Book Review of Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy

Michael Hochedlinger. Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy. Modern Wars in Perspective series. London: Longman, 2003. ISBN 9780582290846. Tables. Maps. Bibliographical notes. Index. Pp. xviii, 466.

HochedlingerThere are many surveys of Austria and the Habsburg monarchy covering the early modern period. However, few of these studies contain detailed discussions of Austria’s war efforts. Dr Michael Hochedlinger, Senior Archivist at the Austrian State Archives, fills this gap in historiography with an outstanding study of the Habsburg Monarchy’s government and society stressing the military and wars in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hochedlinger was formerly the Head of the Early Modern Section at the Research Department of the Army Museum in Vienna.

This study covers domestic and foreign policy issues, including administrative institutions, state finances, home defense, the standing army, geopolitics, war, and the modernization of the Habsburg Monarchy. Hochedlinger stresses that “Austria rose to European great-power status almost by accident: first, as a by-product of the Maritime Powers’ struggle with France in which the Habsburg Monarchy proved a very useful continental ally and second, through a spectacularly successful Turkish War….” (p.1). The author’s central focus is on the primacy of power politics. As such, Hochedlinger examines Austria’s rise to Great Power status. He begins with the Habsburg Monarchy’s military struggles against the Ottoman Empire  in the Great Turkish War (1683-99) and Austro-Turkish War (1716-18), as well as conflicts against Louis XIV’s France in the Nine Years’ War (1688-97) and War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). The Habsburg Monarchy under Emperor Leopold I (1658-1705) acquired territory in Hungary, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slavonia in the Peace of Karlowitz (1699). Transylvania, although nominally independent, became subject to the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1714, Austria under Emperor Charles VI (1711-40) gained Naples, Milan, Sardinia, and the southern Netherlands (Austrian Netherlands) from Spain as well as Freiburg and other small areas along the eastern French border in the Peace of Rastatt. Then, in 1718, the Habsburgs gained the Banat and parts of Syrmia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia from the Ottomans in the Peace of Passarowitz. At that point in time, the Habsburg Empire reached its largest territorial extent in history. Austria would soon swap Sardinia for Sicily in the Peace of The Hague (1720) ending the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-20) with Spain.

Hochedlinger next tackles Austria’s crises in the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35/38), Austro-Turkish War (1737-39), and War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48). He points out that the Habsburg Monarchy lacked the political, fiscal, and military infrastructure to sustain the earlier successes of 1683 to 1718 (p.205).  In the first conflict, the Habsburg Monarchy attempted to fight off a coalition of France, Spain, and Sardinia-Piedmont, which attempted to turn back the rising power of Austria. Louis XV’s France took Lorraine while Philip V of Spain regained control of Naples and Sicily. The war ended in 1735, but the final Peace of Vienna was signed in 1738. In this settlement Austria gained Parma while Carlos of Parma (the future Carlos III of Spain) acquired Naples and Sicily. Francis Stephen, the Duke of Lorraine (the future Emperor Francis I), was given the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as compensation for the loss of Lorraine. In the second conflict, Charles VI supported the Habsburg alliance with Russia and entered an ongoing Russo-Ottoman war (1736-39). The Austrians were defeated by the Turks several times, losing Belgrade in a siege in 1739. The Habsburgs signed a separate settlement in the Peace of Belgrade (1739) ceding Belgrade and Serbia, the southern part of the Banat of Temeswar (Timișoara), and northern Bosnia to the Ottoman Empire and Oltenia to Wallachia. With the death of Charles VI in 1740, the War of the Austrian Succession broke out when Frederick II of Prussia challenged Habsburg power by refusing to uphold the Pragmatic Sanction, an agreement that allowed Maria Theresa of Austria (1740-80) to succeed to the hereditary possessions of the Habsburgs, by invading Silesia. The conflict grew and raged on, gradually involving Austria, Britain, the Dutch Republic, Russia, and Sardinia-Piedmont against Prussia, France, Spain, Bavaria, Sweden, Sicily, Naples, and Genoa. The Habsburg Monarchy survived the conflict, one which threatened its very existence, losing Silesia to Prussia in the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). Austria also ceded Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla in Italy to Spain.

Austria sought revenge for the loss of Silesia. After the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, the Habsburg Monarchy, now allied with France, Russia, and Sweden, fought Prussia once again over Silesia in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63). Frederick II was supported by an Anglo-Hanoverian alliance. Prussian military victories, British financial support, along with Russia and Sweden’s withdrawal from the conflict (1762) were important factors that led to Prussia keeping Silesia in the Peace of Hubertusberg (1763). Austria, however, joined Prussia and Russia in carving up the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the First Partition of Poland (1772). Austria took Galacia. This was followed by the annexation of Bukovina in 1775. After this diplomatic success, Emperor Joseph II (1764-90), whose domestic reforms made Austria a Great Power in its own right, attempted to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate. Prussia and Saxony opposed the idea, resulting in the brief War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-79). Austria gained the Bavarian Innviertel in the Peace of Teschen (1779) that ended the conflict. In the subsequent exchange project of 1784-85, Joseph II again attempted to trade the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria. This time, France, Prussia, and the Fürstenbund (German League of Princes) stayed the attempt. In the meantime, Joseph II negotiated and established an alliance with Catherine II of Russia (1781). This alliance led to a joint Austro-Russian war against the Ottoman Empire in 1788. Austria gained little in territory in the Peace of Svištov (1791).

The French Revolution led to war. In the War of the First Coalition (1792-97), the Habsburg Monarchy was aligned with Britain, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, Sardinia-Piedmont, the Dutch Republic and other states against Revolutionary France. Prussia, Spain, the Dutch Republic (Batavian Republic), and Sardinia-Piedmont would break from the coalition by 1795-96. French military victories led to Austria accepting the Peace of Campo Formio (1797). In this treaty, the Habsburg Monarchy gave up the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), and recognized French control over the German Rhineland and most of Italy. France and Austria partitioned the Republic of Venice. Even so, in the midst of this conflict, Austria had gained more Polish territory (West Galacia) in the Third Partition of Poland (1795).

Austria’s Wars of Emergence 1683-1797 is an excellent survey of the Habsburg Monarchy’s government, finances, and war efforts from the Great Turkish War to the War of the First Coalition. It explores the growth and government of a Great Power in Central Europe, focusing on territorial expansion and the struggle to main that status.  The study is valuable for understanding Austria and its place in the European states system during this era. It is highly recommended to students and scholars interested in international relations and military history.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

About William Young

Dr William Young is a retired historian with more than 30 years of experience in teaching and research. He has 18 years of teaching experience at the University of North Dakota and Valley City State University. Moreover, he was a historian in the United States Air Force History Program for 15 years. He possesses a doctoral degree in international and military history and master’s degrees in history and international relations. Young is the author of German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945 (2006), International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great (2004), and European War and Diplomacy, 1337-1815 (2003). He has also written 42 official Air Force unit histories, two monographs, and other studies. Young is the recipient of many history awards, including three U.S. Air Force Historian of the Year Awards and a U.S. Air Force History Program of the Year Award. He has studied and worked for 13 years overseas in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. He has traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. His hobbies include collecting and reading history books and attending college ice hockey games.
This entry was posted in Austrian Foreign Policy, Austrian Military History, Austro-Turkish War (1716-1718), Austro-Turkish War (1737-1739), Austro-Turkish War (1787-1791), Book Reviews, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Europe in the 18th Century (1713-1789), Nine Years War (1688-1697), Ottoman Wars, Seven Years War (1756-1763), War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), War of the Holy League (1683-1699), War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738), War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720), War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713/14) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review of Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy

  1. William Young says:

    Reblogged this on Military History and commented:

    Great study of the Austrian Habsburg Monachy in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century focusing on war and diplomacy.

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