Habsburg Lands
Hansburg Lands

Austria under Maria Theresia, 1740-1780

Maria Theresia, despite her pragmatic decision to disempower the Jesuit Order and reform education, was thoroughly Catholic and despised heresy. She was anti-Semitic and could only narrowly be convinced to take back the order to evict the entire Jewish community of Prague (Jews had supported Charles-Albert with a credit during the Bavarian occupation of Bohemia). When Austria gained Galicia in 1772, Maria Theresia regretted the fact that the acquisition more than doubled the Jewish population of her Empire.
Maria Theresia ordered the protestant inhabitants of her Austrian lands to be either converted and reeducated in Conversion Houses, or forced to migrate to Transylvania, the one territory in her Empire where religious toleration was practised (1752-1758 : 2974 persons; a second wave of forced resettlement followed in 1773-1776). In the process of transmigration, the fatality rate was high. Of course, transmigration was a policy promoted by cameralist councillors; under her predecessor, protestants were forced to emigrate altogether, the bulk ending up in East Prussia; in Transylvania, the protestant peasants could still contribute to the Habsburg state revenue.
Maria Theresia not only deprived the Jesuits of their detrimental influence over censorship, but over time placed the entire education system under state supervision. School types were standardized, the education of teachers and school curricula regulated by the state (1770es, a reform implemented by Ignaz Felbinger). The emphasis turned from Latin to the vernacular, a policy which marks the beginning of the cultural-national awakening of many an ethnic group within the multiethnic Habsburg Empire.
Vienna developed into the main cultural center of Germany. Artists like Joseph Haydn were attracted by the court of Vienna, because benefactors paying for their service were most likely to be found here.

Geschichte der Universität Wien, chronological table by Bettina Wallner
Biography of Ignaz Felbinger, from aeiou
Austria : under Maria Theresa, from Jewish Encyclopedia
Die Ländlerdörfer in Siebenbürgen, by Peter Görlich (The Villages of Protestant Transmigrants in Transylvania); a narration in German
Landler und andere Altösterreicher (The Landler and other Old Austrians), from Landlerhilfe, in German
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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