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9-08-2015, 17:27

Habsburg lands

The main benefi ciary of the decline of Ottoman power was the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, which controlled a complex group of territories in central and eastern Europe, some of them within the Holy Roman Empire and some outside it: the German-speaking provinces of Austria, Tyrol, Styria, and several smaller territories, along with Czechspeaking Bohemia, Moravia, and Hungarian-speaking Hungary. The Thirty Years War, much of which was fought on Habsburg lands, left these territories depopulated and impoverished, and made it clear that the Empire would not be united in religion or transformed into a strong state. It also left the Habsburgs in clearer control of many of their holdings, and though they continued to be regularly elected as Holy Roman Emperors, they concentrated on their own family lands. They expanded their power by imposing new taxes, organizing permanent standing armies, and reducing the power of local nobles or representative institutions. In Bohemia, for example, the native nobility, most of whom were Protestant, were defeated militarily in the Thirty Years War, and the victorious Habsburg rulers gave much of their land to the few Catholic nobles or foreign mercenary commanders. This new nobility helped the Habsburgs centralize their rule, impose harsher controls on peasants, and wipe out Protestantism, this last with the assistance of Jesuits brought in to open schools. The Habsburgs carried out similar measures in their German-speaking holdings, and then turned to Hungary, the largest of their territories. Hungary had been divided between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs after the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, but before then it had been an independent state for several centuries. Throughout the period of foreign rule, it maintained a sense of national identity largely centered on its distinctive language. Many Hungarians living under the relatively tolerant Ottomans became Protestant, or even Unitarian, or members of other more radical religious groups. In the late seventeenth century, Habsburg forces drove the Ottomans out of most of Hungary, and attempted to re-Catholicize the whole country and consolidate their rule. Hungarian nobles revolted several times, and in 1703, when the Habsburgs were engaged in the War of the Spanish Succession, they organized a major patriotic uprising under the leadership of Prince Francis Rákóczy II (16761735). The rebellion was defeated, but the Habsburgs were forced to allow the Hungarian nobility to retain their traditional privileges, and Hungary did not simply become part of a unifi ed Habsburg state. Except for this, the War of the Spanish Succession was a great boon for the Austrian Habsburgs, who gained the southern part of the Netherlands, along with Spanish Habsburg holdings in Italy, though the latter proved to be temporary. The Austrian Habsburgs had their own succession problems, however. The Habsburg Emperor Charles VI (ruled 171140) had no sons, and imperial law offi cially prohibited the emperorship passing to a woman. (This law was based on the Salic Law which also excluded women from the throne of France believed in the eighteenth century to be an ancient law of the Franks dating from the seventh century. Historians have recently demonstrated that it was concocted much later, when French lawyers sought to exclude both women and heirs who had inherited through the female line during a succession controversy.) Charles issued a Pragmatic Sanction, or imperial decree, allowing his eldest daughter to inherit, and got a number of states within the Empire and most other European countries to agree to this. At his death, however, several of these reneged on their promises and attacked Austria, claiming parts of the territories of his eldest daughter, Maria Theresa (ruled 174080), in what became known as the War of the Austrian Succession. Maria Theresa was forced to give up the province of Silesia to a new power on the scene, Prussia, but was recognized as the legitimate ruler of Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. Her husband, Francis I of Lorraine, became the emperor, an offi ce that later passed to their son, who became Emperor Joseph II (ruled 176590). Maria Theresa and Joseph II further strengthened the centralized bureaucracy, reformed the tax system so that even nobles had to pay some taxes, and limited the independent power of the papacy in Austria.

 

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