Großmacht der Barockzeit
Austria, Great Power in 18th century Europe
Great Power of the Baroque Age: The period after the Thirty Years' War was characterised by a decline of the power of the Emperor and the ascendancy of the local rulers in the Holy Roman Empire. Even the Habsburg emperors themselves focused on the external security and internal consolidation of their own hereditary lands rather than on safeguarding the interests of the Empire.
The Ottoman Empire continued to be the most powerful neighbour. It was probably on account of manifold internal problems that it had not interfered in the Thirty Years' War. The threat to Austria came to a head again when the Ottoman Empire sought to subdue Transylvania around 1660. In 1664 a Christian army led by Count Raimund Montecuccoli for the first time succeeded in vanquishing the enemy at Mogersdorf-Sankt Gotthard, prompting Emperor Leopold I to carry the Counter-Reformation to Hungary. This resulted in conspiracies on the part of Hungarian noblemen (Magnates' Conspiracy), which were suppressed by the Imperial Court when the leading conspirators were executed in 1671. Unrest in Hungary persisted up to the great Turkish War 1683-1699 (Turkish Wars).
The second half of the 17th century was marked by the end of the Counter-Reformation. All noticeable remnants of Protestantism were eliminated and many people forced to emigrate, and a large number of pilgrimage centres were founded to promote and strengthen the Catholic faith. Mariazell in Styria was turned into the foremost destination for pilgrimages, and new centres were created at Maria Taferl, on Sonntagberg hill, near Gutenstein and at Maria Dreieichen near Horn (all in Lower Austria), on Pöstlingberg hill near Linz in Upper Austria and at Pöllau in Styria.
Political power was concentrated in the hands of a few families with considerable incomes that permitted them to finance splendid Baroque buildings. The aristocracy also stimulated economic activity such as the foundation of factories and the transformation of landed property into manufacturing domains. While many of these enterprises were successful, such as that undertaken by Ferdinand Sigmund Count Kurz at Horn, others failed or were involved in cases of corruption, such as Georg Ludwig Count Sinzendorf at Walpersdorf. In line with mercantilist doctrine (mercantilism), economic activity became the main focus of interest. Scholars like Johann Joachim Becher or Wilhelm von Schröder developed complex theories on how to further develop business, but the practical implementation of these theories initially met with difficulties. Yet another leading personality in this context was Philipp Wilhelm von Hörnigk, who gave expression to the prevailing optimistic belief in the success of economic policy with the slogan "Austria above all - if she only wants" ("Österreich über alles, wann es nur will"). Major setbacks were suffered on account of the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna under Emperor Leopold I in 1669-1670 (when the ghetto was converted into a settlement thenceforth called Leopoldstadt) and the severe plague epidemic of 1679.
The military situation in Hungary escalated in due course. The Ottoman rulers lent their support to the Kuruc king Imre Tököli (known in Austria as Emmerich Thököly von Késmark and, in 1683, organised the last major advance of an Ottoman army towards the west. Under the command of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa the second Turkish Siege of Vienna, began on July 14, 1683 and the area around Vienna was laid waste by the Tartars. While the defenders of the beleaguered city held out against the enemy, an army under the supreme command of the Polish King Jan III Sobieski on September 12 descended from Kahlenberg hill and vanquished the Ottoman troops, thus initiating the reconquest of Hungary from the Turks.
In the same year, 1683, the Imperial troops began their Hungarian campaign, which was highly successful in subsequent years. Buda was conquered on September 9, 1686, Transylvania was occupied and claimed for the Habsburgs, the Imperial army advanced to southern Serbia, where Belgrade was conquered in 1689 and the Ottomans vanquished at Niš. After some temporary setbacks the new commander of the Imperial army, Prince Eugène of Savoy won the decisive victory in the battle of Zenta on September 11, 1697. By the peace of Carlowitz all of Hungary except for the Banat and Transylvania was acquired by the Habsburgs. Now the Austrian Habsburgs felt strong enough to fight France over succession to the possessions of their Spanish relations (War of the Spanish Succession).
After 1648 the Austrians, as supporters of the Habsburg Emperors, had waged several wars against France in defence of the Empire, but had rarely been able to achieve political success. Alsace including Strasbourg fell to France, which also succeeded in gaining advantages in the Spanish Netherlands. When the Spanish line of the Habsburgs died out in 1700, the Austrians claimed their estate even though the last Spanish king, Carlos II, had devised his realm to his closer relatives, the Bourbons. With the support of England and the Netherlands, Karl, Emperor Leopold I's younger son, tried to establish himself in Spain while his elder brother, Joseph I fought in Italy, Germany and the Low Countries. Though the allies gained several victories, none of them was decisive. When Joseph I died in 1711 and Karl VI was to inherit the emperorship and the Austrian lands, he lost the support of the Western Powers and had to resign himself to making peace, which was concluded at Rastatt and (for the Empire) at Baden. The Austrians were recognised as rulers of the former Spanish possessions of the Southern Netherlands (Belgium), Naples and Sardinia (later Sicily), Milan and Mantua. When Prince Eugène conquered Belgrade in a new Turkish War in 1717 the Habsburg possessions reached their largest extension in 1718 after the Peace of Passarowitz.
Karl VI wanted to pass on all of his Habsburg kingdoms and lands to his family, even though he did not have a male heir. By means of the Pragmatic Sanction promulgated in 1714, which had been recognised by all of the Estates by 1722, he was able to ensure that all these possessions descended without partition even to female heirs. In external affairs, however, this success could not be attained without compromises which further impaired the power of the Emperor. This was clearly demonstrated in the course of the war of the Polish Succession in 1733-1735, when Naples and Sicily were lost, and in a further Turkish War in 1737-1739, which resulted in the loss of Belgrade and Northern Serbia.
The period after the successful defence against the Turkish threat was characterised by a spate of building (Baroque), which was only partly due to the need to repair the damage done by the Ottoman invaders. Much more importantly, it was the desire of the upper classes, and also the Church, to display their wealth and influence that caused them to commission buildings of unprecedented splendour. The leading architects of the era included Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and his son Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandtin Vienna and Salzburg, Jakob Prandtauerin western Lower Austria and in Upper Austria and Johann Michael Prunner in Upper Austria. Frescoes were painted by such artists as Troger, D. Gran, M. Altomonte and B. Altomonte and F. A. Maulbertsch.
Economic growth was supported by the construction of a network of roads, which also served the postal system, and the establishment of factories and Manufakturen such as a chinaware workshop that was later to become the Viennese Porzellanmanufaktur Augarten. In the Waldviertel region Johann Christoph Ferdinand Count Mallenthein tried to establish a textile industry, which was, however, bound to fail when the Emperor was forced, out of consideration for England, to abolish the Ostend Company (Trading Companies, Privileged).
Major destinations for the immigration of skilled workers, mostly from southwestern Germany and Italy, were, at that time, in particular the Hungarian Banat as well as other parts of the hereditary lands. The influx from these countries and from Spain was particularly massive in the age of Emperor Karl VI. When he died on October 20, 1740, this period came to a sudden end and the rule of Maria Theresia, which lasted for four decades, marked a new phase in Austrian history (Maria Theresia, Age of).
Literature: O. Redlich, Österreichs Aufstieg zur Großmacht, 41962; idem, Weltmacht des Barock, 41961 (Geschichte Österreichs by A. Huber 1921-1939, vols. 6 and 7); K. Gutkas (ed.), Prinz Eugen und das barocke Österreich, 1985.
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