision of the Habsburg lands (1564-1620)
Ferdinand I had three sons who survived to adulthood, and he followed the potentially disastrous Habsburg tradition of dividing up his lands between them on his death in 1564. This considerably weakened Austria, particularly in the face of the Ottoman expansion. It was not until the reign of Ferdinand III (Archduke 1590-1637) that they were reunited again in 1620 - albeit briefly until 1623. It was not to be until 1665, under Leopold VI that the Austrian lands were definitively united.
During the next 60 years Austria was divided into three jurisdictions:
- "Lower Austria" - The Austrian Duchies, Bohemia and Hungary, passed to Charles II's line 1619.
- "Upper Austria" - Tyrol and Further Austria, passed to Maximilian II's line 1595 (under administration ofMaximilian III 1595-1618).
- Ferdinand II (1564-1595)
- "Inner Austria"
As the eldest son, Maximilian II and his sons were granted the "core" territories of Lower and Upper Austria. Ferdinand II dying without living issue, his territories reverted to the core territories on his death in 1595, then under Rudolf V (1576-1608), Maximilian II's son.
Maximilian II was succeeded by three of his sons none of whom left living heirs, so the line became extinct in 1619 upon the abdication of Albert VII (1619-1619). Thus Charles II's son Ferdinand III inherited all of the Habsburg lands. However he promptly lost Bohemia which rebelled in 1619 and was briefly (1619-1620) under the rule of Frederick I. Thus all the lands again came under one ruler again in 1620 when Ferdinand III invaded Bohemia, defeating Frederick I.
Although technically an elected position, the title of Holy Roman Emperor was passed down through Maximilian II and the two sons (Rudolf V and Mathias) that succeeded him. Albert VII was Archduke for only a few months before abdicating in favour of Ferdinand III, who also became emperor.
Rudolf V (Archduke, Emperor Rudolf II 1576-1612), Maximilian's eldest son, moved his capital from Vienna to the safer venue of Prague, in view of the Ottoman threat. He was noted as a great patron of the arts and sciences but a poor governor. Amongst his legacies is the Imperial Crown of the Habsburgs. He preferred to parcel out his responsibilities amongst his many brothers (of whom six lived to adulthood), leading to a great heterogeneity of policies across the lands. amongst these delegations was making his younger brother Mathias, Governor of Austria in 1593.
In acquiring "Upper Austria" in 1595, his powers were considerably increased, since the remaining Inner Austria territories were in the hands of Ferdinand III who was only 17 at the time. However he handed over the administration to Maximilian III, another younger brother. In 1593 he instigated a new conflict with the Ottomans, who had resumed raids in 1568, in the so-called Long or Fifteen-Year Warof 1593 to 1606. Unwilling to compromise, and envisioning a newcrusade the results were disastrous, the exhausted Hungarians revolting in 1604. The Hungarian problem was further exacerbated by attempts to impose a counterreformation there. As a result he handed over Hungary to Mathias who concluded the Peace of Vienna with the Hungarians, and Peace of Zsitvatorok with the Turks in 1606. As a result, Transylvania became both independent and protestant. (Beller 57)
These events led to conflict (Bruderzwist) between the brothers. Melchior Klesl engineered a conspiracy of the archdukes to ensure Mathias' ascendancy. By 1608 Rudolf had ceded much of his territory to the latter. Further conflict led to Mathias imprisoning his brother in 1611, who now gave up all power except the empty title of emperor, dying the following year and being succeeded by Mathias.
Thus Mathias succeeded to the Archduchy in 1608, and became emperor in 1612, until his death in 1619. His reign was marked by conflict with his younger brother Maximilian III who was a more intransigent Catholic and backed the equally fervent Ferdinand III of "Inner Austria" as successor, having served as his regent between 1593-1595, before taking over "Upper Austria". The conflicts weakened the Habsburgs relative to both the estates and the protestant interests. Mathias moved the capital back to Vienna from Prague and bought further peace from Turkey, by a treaty in 1615. Meanwhile religious fervor in the empire was mounting, and even Klesl by now Bishop of Vienna (1614) and Cardinal (1615) was considered too moderate by extremist Catholics, including Ferdinand III. War was in the air, and the assault on two roral officials in Prague on May 23, 1618 (The Defenestration of Prague) was to spark all out war. Mathias, like his brother Rudolf, became increasingly isolated by Ferdinand who had imprisoned Klesl.
The next brother in line for succession in 1619 was Albert VII, but he was persuaded to step down in favour of Ferdinand III within a few months.
Reformation and Counter-Reformation
Religion played a large part in the politics of this period, and even tolerance had its limits faced with the incompatible demands of both camps. As the Archduke closest to the Turkish threat, Maximilian II was to continue his father's policy of tolerance and reconciliation, granting Assekuration(legalisation of Protestanism for the nobles) in 1571, as did Charles II with Religionspazifikation in 1572, while in distant Tyrol, Ferdinand II could afford to be more aggressive. Maximilian II's policies were continued by his sons, Rudolf V and Mathias. The strength of the Reformation in Upper Austria was blunted by internal schisms, while in Lower Austria Melchior Khlesl led a vigorous Catholic response, expelling Protestant preachers and promoting reconvertion. (Beller 54-55) A further concession by Charles II in 1578, theBrucker Pazifikation, met with more resistance. (Beller 57)
The Catholic Revival started in earnest in 1595 whenFerdinand III, who was Jesuit-educated came of age. He had succeeded his father, Charles II in Inner Austria in 1590 and was energetic in suppressing heresy in the provinces which he ruled. Reformation Commissionms initiated a process of forced recatholicisation and by 1600 was being imposed onGraz and Klagenfurt. (Beller 57) Unlike previous Austrian rulers, Ferdinand III was unconcerned about the effect of religious conflict on the ability to withstand the Ottomans. The Counter-Reformation was to continue to the end of the Thirty Year War in 1648.
Austria and the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648)
Ferdinand III (1619-1637) and Habsburg over-reach
When the ultra-pious and intransigent Ferdinand III (1619-1637) was elected Emperor (as Ferdinand II) in 1619 to succeed his cousin Mathias, he embarked on an energetic attempt to re-Catholicize not only the Hereditary Provinces, but Bohemia and Habsburg Hungary as well as most of Protestant Europe within the Holy Roman Empire.
Outside his lands, Ferdinand III's reputation for strong headed uncompromising intolerance had triggered the religious Thirty Years' War in May 1618 in the polarizing first phase, known as the Revolt in Bohemia. Once the Bohemian Revolt had been put down in 1620, he embarked on a concerted effort to eliminate protestantism in Bohemia and Austria, which was largely successful as was his efforts to reduce the power of the Diet. The religious suppression of the counter-reformation reached its height in 1627 with the Provincial Ordinance
After several initial reverses, Ferdinand III he became more accommodating but as the Catholics turned things around and began to enjoy a long string of successes at arms he set forth the Edict of Restitution in 1629 in an attempt to restore the status quo of 1555 (Peace of Augsburg), vastly complicating the politics of settlement negotiations and prolonging the rest of the war. Encouraged by the mid-war successes, Ferdinand III became even more forceful, leading to infamies by his armies such as the Frankenburg Lottery (Frankenburger Würfelspiel) (1625), suppression of the consequent Peasants' Revolt of 1626, and the Sack of Magdeburg(1631). Despite concluding the Peace of Prague (1635) with Saxony, and hence the internal, or civil, war with the protestants, the war would drag on due to the intervention of many foreign states.
Ferdinand IV and the peace process (1634-1648)
By the time of Ferdinand III's death in 1634, the war was progressing disastrously for the Habsburgs, and his son Ferdinand IV (1637-1657) who had been one of his military commanders was faced with the task of salvaging the consequences of his father's extremism. Ferdinand IV was far more pragmatic and had been considered the leader of the peace party at court and had helped negotiate the Peace of Prague in 1635. However with continuing losses in the war he was forced to make peace in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, concluding the war. One of his acts during the latter part of the war was to give further independence to the German states (ius belli ac pacis - rights in time of war and peace) which would gradually change the balance of power between emperor and states in favour of the latter.
While its ultimate causes prove to be elusive, the war was to prove a roller-coaster as Habsburg over-reach led to it spreading from a domestic dispute to involve most of Europe, and which while at times appearing to aid the Habsburg goal of political hegemony and religious conformity, ultimately eluded them except in their own central territories.
The forced conversions or evictions carried out in the midst of the Thirty Years' War, together with the later general success of the Protestants, had greatly negative consequences for Habsburg control of the Holy Roman Empire itself. Although territorial losses were relatively small for the Habsburgs, the Empire was greatly diminished, the power of the ruler reduced and the balance of power in Europe changed with new centres emerging on the empire's borders. The estates were now to function more like nation states.
While deprived of the goal of universal monarchy, the campaigns within the Habsburg hereditary lands were relatively successful in religiously purification, although Hungary was never successfully re-Catholicized. Only in Lower Austria, and only amongst the nobility, was Protestantism tolerated. Large numbers of people either emigrated or converted, while others compromised as crypto-Protestants, ensuing relative conformity. The crushing of the Bohemian Revolt also extinguished Czech culture and established German as the tool of Habsburg absolutism. The Austrian monarchs thereafter had much greater control within the hereditary power base, the dynastic absolutism grip was tightened and the power of the estates diminished. On the other hand Austria was much reduced in population and economic might and less vigorous and weakened as a nation-state.
The Baroque Austrian Monarchy was established. Despite the dichotomy between outward reality and inner conviction, the rest of the world saw Austria as the epitome of forcible conformity, and conflation of church and state.
Impact of war
In terms of human costs, the Thirty Years' wars many economic, social, and population dislocations caused by the hardline methods adopted by Ferdinand III's strict counter-reformation measures and almost continual employment of mercenary field armies contributed significantly to the loss of life and tragic depopulation of allthe German states, during a war which some estimates put the civilian loss of life as high as fifty-percent overall. Studies mostly cite the causes of death due to starvation or as caused (ultimately by the lack-of-food induced) weakening of resistance to endemic diseases which repeatedly reached epidemic proportions amongst the general Central European population—the German states were the battle ground and staging areas for the largest mercenary armies theretofore, and the armies foraged amongst the many provinces stealing the food of those people forced onto the roads as refugees, or still on the lands, regardless of their faith and allegiances. Both townsmen and farmers were repeatedly ravaged and victimized by the armies on both sides leaving little for the populations already stressed by the refugees from the war or fleeing the Catholic counter-reformation repressions under Ferdinand's governance.
Dynastic succession and redivision of the lands
The Austrian lands finally came under one archduchy in 1620, but Ferdinand III quickly redivided them in 1623 in the Habsburg tradition by parcelling out "Upper Austria" (Further Austria and Tirol) to his younger brotherLeopold V (1623-1632) who was already governor there. Upper Austria would remain under Leopold's successors till 1665 when it reverted to the senior line under Leopold VI.
Leopold V's son Ferdinand Charles succeeded him in Upper Austria in 1632. However he was only four at the time, leaving his mother Claudia de' Medici as regent till 1646.
Establishing the monarchy: Austria's rise to power (1648–1740)
Despite the setbacks of the Thirty Years' War, Austria was able to recover economically and demographically, and to consolidate the new hegemony, often referred to as Austrian Baroque. (Beller 66). By 1714 Austria had become a great power again. Yet the roots of Habsburg legitimacy, with its reliance on religious and political conformity was to make it increasingly anachronistic in the Age of Enlightenment. Nevertheless in the arts and architecture the baroque flourished in Austria. In peacetime Ferdinand IV (1637-1657) proved to be a great patron of the arts and a musician.
Upon Ferdinand's death in 1657 he was succeeded by his son Leopold VI (1657-1705), whose reign was relatively long. Meanwhile in "Upper Austria" Ferdinand Charles (1632-1662) although also an arts patron ruled in an absolutist and extravagant style. His brother Sigismund Francis (1662-1665) succeeded him briefly in 1662, but dying without heir in 1665 his lands reverted to Leopold I. Thus from 1665 Austria was finally reunited under one archduchy.
Leopold I (1657-1705): Final unification and liberation from Turkey
Leopold I's reign was marked by a return to a succession of wars. Even before he succeeded his father in 1657, he was involved in the Second Northern War (1655–1660) a carry over from Sweden's involvement in the Thirty years War, in which Austria sided with Poland, defeating Transylvania, a Swedish ally and Ottoman protectorate.
At the end of that war the Ottomans overran Nagyvárad in Translvania in 1660, which would mark the beginning of the decline of that principality and increasing Habsburg influence. In vain the Transylvanians appealed to Vienna for help, unaware of secret Ottoman-Habsburg agreements.
Fortunately for Austria, Turkey was preoccupied elsewhere during the Thirty Years' War when she would have been vulnerable to attack on her eastern flanks. It was not until 1663 that the Turks developed serious intentions with regard to Austria what was a disastrous event for the former, being defeated at the Battle of Saint Gotthard the following year.
The terms, dictated by the need to deal with the French in the west, were so disadvantageous that it infuriated the Hungarians who revolted. To make matters worse, after executing the leaders in, Leopold attempted to impose a counter-reformation sparking a religious civil war. Although he made some concessions in 1681. Thus by the early 1680s Leopold was facing Hungarian revolt, backed by the Ottomans and encouraged by the French on the opposite flank.
Meanwhile Austria became involved elsewhere with the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678) which was concluded with the Treaties of Nijmegen giving the French considerable opportunities (reunions), indeed the activities of the French, now also a major power, distracted Leopold from following up his advantage with the Turks, and Austro-Ottoman relationships were governed by the Peace of Vasvár which would grant some twenty years relief. However the reunions bought a badly needed French neutrality while Austria kept watch to the east.
The Ottomans next moved against Austria in 1682 in retaliation against Habsburg raids, reaching Vienna in 1683, which proved well fortified, and set about besieging it. The allied forces eventually proved superior and the lifting of the siege was followed by a series of victories in 1687, 1687 and 1697, resulting in the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), Belgrade having fallen in 1688 (but recaptured in 1690). This provided Austrian hegemony over Austria and introduced a large number of Serbs into the Empire, who were to have a major impact on policies over the ensuing centuries.
With the eastern frontier now finally secured, Vienna could flourish (Vienna gloriosa) and expand beyond its traditional limits. In the east Leopold was learning that there was little to be gained by harsh measures, which policy bought his acceptance and he granted the Hungarian diet rights through the Diploma Leopoldianum of 1691. However on the military front, this merely freed up Austria to engage in further western European wars. Austria was becoming more involved in competition with France in Western Europe, fighting the French in theWar of the League of Augsburg (1688–1697).
On the domestic front, Leopold's reign was marked by the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1670, the area being renamed Leopoldstadt. While in 1680 Leopold adopted the so-called Pragmatica, which re-regulated the relationship between landlord and peasant.
War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714): Joseph I and Charles III
Most complex of all was the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), in which the French and Austrians (along with their British, Dutch and Catalonian allies) fought over the inheritance of the vast territories of the Spanish Habsburgs. The ostensible cause was the future Charles III of Austria (1711-1740) claiming the vacant Spanish throne in 1701. Leopold engaged in the war but did not live to see its outcome, being succeeded by hisJoseph I in 1705. Joseph's reign was short and the war finally came to an end in 1714 by which time his brotherCharles III had succeeded him.
Although the French secured control of Spain and its colonies for a grandson of Louis XIV, the Austrians also ended up making significant gains in Western Europe, including the former Spanish Netherlands (now called the Austrian Netherlands, including most of modern Belgium), the Duchy of Milan in Northern Italy, and Naples and Sardinia in Southern Italy. (The latter was traded for Sicily in 1720). By the conclusion of the war in 1714 Austria had achieved a pivotal position in European power politics.
The end of the war saw Austria's allies desert her in terms of concluding treaties with the French, Charles finally signing off in the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714. While the Habsburgs may not have gained all they wanted, they still made significant gains through both Rastatt and Karlowitz, and established their power. The remainder of his reign saw Austria relinquish many of these fairly impressive gains, largely due to Charles's apprehensions at the imminent extinction of the House of Habsburg.
Charles III: Succession and the Pragmatic Sanction (1713-1740)
For Charles now had succession problems of his own, having only two surviving daughters. His solution was to abolish sole male inheritance by means of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. In 1703 his father Leopold VI had made a pact with his sons that allowed for female inheritance but was vague on details, and left room for uncertainty. The Pragmatic Sanction strengthened this and in addition made provision for the inseparability (indivisibiliter ac inseparabiliter) of the Habsburg lands.
This was to form the legal basis for the union with Hungary and to legitimise the Habsburg monarchy. It would be confirmed by the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and would last to 1918. He then needed to strengthen the arrangement by negotiating with surrounding states. Internal negotiation proved to be relatively simple and it became law by 1723.
Charles was now willing to offer concrete advantages in territory and authority in exchange for other powers' worthless recognitions of the Pragmatic Sanction that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heir. Equally challenging was the question of the heir apparent's marital prospects and how they might influence the European balance of power. The eventual choice of Francis Stephen of Lorraine in 1736 proved unpopular with the other powers, particularly France.
War continued to be part of European life in the early eighteenth century. Austria was involved in the war of War of the Quadruple Alliance and the resulting 1720 Treaty of The Hague was to see the Habsburg lands reach their greatest territorial expansion. War with France had broken out again in 1733 with the War of the Polish Succession whose settlement at the Treaty of Vienna in 1738 saw Austria cede Naples and Sicily to the Spanish Infante Don Carlos in exchange for the tiny Duchy of Parma and Spain and France's adherence to the Pragmatic Sanction. The later years of Charles's reign also saw further wars against the Turks, beginning with a successful skirmish in 1716-1718, culminating in the Treaty of Passarowitz. Less successful was the war of 1737-1739 which resulted in the Austrian loss of Belgrade and other border territories at the Treaty of Belgrade.
On the domestic front military and political gains were accompanied by economic expansion and repopulation (Schwabenzug), as Austria entered the period of High Baroque with a profusion of new buildings, including theBelvedere (1712-1783) and Karlskirche (1716-1737), exemplified by the great architects of the period, such asFischer, Hildebrandt and Prandtauer. However the Habsburgs' finances were fragile. They had relied on Jewish bankers such as Samuel Oppenheimer to finance their wars, and subsequently bankrupted him. However the financial system in Austria remained antiquated and inadequate. By the time of Charles' death in 1740 the treasury was almost depleted.
Habsburg religious intolerance, once unquestioned in the core lands became the subject of more intense scrutiny by 1731 when 22,000 suspected crypto-protestants were expelled from Salzburg and theSalzkammergut. Similar intolerance was displayed to the Jewish population in Bohemia and surrounding areas under the Familianten (Familiantengesetze) in 1726 and 1727. Worse would have followed had there not also been a realisation that there were economic consequences and that some accommodation was required to the more rationalist ideas of western Europe. Amongst these was cameralism which encouraged economic self-sufficiency in the nation state. Thus domestic industries such as the Linzer Wollzeugfabrik were founded and encouraged, but often such ideas were subjugated by vested interests such as aristocracy and church. Rationalist emphasis on the natural and popular were the antithesis of Habsburg elitism and divine authority. Eventually external powers forced rationalism on Austria.
By the time of his death in 1740, Charles III had secured the acceptance of the Pragmatic Sanction by most of the European powers. The remaining question was whether it was realistic in the complicated power games of European dynasties
Charles III died on 20 October 1740, and was succeeded by his daughter Maria Theresa. However she did not become Empress immediately, that title passing to Charles VII (1742-1745) the only moment in which the imperial crown passed outside of the Habsburg line from 1440-1806, Charles VII being one of many who repudiated the 1713 Pragmatic Sanction. As many had anticipated all those assurances from the other powers proved of little worth to Maria Theresa.
War of Austrian Succession
On 16 December 1740 Prussian troops invaded Silesiaunder King Frederick the Great. This was the first of threeSilesian wars fought between Austria and Prussia in this period (1740–1742, 1744–1745 and 1756–1763). Soon other powers began to exploit Austria's weakness. Charles VII claimed the inheritance to the hereditary lands and Bohemia, and was supported by the King of France, who desired the Austrian Netherlands. The Spanish and Sardinians hoped to gain territory in Italy, and the Saxons hoped to gain territory to connect Saxony with the Elector's Polish Kingdom. France even went so far as to prepare for a partition of Austria.
Austria's allies, Britain, Holland, and Russia, were all wary of getting involved in the conflict. Thus began the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), one of the more confusing and less eventful wars of European history, which ultimately saw Austria holding its own, despite the permanent loss of most of Silesia to the Prussians. That represented the loss of one of its richest and most industrialised provinces. For Austria the War of Succession was more a series of wars, the first concluding in 1742 with the Treaty of Breslau, the second (1744-1745) with the Treaty of Dresden. The overall war however dragged on on a global scene until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).
In 1745, following the reign of the Bavarian Elector as Emperor Charles VII, Maria Theresa's husband Francis of Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was elected Emperor, restoring control of that position to the Habsburgs (or, rather, to the new composite house of Habsburg-Lorraine), Francis holding the titular crown until his death in 1765, but his empress consort Maria Theresa carrying out the executive functions. The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 applied to the hereditary possessions of the Habsburgs and Archduchy of Austria but not the position of Holy Roman Emperor, which could not be held by women, thus Maria Theresa was Empress Consort notEmpress Regnant.
Seven Years' War (1754-1763)
For the eight years following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) that ended the War of the Austrian Succession, Maria Theresa plotted revenge on the Prussians. The British and Dutch allies who had proved so reluctant to help her in her time of need were dropped in favour of the French in the so-called Reversal of Alliances (bouleversement) of 1756, under the advice of Kaunitz, Austrian Chancellor (1753-1793). This resulted in the Treaty of Versailles of 1756. That same year, war once again erupted on the continent as Frederick, fearing encirclement, launched a pre-emptive invasion of Saxony and the defensive treaty became offensive. The Seven Years' War (1754–1763), too, was indecisive, and saw Prussia holding onto Silesia, despite Russia, France, and Austria all combining against him, and with only Hanover as a significant ally on land.
The end of the war saw Austria, poorly prepared at its start, exhausted. Austria continued the alliance with France (cemented in 1770 with the marriage of Maria Theresa's daughter Archduchess Maria Antonia to theDauphin), but also facing a dangerous situation in Central Europe, faced with the alliance of Frederick the Greatof Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia. The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 caused a serious crisis in east-central Europe, with Prussia and Austria demanding compensation for Russia's gains in the Balkans, ultimately leading to the First Partition of Poland in 1772, in which Maria Theresa took Galicia from Austria's traditional ally.
War of Bavarian Succession (1778-1779)
Over the next several years, Austro-Russian relations began to improve. When the War of Bavarian Succession(1778-1779) erupted between Austria and Prussia following the extinction of the Bavarian line of the Wittelsbachdynasty, Russia refused to support Austria, its ally from the Seven Years' War, but offered to mediate and the war was ended, after almost no bloodshed, on May 13, 1779 when Russian and French mediators at theCongress of Teschen negotiated an end to the war. In the agreement Austria received the Innviertel from Bavaria, but for Austria it was a case of status quo ante bellum. This war was unusual for this era in that casualties from disease and starvation exceeded wounds, and is considered the last of the Cabinet Wars(Kabinettskriege) in which diplomats played as large a part as troops, and as the roots of German Dualism(Austria–Prussia rivalry).
Although Maria Theresa and her consort were Baroque absolutist conservatives, this was tempered by a pragmatic sense and they implemented a number of overdue reforms. Thus these reforms were pragmatic responses to the challenges faced by archduchy and empire, not ideologically framed in the Age of Enlightenment as seen by her successor. Indeed, Christian Wolff, the architect of German Enlightenment, though born a Habsburg subject, had to leave due to active discouragement of such ideals.
The collision with other theories of nation states and modernity obliged Austria to perform a delicate balancing act between accepting changing economic and social circumstances while rejecting their accompanying political change. The relative failure to deal with modernity produced major changes in Habsburg power and Austrian culture and society. One of the first challenges that Maria Theresa and her advisers faced was to restore the legitimacy and authority of the dynasty, although was slowly replaced by a need to establish the needs of State.
Governance and finance
Maria Theresa promulgated financial and educational reforms, with the assistance of her advisers, notablyCount Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz and Gerard van Swieten. Many reforms were in the interests of efficiency. Her financial reforms considerably improved the state finances, and notably introduced taxation of the nobility for the first time, and achieved a balanced budget by 1775. At an administrative level, under Haugwitz she centralised administration, previously left to the nobility and church, along Prussian models with a permanent civil service. Haugwitz was appointed head of the new Directorium in publicis und cameralibus in 1749. By 1760 it was clear this was not solving Austria's problems and further reform was required. Kaunitz' proposal for a consultative body was accepted by Maria Theresa. This Council of State (Staatsrat) was to be based on the French Conseil d'État which believed that an absolutist monarch could still be guided by Enlightenment advisors. The Council was inaugurated in January 1761, composed of Kaunitz the state chancellor (Staatskanzler), three members of the high nobility (Staatsminister), including von Haugwitz as chair (Erster Staatsminister), and three knights (Staatsrat), which served as a committee of experienced people who advised her. The council of state lacked executive or legislative authority. This marked Kaunitz' ascendency over von Haugwitz. The Directory was abolished and its functions absorbed into the new united Austrian and Bohemian chancelleries (Böhmisch-Österreichische Hofkanzlei) in 1761.
While Von Haugwitz modernised the army and government, van Swieten reformed health care and education. Educational reform included that of Vienna University by Swieten from 1749, the founding of the Theresianum(1746) as a civil service academy as well as military and foreign service academies. An Education Commission (Studienhofkommission) was established in 1760 with a specific interest in replacing Jesuitical control, but it was the papal dissolution of the order in 1773 that accomplished this. The confiscation of their property enabled the next step. Aware of the inadequacy of bureaucracy in Austria and, in order to improve it, Maria Theresa and what was now referred to as the Party of Enlightenment radically overhauled the schools system. In the new system, based on the Prussian one, all children of both genders from the ages of six to twelve had to attend school, while teacher training schools were established. Education reform was met with hostility from many villages and the nobility to whom children represented labour. Maria Theresa crushed the dissent by ordering the arrest of all those opposed. Although the idea had merit, the reforms were not as successful as they were expected to be; in some parts of Austria, half of the population was illiterate well into the 19th century. However widespread access to education, education in the vernacular language, replacement of rote learning and blind obedience with reasoning was to have a profound effect on the relationship between people and state.
Civil rights, industry and labour relations
Other reforms were in civil rights which were defied under the Codex Theresianus, begun in 1752 and finished in 1766. Specific measures included abolition of torture, and witch burning. Also in industrial and agrarian policy along cameralist lines, the theory was to maximise the resources of the land to protect the integrity of the state. Widespread problems arising from war, famine unrest and abuse made implementation of landlord-peasant reforms both reasonable and reasonable. Maria Theresa and her regime had sought a new more direct link with the populace, now that administration was no longer to be farmed out, and this maternalism combined with cameralist thinking required taking a closer interest in the welfare of the peasantry and their protection, which transpired in the 1750s. However these had been more noted than observed. In the 1770s more meaningful control of rents became practical, further eroding privilege.
While reforms assisted Austria in dealing with the almost constant wars, the wars themselves hindered the implementation of those reforms.
A pious Catholic, her reforms which affected the relation between state and church in favour of the former, did not extend to any relaxation of religious intolerance, but she preempted Pope Clement XIV's suppression of theJesuits in 1773 by issuing a decree which removed them from all the institutions of the monarchy. There was both a suspicion of their excesses and of their tendency to political interference which brought them into conflict with the progressive secularisation of culture. Thus they were removed from control of censorship in 1751, and the educational reforms threatened their control over education. She was hostile to Jews and Protestants but eventually abandoned efforts for conversion, but continued her father's campaign to exile crypto-protestants (mainly to Transylvania as in 1750). In 1744 she even ordered the expulsion of Jews, but relented under pressure by 1748. In her later years though she took some measures to protect the Jewish population.
Succession and co-regency
Maria Theresa had a large family, sixteen in all, of whom six were daughters that lived to adulthood. They were only too aware that their fate was to be used as political pawns. The best known of these was the tragic figure ofMaria Antonia (1755-1793).
When Maria Theresa's consort Francis died in 1765, he was succeeded by his son Joseph II as emperor (1765-1790) because of male primogeniture. Joseph was also made co-ruler or co-regent with his mother. Joseph, twenty-four at the time was more ideologically attuned to modernity and frequently disagreed with his mother on policy, and was often excluded from policy making. Maria Theresa always acted with a cautious respect for the conservatism of the political and social elites and the strength of local traditions. Her cautious approach repelled Joseph, who always sought the decisive, dramatic intervention to impose the one best solution, regardless of traditions or political opposition. Joseph and his mother's quarrels were usually mediated by Chancellor Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz who would served for nearly 40 years as the principal minister to both Maria Theresa and Joseph.
Joseph would frequently use his position as leverage, by threatening resignation. The one area he was allowed more say on was in foreign policy. Paradoxically his intellectual model and arch-enemy was Frederick II of Prussia (1740–1786). In this area he was successful in siding with Kaunitz in Realpolitik, undertaking the first partition of Poland in 1772 over his mother's principled objections. However his enthusiasm for interfering in Bavarian politics by invoking his ties to his former brother in law, Maximilian III, ended Austria in the War of Bavarian Succession in 1778. Although largely shut out of domestic policy he use his time to acquire knowledge of his lands and people, encouraged policies he was in accord with and made magnanimous gestures such as opening the Royal Parks of Prater and Augarten to the public in 1766 and 1775 (Alles für das Volk, nichts durch das Volk - Everything for the people, nothing by the people).
On her husband's death Maria Theresa was therefore no longer empress, the title of which fell to her daughter in law Maria Josepha of Bavaria until her death in 1767 when the title fell vacant. When Maria Theresa died in 1780 she was succeeded in all her titles by Joseph II.
The Habsburg-Lorraine Dynasty: Joseph II and Leopold VII (1780–1792)
Joseph II (1780–1790): Josephinism and enlightened despotism
As the first of the Habsburg-Lorraine (Habsburg-Lothringen) Dynasty Joseph II was the archetypical embodiment of The Enlightenment spirit of the 18th-century reforming monarchs known as the "enlightened despots". When his motherMaria Theresa died in 1780, Joseph became the absolute ruler over the most extensive realm of Central Europe. There was no parliament to deal with. Joseph was always positive that the rule of reason, as propounded in the Enlightenment, would produce the best possible results in the shortest time. He issued edicts—6,000 in all, plus 11,000 new laws designed to regulate and reorder every aspect of the empire. The spirit was benevolent and paternal. He intended to make his people happy, but strictly in accordance with his own criteria.
Josephinism (or Josephism) as his policies were called, is notable for the very wide range of reforms designed to modernize the creaky empire in an era when France and Prussia were rapidly upgrading. Josephinism elicited grudging compliance at best, and more often vehement opposition from all sectors in every part of his empire. Failure characterized most of his projects. Joseph set about building a rational, centralized, and uniform government for his diverse lands, a pyramid with himself as supreme autocrat. He expected government servants to all be dedicated agents of Josephinism and selected them without favor for class or ethnic origins; promotion was solely by merit. To impose uniformity, he made German the compulsory language of official business throughout the Empire. The Hungarian assembly was stripped of its prerogatives, and not even called together.
As President of the Court Audit Office (Hofrechenkammer), Count Karl von Zinzendorf (1781-1792) introduced a uniform system of accounting for state revenues, expenditures, and debts of the territories of the Austrian crown. Austria was more successful than France in meeting regular expenditures and in gaining credit. However, the events of Joseph II's last years also suggest that the government was financially vulnerable to the European wars that ensued after 1792. Joseph reformed the traditional legal system, abolished brutal punishments and the death penalty in most instances, and imposed the principle of complete equality of treatment for all offenders. He ended censorship of the press and theatre.
To equalize the incidence of taxation, Joseph ordered a fresh appraisal of the value of all properties in the empire; his goal was to impose a single and egalitarian tax on land. The goal was to modernize the relationship of dependence between the landowners and peasantry, relieve some of the tax burden on the peasantry, and increase state revenues. Joseph looked on the tax and land reforms as being interconnected and strove to implement them at the same time. The various commissions he established to formulate and carry out the reforms met resistance among the nobility, the peasantry, and some officials. Most of the reforms were abrogated shortly before or after Joseph's death in 1790; they were doomed to failure from the start because they tried to change too much in too short a time, and tried to radically alter the traditional customs and relationships that the villagers had long depended upon.
In the cities the new economic principles of the Enlightenment called for the destruction of the autonomous guilds, already weakened during the age of mercantilism. Joseph II's tax reforms and the institution ofKatastralgemeinde (tax districts for the large estates) served this purpose, and new factory privileges ended guild rights while customs laws aimed at economic unity. The intellectual influence of the Physiocrats led to the inclusion of agriculture in these reforms.
In 1781–82 he extended full legal freedom to serfs. Rentals paid by peasants were to be regulated by imperial (not local) officials and taxes were levied upon all income derived from land. The landlords saw a grave threat to their status and incomes, and eventually reversed the policy. In Hungary and Transylvania, the resistance of the landed nobility was so great that Joseph compromised with halfway measures—one of the few times he backed down. After the great peasant revolt of Horea, 1784–85, however, the emperor imposed his will by fiat. His Imperial Patent of 1785 abolished serfdom but did not give the peasants ownership of the land or freedom from dues owed to the landowning nobles. It did give them personal freedom. Emancipation of the Hungarian peasantry promoted the growth of a new class of taxable landholders, but it did not abolish the deep-seated ills of feudalism and the exploitation of the landless squatters.
Capital punishment was abolished in 1787, although restored in 1795. Legal reforms gained comprehensive "Austrian" form in the civil code (ABGB: Allgemeine Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch) of 1811 and have been seen as providing a foundation for subsequent reforms extending into the 20th century. The first part of the ABGB appeared in 1786, and the criminal code in 1787. These reforms incorporated the criminological writings ofCesare Beccaria, but also first time made all people equal in the eyes of the law.
Education and medicine
To produce a literate citizenry, elementary education was made compulsory for all boys and girls, and higher education on practical lines was offered for a select few. He created scholarships for talented poor students, and allowed the establishment of schools for Jews and other religious minorities. In 1784 he ordered that the country change its language of instruction from Latin to German, a highly controversial step in a multilingual empire.
By the 18th century, centralization was the trend in medicine because more and better educated doctors requesting improved facilities; cities lacked the budgets to fund local hospitals; and the monarchy's wanted to end costly epidemics and quarantines. Joseph attempted to centralize medical care in Vienna through the construction of a single, large hospital, the famous Allgemeines Krankenhaus, which opened in 1784. Centralization worsened sanitation problems causing epidemics a 20% death rate in the new hospital, which undercut Joseph's plan, but the city became preeminent in the medical field in the next century.
Joseph's Catholicism was that of Catholic Reform and his goals were to weaken the power of the Catholic Church and introduce a policy of religious toleration that was the most advanced of any state in Europe. In 1789 he issued a charter of religious toleration for the Jews of Galicia, a region with a large, Yiddish-speaking, traditional Jewish population. The charter abolished communal autonomy whereby the Jews controlled their internal affairs; it promoted "Germanization" and the wearing of non-Jewish clothing.
Probably the most unpopular of all his reforms was his attempted modernization of the highly traditional Roman Catholic Church. Calling himself the guardian of Catholicism, Joseph II struck vigorously at papal power. He tried to make the Catholic Church in his empire the tool of the state, independent of Rome. Clergymen were deprived of the tithe and ordered to study in seminaries under government supervision, while bishops had to take a formal oath of loyalty to the crown. He financed the large increase in bishoprics, parishes, and secular clergy by extensive sales of monastic lands. As a man of the Enlightenment he ridiculed the contemplative monastic orders, which he considered unproductive, as opposed to the service orders. Accordingly, he suppressed a third of the monasteries (over 700 were closed) and reduced the number of monks and nuns from 65,000 to 27,000. Church courts were abolished and marriage was defined as a civil contract outside the jurisdiction of the Church. Joseph sharply cut the number of holy days and reduced ornamentation in churches. He greatly simplified the manner of celebration. Critics alleged that these reforms caused a crisis of faith, reduced piety and a decline in morality, had Protestant tendencies, promoted Enlightenment rationalism and a class of liberal bourgeois officials, and led to the emergence and persistence of anti-clericalism. Many traditional Catholics were energized in opposition to the emperor.
The Habsburg Empire developed a policy of war and trade as well as intellectual influence across the borders. While opposing Prussia and Turkey, Austria was friendly to Russia, though tried to remove Romania from Russian influence.
In foreign policy, there was no Enlightenment, only hunger for more territory and a willingness to undertake unpopular wars to get the land. Joseph was a belligerent, expansionist leader, who dreamed of making his Empire the greatest of the European powers. Joseph's plan was to acquire Bavaria, if necessary in exchange for Belgium (the Austrian Netherlands). Thwarted by King Frederick II of Prussia in 1778 in the War of Bavarian Succession, he renewed his efforts again in 1785 but Prussian diplomacy proved more powerful. This failure caused Joseph to seek territorial expansion in the Balkans, where he became involved in an expensive and futile war with the Turks (1787–1791), which was the price to be paid for friendship with Russia.
The Balkan policy of both Maria Theresa and Joseph II reflected the Cameralism promoted by Prince Kaunitz, stressing consolidation of the border lands by reorganization and expansion of the military frontier. Transylvaniahad been incorporated into the frontier in 1761 and the frontier regiments became the backbone of the military order, with the regimental commander exercising military and civilian power. Populationistik was the prevailing theory of colonization, which measured prosperity in terms of labor. Joseph II also stressed economic development. Habsburg influence was an essential factor in Balkan development in the last half of the 18th century, especially for the Serbs and Croats.
The nobility throughout his empire hated Joseph: they hated his taxes, his egalitarianism, his despotism and his puritanism. In Belgium and Hungary everyone resented the way he tried to do away with all regional government, and to subordinate everything to his own personal rule in Vienna. The ordinary people were not happy. They loathed the Emperor's interference in every detail of their daily lives. Why should they be forbidden to bake ginger-bread just because Joseph thought it bad for the stomach? Why the Imperial edict demanding the breast-feeding of infants? Why the banning of corsets? From these and a thousand other petty regulations, enforced by a secret police, it looked to the Austrians as though Joseph were trying to reform their characters as well as their institutions. Only a few weeks before Joseph's death, the director of the Imperial Police reported to him: "All classes, and even those who have the greatest respect for the sovereign, are discontented and indignant."
In Lombardy (in northern Italy) the cautious reforms of Maria Theresa in Lombardy had enjoyed support from local reformers. Joseph II, however, by creating a powerful imperial officialdom directed from Vienna, undercut the dominant position of the Milanese principate and the traditions of jurisdiction and administration. In the place of provincial autonomy he established an unlimited centralism, which reduced Lombardy politically and economically to a fringe area of the Empire. As a reaction to these radical changes the middle class reformers shifted away from cooperation to strong resistance. From this basis appeared the beginnings of the later Lombard liberalism.
By 1788 Joseph's health but not his determination was failing. By 1789 rebellion had broken out in protest against his reforms in Belgium (Brabant Revolution) and Hungary, and his other dominions were restive under the burdens of his war with Turkey. His empire was threatened with dissolution, and he was forced to sacrifice some of his reform projects. His health shattered by disease, alone, and unpopular in all his lands, the bitter emperor died on February 20, 1790. He was not yet forty-nine. Joseph II rode roughshod over age-old aristocratic privileges, liberties, and prejudices, thereby creating for himself many enemies, and they triumphed in the end. Joseph's attempt to reform the Hungarian lands illustrates the weakness of absolutism in the face of well-defended feudal liberties.
Behind his numerous reforms lay a comprehensive program influenced by the doctrines of enlightened absolutism, natural law, mercantilism, and physiocracy. With a goal of establishing a uniform legal framework to replace heterogeneous traditional structures, the reforms were guided at least implicitly by the principles of freedom and equality and were based on a conception of the state's central legislative authority. Joseph's accession marks a major break since the preceding reforms under Maria Theresa had not challenged these structures, but there was no similar break at the end of the Josephinian era. The reforms initiated by Joseph II had merit despite the way they were introduced. They were continued to varying degrees under his successors. They have been seen as providing a foundation for subsequent reforms extending into the 20th century.
Upon his death in 1790, Joseph was briefly succeeded by his younger brother Leopold VII.
Leopold VII (1790–1792)
Joseph's death proved a boon for Austria, as he was succeeded by his younger brother, Leopold II, previously the more cautiously reforming Grand Duke of Tuscany. Leopold knew when to cut his losses, and soon cut deals with the revolting Netherlanders and Hungarians. He also managed to secure a peace with Turkey in 1791, and negotiated an alliance with Prussia, which had been allying with Poland to press for war on behalf of the Ottomans against Austria and Russia. While restoring relative calm to what had been a crisis situation on his accession in 1790, Austria was surrounded by potential threats. While many reforms were by necessity rescinded, other reforms were initiated including more freedom of the press and restriction on the powers of the police. He replaced his brother's police minister, Johann Anton von Pergen, with Joseph Sonnenfels an advocate of social welfare rather than control.
Leopold's reign also saw the acceleration of the French Revolution. Although Leopold was sympathetic to the revolutionaries, he was also the brother of the French queen. Furthermore, disputes involving the status of the rights of various imperial princes in Alsace, where the revolutionary French government was attempting to remove rights guaranteed by various peace treaties, involved Leopold as Emperor in conflicts with the French. The Declaration of Pillnitz, made in late 1791 jointly with the Prussian King Frederick William II and the Elector of Saxony, in which it was declared that the other princes of Europe took an interest in what was going on in France, was intended to be a statement in support of Louis XVI that would prevent the need from taking any kind of action. However, it instead inflamed the sentiments of the revolutionaries against the Emperor. Although Leopold did his best to avoid war with the French, he died in March 1792. The French declared war on his inexperienced eldest son Francis II a month later.
Vienna and Austria dominated European music during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, typified by the First Viennese School (Wiener Klassik). This was the era of Haydn, and Mozart's Vienna period extended from 1781-1791 during which he was court composer. Opera, particularly German opera was flourishing. Initially the pillars of the establishment - the monarchy, such as Joseph II and to a lesser extent his mother, the aristocracy and the religious establishment were the major patrons of the arts, until rising middle class aspirations incorporated music into the lives of the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile the Baroque was evolving into the less grandiose form, the Rococo.
The virtual abolition of censorship under van Swieten also encouraged artistic expression and the themes of artistic work often reflected enlightenment thinking.