History 231

                                                      The Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918

                                                           First Semester, 2004-2005

                                                                   Reed Browning



This course is designed to introduce students who have some familiarity with the outline of European events during the past 500 years to the history of the complex entity conventionally called – for want of a better term – the Habsburg Empire.  It is the central European realm governed finally from Vienna and often, in its own day, simply called Austria.  The course has two large theses.  The first argues that the conventional notion that England and France represent the only two significant paths of constitutional development in post-medieval European history is misconceived, and that the Habsburg example points up the fact that there was yet another way in which Europe’s political arrangements might have worked themselves out – the way that has been called the “composite state.”  (For those who seek “relevance” in the study of history, it may be apt to note that if the European Union becomes a state in the coming decades, it will almost surely accept a constitutional pattern closer to the Habsburg model than to the British, French, or American models.)  The second thesis argues that this composite state, by virtue of its complexity, ramshackledness, and decentralized constitution, was not able – and in fact had little incentive – to behave aggressively on the international scene, and that it was therefore that most unusual of political entities, a state that in general engaged in war only when attacked.


Having said all that (and having, I hope, piqued your curiosity), I need to note immediately that, in more ways than is customary, this course is shaped by the kinds of readings that are (or, more accurately, are not) readily available in paperback. It’s true that I’m not unhappy with the full attention that political history gets in this syllabus.  I love political history, and it is as fascinating when it occurs in Austria as it is in Britain or France.  I’m delighted too that I have an excuse to turn the class’s attention to music and art.  Both are great subjects, with particular Austrian wrinkles.  But of social history, ethnic history, gender history, religious history (apart from its political consequences), and biographical studies there will be little – even though the Habsburg realm was socially complex, ethnically diverse (to put it mildly), marked by important differences in assumptions about gender, deeply committed to Roman Catholicism in its core lands, and capable of generating an array of truly interesting characters.  The curious class member may want to look to these fields for possible research essay topics.  Moreover, I’d like to be able to spend more time with the first two centuries of the course, but again because the paperback sources just aren’t available, we’ll move more quickly than I’d prefer to the nineteenth century.  Finally, I haven’t been able to find a reading to work out the implications of the antithesis between a composite state and a unified state.  So we’ll just have to work them out for ourselves.  But that ought to make the course more fun.


I’m deliberately varying formats as the semester proceeds.  We’ll see two operas on film on Sunday evenings. (By way of compensation, I’ll drop sessions in the preceding weeks and assign no reading for those weeks either.  But attendance at the films is obligatory.)  In the week of November 9-11 we’ll run a model Constitutional Convention.  (More on that later.) I will take attendance, and I expect students to attend all sessions of the class, which is why it’s important that you confirm before joining the class that you will be able to attend the two Sunday evening operas.  Non-attendance (without a dean’s excuse) on one of the Sunday opera evenings will result in a lowering of the grade in course by one full step (e.g., B+ to C+).


I think that the course, though still somewhat experimental, will be much fun.  It’s a subject I love, and since I’ve taught it on two earlier occasions, it’s not completely uncharted territory.




Books to be purchased:


Paula Sutter Fichtner, The Habsburg Empire: From Dynasticism to Multinationalism

Charles Ingrao, The Habsburg Empire, 16218-1815

Andrew Morton, A Nervous Splendor      

Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March

Carl Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna        




Getting the Course Launched:


August 28:         Organizational meeting


Unit 1 - The Turkish Challenge: The Defense of Christendom, 1526-1606


Reading:            Students choose their own sources: 500-word biography of Charles V


August 31:         Getting organized; then the Rise of the Habsburgs [instructor]


September 2:      Discussion – 500-word biography of Charles V due


Unit 2 - The Protestant Challenge: The Defense of Catholicism, 1526-1648


Reading:            Charles Ingrao, The Habsburg Empire, 1618-1815, 23-52


September 7:      Reports on:


Austria today

The Czech Republic today

Hungary today


September 9:      Discussion


First Interlude -A Tour of the Habsburg Lands, in Pictures, Maps, and Reports


No reading assignment


September 14:    Surveying the realm [instructor]


September 16:    Reports on several historical regions



The Tyrol




Unit 3 - The Great Power Challenge: The Age of Heroes (Heldenzeitalter), 1648-1739


Reading:            Charles Ingrao, 53-149


September 21:    Reports on:                                                       


Raimondo Montecuccoli

Prince Eugene of Savoy

Baroque architecture in Austria and Bohemia [instructor]


September 23:                Discussion                                                        


Second Interlude - Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)


No reading assignment


September 28:    no class


September 30:    Lecture and discussion: What is opera? [instructor]


October 3 (Sunday):       Viewing of Die Zauberflöte


Unit 4 -The Modernization Challenge: Enlightened Absolutism, 1740-92


Reading:            Charles Ingrao, 150-219


October 5:         Reports on:


Josef Sonnenfels

Prince Kaunitz                                                   

Gottfried van Swieten


October 7:         Discussion


Unit 5 - The Revolutionary Challenge, 1792-1815


Reading:            Charles Ingrao, 220-42

Paula Sutter Fichtner, The Habsburg Empire, 14-26


October 12:       October Break


October 14:       Discussion


Unit 6 - The German Challenge: Grosses oder Kleines Deutschland?, 1815-66


Reading:            Paula Sutter Fichtner, 27-61


October 19:       Reports on:


Archduke Charles

The cuisines of the Habsburg Empire

What is Biedermeier?                                                     


October 21:       Discussion



Unit 7 - The Hungarian Challenge: Ausgleich, 1866-1914


Reading:            Paula Sutter Fichtner, 62-106

Andrew Morton, A Nervous Splendor


October 26:       Reports on:


Anti-Semitism in Austria

Sigmund Freud                                                 

The Hungarian language


October 28:       Discussion



Third Interlude - Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (The Bat)


No reading assignment


November 2:      no class


November 4:      no class


November 7:      (Sunday):         Viewing of Die Fledermaus




Fourth Interlude - Counterfactualism: the Constitutional Challenge


No reading assignment


November 9:      The Constitutional Convention, Part I


November 11:    The Constitutional Convention, Part II


Unit 8 - The Cultural Challenge: Viennese Modernism I


Reading:            Carl Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna


November 16:    5-10 minute reports on:


Hugo von Hofmansthal

Gustav Klimt

Oskar Kokoschka

Gustav Mahler

Egon Schiele

Arthur Schnitzler

Arnold Schönberg                                                         


November 18:    Discussion


Unit 9 - The Cultural Challenge: Viennese Modernism II


Reading:            Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March


November 30:    Sampling the art and music of Modernist Vienna [instructor]


December 2:      Discussion


****December 3 [Friday]          Research Essay due****


Unit 10 - The Invincible Challenge: Nationalism in the Great War, 1914-1918


Reading:            Paula Sutter Fichtner, 107-17


December 7:      Reports on:


Robert Musil                                                     

The assassination at Sarajevo

The Habsburgs since 1918


December 9:      Discussion


December 14:    Reports on recent events in three successor states:



The Czech Republic




Please keep the following points in mind:


1.                  The research essay is due on Friday, December 3.  The subject of the essay is finally your choice, but I urge you to consult with me before launching work upon it.  You may submit either a traditional term essay or a non-traditional paper (e.g., a short story or a play script, grounded in a good understanding of the subject/period/person you are focusing on).  I do not grant unpenalized extensions, except when the request for an extension is supported by a dean.


2.                  Each member of the class will give at least one oral report this semester.  It is imperative for the success of the course that you be prepared to present your special reports on the days they are scheduled.  They should not exceed 15 minutes in length, and on November 16 they should be shorter still.  Additional time for Q&A will follow. Please have a handout prepared for your report – something (an outline, a map, a chart, anything that might help in visualizing your subject) that class members can add to their portfolios (see point 5 below).  Some of you may choose to give a second oral report; if you do, it counts for extra credit.


3.                  All students will hand in a brief (500-word) biography of Charles V on September 2.  The essay should briefly provide life information about this important ruler but be chiefly concerned with identifying the central achievements/problems/interests of the reign of his reign.


4.                  On two occasions students will provide accounts and analyses of what is happening now (in 2004) in three successor states: Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.  These will acquaint us with the circumstances of politics and culture in the areas that constituted the core of the Habsburg realm. 


5.                  I will regularly take attendance, and your attendance record is an aspect of my judgment of your contribution to the element of the grade (see point 5 below) that is comprehended by “informed participation in discussion.”  In particular, please note that attendance at the opera videos (October 3 and November 7: both are Sundays) is required absence will result in a reduction of course grade.  Therefore, be sure you have the two Sunday nights on which the videos will be shown free from other responsibilities.


6.                  I do not believe that it makes much sense to have a traditional final exam in this course.  Instead, as the semester proceeds I’ll ask each student to assemble a portfolio of materials related to the course.  Elements of this portfolio should include: 1) the course syllabus; 2) notes taken on various class discussions and lectures; 3) notes taken on reports; 4) handouts supplied by reporters; 5) handouts from the instructor; 6) any other sheets I may distribute in class or via e-mail; 7) other items that may catch your attention over the next four months (e.g., newspaper articles, book reviews, etc -- You should be looking for them throughout the semester).  When the course is over, I’ll ask you to submit the portfolios to me so that I can assess them.  They should be well organized.  I’ll pay particular attention to the notes you’ve taken and, in general, look for evidence that you’ve been attentive to the various components of the course.  I’ll then return the portfolios, with the hope that they will be useful to you in future years as a reference point for triggering further interest in the history of the former Habsburg lands.



7.                  The course grade will be determined by the following formula:


Biography essay (Charles V)                 15%

One in-class report                               15%

Informed participation in discussions      20%

Research essay                                     25%

Portfolio                                               25%


8.                   If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your ability to carry out assigned course work, I would urge that you contact the Office of Disability Services at 5453.  The Coordinator of Disability Services, Erin Salva (salvae@kenyon.edu), will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are appropriate.  All information and documentation of disability is confidential.


9.                  My regular office hours will be from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  If those are not convenient, we can schedule a meeting for a time that better suits your schedule. My office is Seitz 9. (It’s on the second floor.)  My office phone is 5642.  My home phone is 427-3155.


10.              My e-mail address is browninr@kenyon.edu.  I tend to leave my e-mail open, so I’m readily reachable.  The registrar will set up a distribution list for the class that we can all use for the sharing of ideas about the course and readings.  It is your responsibility to keep your account active.


11.              I do not tolerate plagiarism.  It is the most serious infringement of trust and comity in an academic community.  Please consult the Student Handbook for a discussion of it.  If you have questions about it, please feel free to come see me with them.


12.              I encourage the use of foreign languages in student research work.  I realize that few students will be proficient in reading Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, or Swedish, or any of the more exotic languages of the Habsburg realm, and so I’ll be pleased to make significant adjustments in expectations if anyone wants to try to do some of the reading for the research essay in a language other than English.  I will also accept term essays written in Dutch, French, German, Italian, or Spanish, if you would like to push yourself by writing in a language other than English.  (I should add that I’ll be grading such papers for content, not for grammar.)