Habsburg Dynasty, Austrian Line, 1648-1683

Domestic Policy
The Economy
Foreign Policy
Intellectual Life

Domestic Policy
While the Treaty of Westphalia 1648 formally established peace, Swedish troops held the Lands of the Bohemian Crown occupied until 1650, when they were paid the costs of occupation. 30 years of warfare had caused severe destruction; many farmsteads were deserted.
Emperor Ferdinand III. (1637-1657) continued to support the Counterreformation in his Austrian lands; in Silesia, he was bound by treaty with Sweden to respect the territory's Lutheran community. The Habsburg administration did not expel their Silesian Lutheran subjects, but was creative in finding ways to harrass them. Similarly, the religious toleration which formed part of the Hungarian constitution, was only temporarily respected, and also there, the Habsburg administration was creative in finding ways to circumvent the stipulation, providing Hungary's unruly nobility with yet another excuse to conspire and revolt.

The sideline of Tyrol went extinct in 1665; the Habsburg lands of the Austrian Line, from then onward, were unified in the hands of the Emperor. In 1658 Leopold I. was elected Emperor, a costly election, as it required considerable sums in bribes.

In 1666, Hungarian magnates, dissatisfied with the Emperor's conduct in the recent Habsburg-Ottoman Warar, conspired with the aim of toppling Habsburg rule in Hungary. In 1671, an open rebellion in preparation in Hungary, Croatia and Styria, was betrayed; the leaders were arrested, tried and sentenced. In 1681 Leopold I. called on the Hungarian diet to convene; he confirmed the old Hungarian constitution.
Following a fire in the Vienna Hofburg, which was blamed on the Jews, Emperor Leopold I. in 1670 evicted the Jews from Vienna. In 1679, Austria suffered from the plague, which killed over 49.000 in Vienna alone.

The Economy
With the conclusion of the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the situation of the economy of the Habsburg lands of the Austrian line was gloomy. Swedish forces continued to occupy the lands of the Bohemian crown until they were paid off in 1650. Many of the towns of Silesia, BOHEMIA, Austria had only a fraction of their prewar population. Many farmsteads were deserted.
Yet, next to the Imperial household in Vienna, there was a second archducal household in Innsbruck to be financed from the meager state revenues, the Tyrolean sideline of the Austrian Habsburgs (until 1665). State revenue was, by far, insufficient to cover the costs; the dynasty relied on borrowing. However, the dynasty's traditional banker, the Fuggers of Augsburg, in the 1650s went bankrupt, over massive loans Spain was unable to repay.
The eviction of Vienna's Jewish community in 1670, they were blamed for a fire in the Vienna Hofburg in 1668, did not help improve the creditworthyness of the Emperor. In 1680, Jew Samuel Oppenheimer arrived in Vienna; he was to become a major creditor of Emperor Leopold I.
In 1653 Emperor Ferdinand III. had his eldest son Ferdinand elected Roman King (i.e. of the Holy Roman Empire); son Ferdinand died in 1654; his brother Leopold was elected King of Hungary in 1655, of Bohemia in 1656. Emperor Ferdinand III. died in 1657; in 1658 his son Leopold was elected Holy Roman Emperor. Such elections were costly, especially the last, as the event required the payment of considerable sums as bribes.
The years between 1648 and 1683 largely were a period of peace, interrupted by the Habsburg-Ottoman War of 1663-1664 and the Dutch War of Louis XIV. (1672-1678). In the former, Austria was supported by the Empire, in the latter, it received subsidies from the Dutch Republic.
In 1679 Austria suffered from the plague, in Vienna alone over 49,000 persons died.

Foreign Policy
Emperor Ferdinand III., following the Treaty of Westphalia 1648, pursued a policy of reclaiming Habsburg territory - the Bohemian Lands were under Swedish Occupation until 1650, when Sweden was paid her costs of occupation - and restoring Imperial authority over the Holy Roman Empire. An attempt to reform the structure of the Holy Roman Empire in 1653 failed.
Habsburg Austria experienced an extended period of peace; the Emperor was concerned about the FIRST NORTHERN WAR 1655-1660 and in 1656 contemplated sending Austrian troops to Italy where they were to support Spain against France; the troops mutinied and the plan was not implemented.
In 1657, Emperor Ferdinand III. died; he was succeeded by his second son Leopold who was elected Emperor in 1658, a costly election. In 1658 German princes founded the (first) Confederation of the Rhine, which France joined, and which was directed against the Habsburg dynasty.
In 1663 another Habsburg-Ottoman War broke out (-1664). Ottoman forces conquered the fortress of Neuhäsel in Upper Hungary (= Slovakia); Austrian forces won the Battle of Mogersdorf, were successful elsewhere. The peace treaty recognized the mutual conquests; a number of Hungarian nobles regarded the war a failed opportunity to liberate Hungary from Ottoman rule. In 1666 they entered into a conspiracy.
In 1668, Emperor Leopold signed a secret treaty with France which foresaw a French acquisition of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1671, a planned rebellion was uncovered in Hungary, Croatia and Styria; the leaders werre arrested and executed. In 1672 Emperor Leopold signed treaties of alliance with Brandenburg and the Dutch Republic, directed against France; in the ensuing Dutch War of Louis XIV. (1672-1678), Austrian troops avoided a direct confrontation with the French. In 1677, French troops conquered Freiburg (in Vorderösterreich).
In 1681, for the first time in years, Emperor Leopold I. called on the Hungarian diet to convene; the Emperor recognized the Hungarian privileges, while the diet paid homage to him. A number of nobles rebelling against Habsburg rule since 1679 (Kuruc Rebellion) called upon the Ottoman Sultan to come to their aid (Habsburg-Ottoman War 1683-1699).
In 1682 (Strassburg had fallen to the French in 1681) Emperor Leopold I. joined the Frankfurt Alliance of a number of German princes directed against French expansion. It remained ineffective, as Austria soon was distracted by the Ottoman threat.

Intellectual Life
Emperor Ferdinand III. (until 1657) continued to promote the Counterreformation, which, in the Austrian lands, was concluded during his reign; only small pockets of secret protestant communities, mainly in remote Alpine valleys, continued to exist (Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia). When the Swedes evacuated Bohemia in 1650, they obliged Emperor Ferdinand by treaty to respect the protestants confession of the Silesian Lutherans. He stuck to the letter of the treaty, but the Austrian administration was ingenious in finding ways in circumventing it, as it did in Hungary, where the Hungarian constitution, in theory, provided for religious toleration.
The Catholic clergy was influential; Augustinian monk Abraham a Sancta Clara, (1644-1709, civilian name Johann Ulrich Megerle), became court preacher; in 1680, following the plague epidemic of 1679, he published "Mercks, Wien" (remember, Vienna).
Churches, chapels, schools, palaces were constructed in Baroque style, the architects often being Italians (Domenico and Pietro Carlone, Carlo Carnevale). Construction of Palais Starhemberg in Vienna was begun in 1661. In 1651 the Komödienhaus in Vienna opened, a theatre were German language comedies were performed.
Emperor Leopold I. tried himself as a composer; he is regarded the most talented composer within the Habsburg dynasty. Vienna became the cultural center of the Holy Roman Empire, taking over that position from Munich. The marriage of Emperor Leopold I. to Margaretha Theresia of Spain in 1666 was celebrated by the premiere of "Il pomo d'oro" (the golden apple), a Baroque opera composed by Marc Antonio Cesti; the event is regarded the climax of the Baroque opera in Vienna.
In 1677, Emperor Leopold I. founded the University of Innsbruck.

Article Leopold I., from aeiou; from Wikipedia
Article Ferdinand III., from Wikipedia; from aeiou
Biography of Samuel Oppenheimer, from aeiou
Biography of Leopold I., from Karlsruher Türkenbeute, in German
Biography of Francesco Buonvisi, Nuntius in Austria 1675-1689, from BBKL, in German
Article Abraham a Sancta Clara, from Catholic Encyclopedia, from aeiou
REFERENCE Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815, Cambridge : UP 1994
Robert A. Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918, Berkeley : UP 1974
Werner Kleindel, Österreich, Daten zur Geschichte und Kultur, Wien : Ueberreuter 1978

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on December 17th 2003, last revised on September 22nd 2008

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