1648-1683 Charles VI. 1712-1740

Habsburg Dynasty, Austrian Line, 1683-1712

Domestic Policy
The Economy
Foreign Policy
Intellectual Life

Domestic Policy
Main factors determining Austrian domestic policy include the almost constant warfare during the period between 1683 and 1712 (peace lasted only from 1699 to 1702) and the necessity to increase state revenue in order to pay for the costs of these wars, the successes of the Habsburg armies, the unrelenting will of Leopold I. to continue the Counterreformation.
In order to procure increased contributions from the various Habsburg territories, Leopold I. relied on the territorial estates, dominated by the territorial nobility. In case of most Austrian and Bohemian Lands, the estates voted for increased contributions over a number of years - this modus vivendi between monarchy and territorial nobility may be described as a conspiracy of both against the territorial peasants and cities, who were burdened with the lion's share of the taxation. The territorial nobility, as far as they were loyal to the Habsburg dynasty, also actively supported the Counterreformation, most notably in Hungary.
The Bohemian peasants' revolt of 1692 and the Hungarian Kuruc Rebellion of 1703-1711 were caused by excessive taxation, and, in the latter cases, by Catholic attempts to pressurize Hungarian protestants into converting or emigrating. In 1700 - during the short period of peace - the Viennese mob turned on the city's Jews, most notably the household of Samuel Oppenheimer.

The state administration was still tied to the court in Vienna; attempts to centralize the administration of the many territories were limited in scope, as the dynasty continued to rely on the cooperation of the territorial estates.
In the latter days of King Leopold's rule, many positions in the administration were held by courtiers the competence of whom was questionable. Heir apparent Joseph had surrounded himself with a number of promising men, and early during the War of Spanish Succession managed to place a number of them in influential positions (most notably Pribce Eugene, and G. Starhemberg; the "Young Court"), which acted more energetic and with more confidence.

The Economy
State Finances : Austria, except for the brief period 1699 to 1702, was constantly at war, between 1689 and 1697 it even had to fight war on two fronts. War caused considerable, extraordinary costs; yet the financial administration of the Habsburg lands was inefficient, state revenues, even in peacetime, not matching state expenses. And the debt accumulated during the Thirty Years' War and the costly Imperial election of 1657 had also not yet been paid off.
Luckily, the Emperor was the recipient of foreign subsidies in all three of his major wars, an indirect subsidy from the pope in form of a permission to impose an extraordinary tax on the Austrian clergy, as well as a direct subsidy from the Holy Roman Empire, during the Habsburg-Ottoman War 1683-1699, subsidies paid by the Maritime Powers during the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-1697) and the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Emperor Leopold I. applied to the territorial estates for extraordinary contributions, to be paid for a number of years without the necessity to annually reapply, and the estates, most importantly Bohemia, complied. Leopold I. in return refrained from interfering in the authority of the estates, which were dominated by the regional nobility. In fact, the peasants and the cities were burdened with most of the increased taxation, a factor which contributed to a Bohemian peasant rising in 1692 and to the Kuruc Rebellion of 1703-1711 in Hungary, and Transylvania.
However, these sources of revenue proved insufficient; Leopold I. and his successor, Joseph I., continued to rely on creditors. The most important creditor was to be Samuel Oppenheimer, a Jew. Originally engaged in supplying the army, on January 1st he was arrested for alleged tax evasion and pressed to take on the obligation to supply the forces assembled to relieve besieged Vienna. Within a year he delivered arms, ammunition, gunpowder and provisions at a combined value of 187,000 fl. Emperor Leopold I. depended on Oppenheimer, but he, a devout Catholic and a supporter of the Counterreformation, he was anti-Semitic. In 1670 he had ordered all Jews to move out of Vienna; in 1700 (the war against the Ottoman Empire just had been concluded) a pogrom against Jews took place in Vienna, the main target being the house of Samuel Oppenheimer, who suffered a damage calculated at 100,000 fl. Oppenheimer died in Vienna in 1703; at the time of his death the Emperor owed him 6,000,000 fl., a sum which remained unpaid; the Oppenheimer enterprise went bankrupt.
Emperor Leopold I. lost creditworthyness; when he was succeeded by his son Joseph I. in 1705, the Wiener Stadtbank (Vienna City Bank) was founded, which took it upon herself to pay off the entire state debt within 15 years. This was to be accomplished by the revenues of the city of Vienna and by the administration of indirect taxes. Less a bank than the branch of a ministry of finances, it was closed down in 1745.

In 1684, Philipp Wilhelm von Hörnigk (Horneck, 1640-1715) published "Österreich über alles, wann es nur will" (Austria above all, whenever she wants), the outline of a mercantilistic policy suggested for Austria, a work which would be fundamental for subsequent Austrian economic policy. The first policy to be adopted by the administration of Leopold I. was the promotion of manufactures, a number of them state-run. This policy would later be developed as Cameralism, a Austrian version of Mercantilism which emphasized the role of the state as entrepreneur; such state-run manufactures usually were protected by a monopoly.
Joseph I. (1705-1711) would attempt reforms; he liberated the serfs in the Silesian Duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg and Wohlau (which he owned outright), a measure which resulted in a considerable increase in agricultural production - a result in line with contemporary mercantilistic theory. He suggested the nobility of his realm to do the same, but the territorial estates, dominated by the respective regional corporate nobility, blocked attempts to legislate the liberation of the serfs, and Joseph I. did not push the issue.
The policy of Transmigration, the forced resettlement of protestants from other regions of the Habsburg territories to Transylvania, is the result of a combination of Counterreformation and Mercantilistic policies; the Emperor agrees to the 'necessity' to expel them from their home areas, but Mercantilistic theory evaluates emigration as a net loss to the state economy. Having the protestants transmigrate to Transylvania, a Habsburg territory the constitution of which guarantees religious tolerance, in theory avoided that loss.

The Counterreformation caused effects contradicting the efforts of Mercantilistic politicians, disrupting a regional economy where pressure was put under pressure to convert or transmigrate (Protestants in mountain valleys of Carinthia, Styria, Lower Austria, in areas of 'liberated' Hungary; Jews). In areas 'liberated' from Ottoman rule during the Austro-Ottoman War 1683-1699, the regional population often sympathized with the Austrian side - until the proselytizing activity of Jesuit priests alienated many.
The excessive expenses of the Viennese court prevented any effort to balance the budget; nobles who accepted leading positions at the Viennese court, in state administration and in the army, could expect to be rewarded with a generous salary.

Agricultural production, in most areas of the Habsburg Empire, was sluggish; in the newly conquered territories, many farmsteads were deserted, in fact, even in Bohemia and Moravia, as late as the 1680s, some farmsteads were deserted. The taxation the peasants were burdened with increased as the wars required the estates to grant larger contributions; in addition, the nobles often demanded excessive corvee labour. The peasants were left with little incentive to produce, which resulted in mediocre harvests. Imperial Robot Patents, issued in order to protect the peasants against excessive demands for corvee labour, remained largely ineffective. Economic (Mercantilist) theorists suggested an improvement of the condition of the serfs; Joseph I. would implement the concept in the Silesian Duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg and Wohlau. In the remaining Habsburg territories, the nobility prevented any interference in what they regarded their affairs.
Similarly, many cities suffered from heavy taxation; many had not recovered from the damage caused by the 30 Years' war. To make matters worse, Imperial mercantilist policy aimed at undermining the monopolist position the urban guilds enjoyed within restricted areas.
One might say, the most prospering segment of the Austrian economy were the noble estates, many of which were large, with thousands of peasants. They benefitted from privileges, comparatively, low taxation. To their revenues a generous salary could be added, if the owner was in royal service, in state administration or in the army.

Foreign Policy
While France, virtually unopposed, pursued her policy of expansion, the so-called reunions, at the expense of territories in the western part of the Holy Roman Empire. At the request of rebellious Hungarians, the Ottoman Sultan in 1683 declared war on the Emperor and sent a large army under Kara Mustapha Pasha which laid siege to Vienna (Habsburg-Ottoman War 1683-1699). Vienna withstood a two month siege, which was lifted by relief armies from various regions of Germany and Poland, commanded by Polish King Jan Sobieski. In the subsequent war, the Imperial troops, allied with Poland and Venice in the Holy League of 1684, and supported by the Pope, defeated the Ottoman Empire. In 1684 Poland withdrew from the Hungarian theatre of war, concentrating on the reconquest of Podolia; in Pressburg (Pozsony/Bratislava) the Hungarian magnates paid homage to Emperor Leopold I. After the victorious (secind) Battle of Mohacs, on Oct. 27th 1687, Transylvania, in the Treaty of Blasendorf, recognized Imperial sovereignty (hitherto the country was an Ottoman vassall). The war was terminated by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, with the Ottoman Empire ceding Ottoman Hungary except the Banat, Slavonia and Transylvania to the Habsburg dynasty, Austrian line.
On August 15th 1684, the Emperor and France signed a truce in which the former recognized the French 'reunions' (annexations) undertaken so far. In 1686 Emperor Leopold I. signed an alliance with Brandenburg, directed against France. On July 9th 1687, Emperor Leopold I., Spain, Bavaria, Sweden and Saxony formed the Augsburg Alliance intended to maintain the situation as established by the Treaties of Westphalia (1648), Nijmegen (1679) and Regensburg (1684), thus also directed against France. Between 1689 and 1697, the War of the Grand Alliance was fought, against France, with the Emperor being a partner of the latter. The war with France resulted in the weakening of the fighting force in Hungary; the Austrian forces posed against the French accomplished little; the major importance of the War of the Grand Alliance, for Austria, lay in subsidies the Maritime Powers paid to the Viennese court. The Treaty of Rijswijk (1697) had no impact on the territorial possessions of the Austrian line of the Habsburg dynasty.
In 1700, King Carlos II. of Spain died without a son. International agreements foresaw a Bavarian prince inheriting Spain, while King Louis XIV. of France was claiming the Spanish possessions in Italy. Yet the Emperor claimed the entire Spanish heritage for his second son Charles. Now France supported the candidature of Bourbon prince Philip for the Spanish crown; the Maritime Powers, fearing an increase in French power, sided with Habsburg prince Charles ( War of Spanish Succession). The Emperor again received subsidies and military aid. In the Battle of Höchstädt 1704, the Franco-Bavarian alliance was defeated, the French expelled from southern Germany, Bavaria occupied by an Austrian force. In 1705 Emperor Leopold I. died, succeeded by his son Joseph I. Since 1703, a Hungarian rebellion, the so-called Kuruc Rebellion, was in progress; temporarily the rebels controlled most of Upper Hungary.
On Oct. 14th 1705, Spaniards paid homage to King Carlos III. in Barcelona. (Charles, brother of Emperor Joseph I.) The heavy contributions collected in occupied Bavaria caused the population to rebel; the Bavarian Rebellion (1705-1706) was crushed. In 1706 Austria used the subsidies paid by the Maritime Powers to finance a campaign which ousted the French from Italy, much to the displeasure of the Maritime Powers, as Italy had a low priority for them and the French withdrawal from Italy permitted them to concentrate on Spain. In 1706 Austria secured Milan and Naples. In 1708 Emperor Joseph I. deposed the pro-French Duke of Mantua and added the territory to the Habsburg possessions.
Spain was contested, with Barcelona being the stronghold of Carlos III. and his supporters, while Madrid favoured Philip V.
The death of Emperor Joseph I. (1711) drastically altered the diplomatic situation, as Carlos III., contender for the crown of Spain, now, as Charles VI. inherited the Austrian, Bohemian and Hungarian possessions of his brother. The Maritime Powers, not interested in such a concentration of power in one hand, lost their interest in pursuing the war. In Spain, the Bourbon Party now won the upper hand. In 1711, following Austrian victories over the Kuruc rebels, the Treaty of Szatmar was signed, restoring Habsburg rule over Hungary and Transylvania, while guaranteeing Hungarian and Transylvanian privileges.

Intellectual Life
Counterreformation Culture : Court preacher Abraham a Sancta Clara (1644-1709, civilian name Johann Ulrich Megerle), an Augustinian, was of considerable influence; he published numerous sermons, in 1683 "auf, auf, ihr Christen", in which he called upon christianity to join the struggle against the Turks. "Judas, der Erzschelm" (Judas, the archknave, 1686-1695) is regarded his masterpiece. While most of his publications were written in German, he also published in Latin.
The Ottoman attack in 1683, the siege of Vienna caused considerable destruction and, once Vienna and the area surrounding her was secured, provided the opportunity for reconstruction; the conquest of Ottoman Hungary equally provided such an opportunity, as entire cities had to be planned, fortified, administrative edifices had to be built. Many Catholic churches also were built, with Habsburg rule came the Counterreformation.
In Vienna, Palais Lobkowitz was constructed 1685-1687. In 1687 Vienna got her first street lighting; already in 1685 Vienna established a professional fire brigade, the first in Europe. 1687-1693 the pest column (Vienna) was constructed, 1694-1706 Palais Liechtenstein, 1695-1702 Vienna Palace of Prince Eugene, 1697-1728 Palais Schwarzenberg. The prevalent art style is Baroque; in the earlier phase, Italian architects were employed, later Austrians. The Bohemian Chancery in Vienna was constructed 1708-1714.
In 1692, Peter Strudel founded a private school of arts, a predecessor of the Academy of the Arts (1773).
In 1709 the theatre at the Carinthian Gate (Vienna) was opened. In Viennese theatres, plays in German as well as in Italian or French were performed. The Viennese court regarded German as a crude language and increasingly preferred French and Italian; however, Emperor Leopold I. tried himself as a composer, not without success. He had composed the music to a German-language comedy, Der thörichte Schäffer (the dumb shepherd) which had premiere in 1683.
In 1703 the Wiennerisches Diarium, a byweekly German language Vienna-based newspaper, began publication, predecessor of the Wiener Zeitung of 1780.

Article Prinz Eugen von Savoyen, from aeiou
Article Joseph I., from aeiou
Article Leopold I., from aeiou
Article on Samuel Oppenheimer, posted by Daniel E. Loeb (genealogy), by 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
War of Spanish Succession, from aeiou
Prinz Eugen, der edle Ritter, by Armin Preuss, extensive biography of Prince Eugene of Savoy, commander of the Austrian forces in the war against the Turks, in German
Türkenbelagerung 1683, from Stadt Wien : Geschichte, 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
Biography of Leopold I., from Karlsruher Türkenbeute, in German
DOCUMENTS Image : cover page of Hörnigh's "Österreich über alles, wann es nur will" (1684), posted by aeiou
Documents on the History of Austria, from Eurodocs
Turkish plan of the Siege of Vienna 1683, from Stadt Wien : Geschichte
Map : Vienna, Turkish Siege, Vienna, Turkish Siege from Mappe di Citta Italiane ed altre mappe antiche diverse
Ottoman Declaration of War on the Emperor Leopold, 1683, from Hillsdale
Report on the siege of Vienna 1683, from Hillsdale
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
Selma Stern, The Court Jew, A Contribution to the History of Absolutism in Europe, NY (1950) : Transaction Books 1985, especially pp.16-32, 34-37 (on Samuel Oppenheimer)

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on December 17th 2003, last evised on September 21st 2008

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics