Habsburg Lands
Hansburg Lands

Austria under Maria Theresia, the Economy 1740-1780

Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz succeeded in pressuring the estates of Bohemia, Upper and Lower Austria, Tyrol and Styria to agree to pay drastically increased taxes, over a period of ten years, thus significantly increasing the state revenue and supporting a larger standing army. Higher taxation was enforced on Carinthia by decree; Hungary with Transylvania received a more lenient treatment. With state revenue rising significantly, Austria became less dependent on foreign subsidies.
In the 1750es and 1760es, Cameralist economic philosophy gained influence at the court in Vienna. It stressed that, as the nobles and clergy were (at least partially) exempt from taxation, state policy should promote the well-being of her peasants, who provided the bulk of the tax revenue. Maria Theresia issued a number of decrees intended to protect peasants against abuse by the nobility, such as excessive demand of corvee labour, the conversion of taxable peasant land into non-taxable noble domain etc. For this purpose, the land survey was begun (cadaster). Obstacles to trade within the Habsburg Lands were removed, a Customs Union of the Habsburg Lands established; External tariffs both for import and export established, which resulted in a reorientation of trade, increasing the importance of Triest on the Adriatic Sea as a major port for imports. The Viennese administration promoted the development of manufacturing industry in the Austrian Lands (not in Hungary). Two costly wars (1741-1748, 1756-1763) had resulted in the accumulation of state debt. Yet, the economic policies resulted in rising state revenue; close to the ends of her reign, the Habsburg state came close to balancing the budget; the state debt was reduced significantly.
In the plains of Hungary and all along the border to the Ottoman Empire, devastated regions were settled. Settlers were called in from all over - from Germany, from Hungary itself, from Serbia, Slovakia etc. The settlers were given the assurance that they could administrate their own communities and practise their traditional religion. The result was a patchwork of ethnic communities. There were considerable pockets of German settlers in Hungary (BANATER SCHWABEN) and in Transylvania (SIEBENBÜRGER SACHSEN). The ethnic mixture, of no concern to politicians in the 18th century, would cause a host of troubles in the 20th century.
While her economic policies by and large were successful, Maria Theresia's religious policy was counterproductive.
In 1753 Austria introduced the Gulden currency, 1 Gulden (fl) = 60 Kreuzer. In 1762 the Wiener Stadtbank (Vienna City Bank) first issued banknotes.

Biography : Maria Theresia, from Dr. Pavlac's Women's History Site at King's College
Biography : Joseph II., from Catholic Encyclopedia
Chronology Joseph II., from Austrian Coins; Chronology Maria Theresia, from Austrian Coins
Geschichte der Universität Wien, chronological table by Bettina Wallner
Biography of Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, from Catholic Encyclopedia, from aeiou
Biography of Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Haugwitz, from aeiou
Biography of Ignaz Felbinger, from aeiou
Wichtige Ereignisse und Gesetze in Österreichs Währungsgeschichte (Important data in the history of Austria's currency), posted by Euro Bulletin No.7, timeline, in German
DOCUMENTS Documents on the History of Austria, from Eurodocs
Luise Gottsched : The Empress Maria Theresa, 1749, from Modern History Sourcebook
Coins : Maria Theresia, from Coins from Famous People in History; Coins of Maria Theresia, Joseph II. and Leopold II., from Austrian Coins
Map of Central Europe / Austrian Lands c. 1780, from Freeman's Historical Geography (1903), posted by Perry Castaneda Library, Univ. of Texas, Map Coll.
REFERENCE Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815, Cambridge : UP 1994

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004

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