War and The Habsburg Monarchy: A Revisionist View

The next keynote during Conference will be Professor Pieter Judson from European University Institute. Please find the abstract for Professor Judson’s lecture below:

“War and The Habsburg Monarchy: A Revisionist View”

Official PortraitAlthough we commonly associate the First World War with the end of the Habsburg Monarchy, we rarely investigate on their own terms the specific reasons for that empire’s collapse and disappearance. In part this is because historians and propagandists of the successor states tended to frame the history of the empire in terms that justified its end as a necessary precondition to a new enlightened age of nation states. Moreover, the division of the historical profession in national schools all but guaranteed that the history of the Habsburg state (and of its end) would be written in terms of individual political nations rather than in terms of larger imperial institutions and societies.
In this talk I argue for a comparative Europeanization of the history of the Habsburg Monarchy, for its treatment by historians as a legitimate polity on its own terms, and for a comparison of its wartime strengths and weaknesses with those of other European Empires such as Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. Too often historians have treated Austria-Hungary as a political anachronism destined to fail (with or without the war), conveniently forgetting that other empires came close to collapse as well in 1917 and 1918, also thanks to situations of severe ethnic or class conflict. My talk will examine the range of specific factors that produced a collapse of empire in 1918, while analyzing the many ways that contemporaries understood the crisis of empire. In the case of Austria-Hungary I will argue that the unreflective handover of civil power to the military from 1914 to 1917 and the consequent abandonment of the existing Rechtsstaat indirectly created several compelling new visions of what empire could be in a postwar world, as well as what a postwar world could be without empire.

Pieter M. Judson is Professor of 19th and 20th century History and Chair of the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author of prize-winning books on the Habsburg Empire, including “Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire”, 1848-1914 (1996), “Wien brennt!  Die Revolution von 1848 und ihr liberales Erbe” (1998), “Guardians of the Nation. Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria” (2006), and “The Habsburg Empire. A New History” (2016), for which a German translation will appear with Beck in 2017. Judson is recipient of prizes and fellowships from the Guggenheim foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Karl von Vogelsang Prize of the Austrian government, the Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften, and the American Academy in Berlin. He is currently editing the Cambridge History of the Habsburg Monarchy with Mark Cornwall and The Great War and the Transformation of Habsburg Central Europe, 1908-1923 with Tara Zahra.



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