The American Revolution and the Habsburg Monarchy

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Detail from the first map of North America produced in Vienna (1788)

My book The American Revolution and the Habsburg Monarchy is forthcoming 2021 and will demonstrate the wider nature of the American Revolution and brings to attention a rich, but neglected story of connection between two unlikely states. This work arises from my doctoral work completed at the University of Edinburgh between 2014 and 2018.

Please feel free to contact me about any questions, suggestions, or collaboration ideas. In 2016 I published an article which outlines my general points expressed here as: “‘A Story of Benign Neglect’? Die Gründungsgeschichte Amerikas und die Habsburgermonarchie 1776-1783,” Opera Historica – Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit, 17, No. 1 (2016), pp. 56-68. English abstract here. In 2017, I published another article which looked at the extent of knowledge and sympathy in the Habsburg Monarchy for the American Revolution.

In 2014, one historian commented, “If you teach a survey course on the history of American foreign relations, chances are that you don’t spend very much time on the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. As Rodney Dangerfield may have put it: ‘The Habsburgs get no respect.'” (1)

In essence, this project tells you why they should.

The diplomatic, economic, and intellectual connections between the Habsburg Monarchy and the United States between 1776-1789 were as rich, multifarious, and alive as connections between the newly declared United States of America and any other European power. From Transylvania in the far-flung corner of the Monarchy to Georgia in the southern-tip of the Republic, new linkages were forged in the crucible of the Age of Revolutions. From the mountains of northern Hungary and modern-day Slovakia to the three Tuscan sailors abandoned in northern Africa to the son of the first Habsburg representative moving out to the American West, lives of Habsburg subjects were forever altered by a conflict thought to be far away.

From across the vast swathes of these two large multiethnic empires, my doctoral work explored this much maligned history of the American Revolution. We might not anticipate that much could ever transpire between Central Europe and North America all the way across the Atlantic, but my work brings these surprising connections to life.

In nine chapters, I chart the American Revolution from a new perspective, from the Habsburg perspective. In doing so, I see to answer why did two diametrically opposed states attempt to forge relations with one another? Why did these relations fail? What effects did this have on the lives of Habsburg subjects? And how have we forgotten this?

(1) Thomas Schwartz, “Roundtable Review of Nicole M. Phelps’ US-Habsburg Relations from 1815 to the paris Peace Conference: Introduction,” SHAFR Passport, Vol. 45, No. 1 (April, 2014), 6.

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