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The Habsburg Legacy

All-Day Program with Lunch

Saturday, June 23, 2018 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Code: 1H0347
A newspaper drawing depicting the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, 1914

Please Note: The start and end time of this program have been updated.

A noted 19th-century Czech historian and politician observed that “if the Austrian Empire didn’t exist it would have to be created.” The century since the dissolution of the 400-year-old empire has proven him right. Our world is still dealing with the troublesome remains of the Habsburgs’ once-massive multinational empire, whose abrupt removal 100 years ago from the heart of Europe drove many of the catastrophes of the 20th century. Charles Ingrao, professor emeritus of history at Purdue University, examines the challenges that have been met and those that still confront us in coming to terms with that legacy.

10­–11 a.m.  The Distinctiveness of Austrian History

How was the Austrian monarchy created and why was it necessary? How was it different from those in “naturally conceived” nation-states like France and Germany? To what extent did it serve as a bridge between Europe’s vastly different East and West? 

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  The Revolutionary Challenge

The Enlightenment changed the Habsburg monarchy, much as it did the rest of the Western world. Then came the French Revolution. Among the consequences was the emergence of the notorious Metternich System, and the Revolutions of 1848, most of which occurred in far-flung Habsburg lands. Yet another was a golden age of composers, writers, and artists whose work reflected the great cultural crises of their generation. 

12:15­­–1:15 p.m.  Lunch (A boxed lunch is provided.)

1:15 –2:15 p.m.  Austria-Hungary: Reform and Reconstruction

The less rigid and reactionary Austro-Hungarian Empire that emerged in 1867 went to great lengths to accommodate the national identities and democratic aspirations of its people. It also benefited from unprecedented prosperity and advances in the arts and sciences, making Vienna one of the world’s cultural great centers. In the end, however, it was the reforms themselves that undermined domestic peace and stability by raising expectations—much as have similar initiatives in today’s world.  

2:30­­–4 p.m.  Destroying the Evidence   

The Habsburg Empire disappeared from the map in 1918, but it took a much longer time to destroy the great multiethnic society that it had created. The brutal century-long process of disaggregation that began with the Sarajevo assassination and continued through two world wars and the Holocaust, the Cold War, and the Yugoslav conflict has virtually completed the transformation into a patchwork of so-called nation-states. But the challenges posed by democratization and ethnic tensions remain unresolved as the New Europe confronts a new reality of mass migration and multiculturalism.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)