Austrian Netherlands
Joseph II.

The Austrian Netherlands under Maria Theresia, 1740-1780

A.) International Relations

The Austrian Netherlands again were theatre of war in the WAR OF AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION (1741-1748); in 1745-1748, French troops took large parts of the country. In fact, Austria had withdrawn most of its forces from the southern Netherlands to defend Silesia against the Prussians. The allied Austrians, British and Dutch troops were defeated by the French in the BATTLE OF FONTENOY (May 11th 1745) and the BATTLE OF ROCOURT (Oct. 11th 1746). In the PEACE OF AIX-LA-CHAPELLE (Aachen, 1748), Austrian rule over the southern Netherlands was recognized. The 7 YEARS WAR (1756-1763) was, for the Austrian Netherlands, a peaceful affair, as Austria and France were allied.
In 1745-1748 Austria was unable to defend the region against France, and Netherlands' interests were only of secondary nature to the policy of Vienna.

B.) Economic Development

After the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), the Austrian government encouraged the establishment of manufacturies in many sectors, such as metallurgy and glassmaking, the energy for which was supplied by watermills in the valleys of the Maas and Sambre. Efforts were undertaken to improve the infrastructure; the CANAL RUPEL-LEUVEN (1752) connected Leuven and Oostende and thus circumvented the Schelde Blockade. Industries producing articles of luxury emerged - copperworks at Mechelen, a porcelain manufacture at Brussels, carpet-weaving manufacturies at Tournai and at Brussels, manufactures turning out lace at Brugge, Brussels and Mechelen.

C.) Society

The Austrian Netherlands was a federation of territories - BRABANT, FLANDERS, HAINAUT, NAMUR, LIMBURG, LUXEMBURG, each of which had its own tradition, laws, identity; two languages are spoken in the country. When Karl von Cobenzl became minister plenipotentiary in Vienna (1753), enlightened absolutism began. His policy intended to promote centralization and to limit the influence of the church.
The first Freemason lodge in Belgium was founded in Mons in 1721; in 1770 a Great Lodge of the Austrian Netherlands was formed. In 1760 freemasonry had been outlawed in the adjacent Prince-Bishopric of Liege.
In 1772 Maria Theresia founded the IMPERIAL AND ROYAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCE AND LITERATURE in Brussels. In 1775 in Gent the MAISON DE FORCE was opened, a modern prison based on the ideas Viscount J.J. Philippe Vilain, burgomaster of Aalst, had published in his Notes on the means of correcting evildoers and idlers (published 1771, memoires sur les moyens de corriger lesmalfaiteurs et les faineants).

The Austrian Netherlands, in : Article The Netherlands, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition; scroll down
The Ancien Regime, from Life in Flanders in the 18th and 19th Centuries by Marcel Blanchaer
De Slag van Lafelt 1747, (Battle of Lafelt) from Gemeente Riemst
Vrijmetselarij (Freemasonry), from Geschiedenis van de occulte en mystieke broederschappen by Marcel Roggemans
History of the Duchy of Bouillon, from Heraldica
Geschiedenis van Brussel : De Oostenrijkers in Brussel (1700-1790), from Digitaal Brussel, in Dutch
Bruno Blonde, Ilja van Damme, Consumer and Retail "Revolutions", Perspectives from a Declining Urban Economy. Antwerp in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century, IEHC 2006
DOCUMENTS Map Southern Netherlands in the 18th century, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis / Mees, Historische Atlas 1865
Coins of the Austrian Netherlands, 1744-1797, from Coins of Austria, many images
Map : Les sept Provinces Unies des Pays-Bas, ou la Hollande avec les Pays-Bas Autrichiens, from Bonne, Atlas Encyclopedique, 1787-1788, low resolution
List of coins minted for the Austrian Netherlands under Charles VI., Maria Theresia, Maria Theresia (cont.)
Documents relatifs au duche de Bouillon, 1484-1825, from Heraldica, in French
Les dessins a la sanguine des medailles du regne de Louis XV attribues a Edme Bouchardon, posted by Archives Monetaires, French language site posting images of medals minted under Louis XV.; nos. 83-86, 97-102, 107 on military accomplishments in the Aust. Netherlands
Journael van alle het voorgevallene zedert (gedurende) de beleegering te Sas van Gent in den jaere 1747. (Journal of all that has happened since (during) the siege of Sas van Gent in the year 1747), posted by Heemkundige Kring Sas van Gent, in Dutch
Edict van Maria-Theresia 1778 inzake de registers van dopen, trouwen en begraven (Edict by Maria Theresia 1778, concerning the registration of baptisms, marriages and burials), from Regelgeving in de Nederlanden (Herman de Wit), in Dutch
REFERENCE H.P.H. Jansen, Kalendarium. Geschiedenis van de Lage Landen in Jaartallen (History of the Low Countries by Years), Utrecht : Prisma (1971) 4th edition 1979
Memo from Belgium. Documents illustrating the History of Belgium, Vol.1 : from prehistoric times to 1830, Brussels 1978 : docs 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 122, 123, 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 134
Le Regime Autrichien (1713-1792), pp. 115-123 in : Atlas Culturel et Historique de Belgique, Brussels : Elsevier 1954
L. van Ruckelingen, Geschiedenis der Oostenrijksche Nederlanden. Maria Theresia, 1740-1780. Antwerpen : J.P. van Dieren, 4th edition, undated (c.1859) (History of the Austrian Netherlands : Maria Theresia, 1740-1780) 137 pp.

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First posted in 2000, last revised on June 18th 2008

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