Habsburg Lands
French Wars, Napoleon

Austria under Joseph II., 1780-1790

A.) The Question of Succession and Foreign Policy

Joseph II. was elected King in 1764; factually he came to power only after Maria Theresia's death in 1780. He ruled as an enlightened monarch, disregarding inherited privileges, trying to improve the state's economy.
Joseph had already been involved in the acquisitions of Galicia (1st Polish Partition, 1772) and the Bukovina (from the Ottoman Empire, 1775). His plan for swapping the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria not only failed to be implemented, but had resulted in the costly War of Bavarian Succession. In 1784/1785 a new attempt for swapping Bavaria for the Austrian Netherlands was made, which equally failed.
In 1787 Russia and Austria agreed on waging war on the Ottoman Empire (Russo-Ottoman War 1787-1791, Austro-Ottoman War); now King Frederick William of Prussia caused trouble, a rebellion broke out in the Austrian Netherlands (the Brabant Revolution 1789-1790.

B.) Administration of the Habsburg Lands

Joseph II. was more radical than his mother; he was intent to break the territorial privileges; he cancelled many, such as Brabant's BLIJDE INKOMSTE, the cancellation triggering the Brabant Revolution of 1789.
Joseph II. regarded himself an enlightened monarch. His decrees, however, were often short-sighted and in a number of cases did more harm than use. He replaced Latin by German as language of administration, education and jurisdiction, throughout his domains, giving every judge, state official, teacher 3 years to learn the language. This decree opened a Pandora's box of troubles Austria failed to manage over the coming century.
Many of Joseph's decrees were regarded as arbitrary and sometimes erratic.

C.) Economic Policy

D.) Culture

Vienna developed into the main cultural center of Germany. Artists like HAYDN, MOZART, BEETHOVEN were attracted by the court of Vienna, because benefactors paying for their service were most likely to be found here.

Biography : Joseph II., from Catholic Encyclopedia
Chronology Joseph II., from Austrian Coins; Bukovina; Josephinism from aeiou
Geschichte der Universität Wien, chronological table by Bettina Wallner
Changes in Osterreich: Joseph II of the Hapsburg Empire and his Reforms During the Enlightenment, by J.J. Florencio
DOCUMENTS Documents on the History of Austria, from Eurodocs
Coins of Maria Theresia, Joseph II. and Leopold II., from Austrian Coins
Joseph II., Autobiographic Notes, from CCNY
Map of Central Europe / Austrian Lands c. 1780, from Freeman's Historical Geography (1903), posted by Perry Castaneda Library, Univ. of Texas, Map Coll.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 1st 2002, last revised on November 12th 2004

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