Empires on the Edge – The Habsburg Monarchy and the American Revolution

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This work forms the basis of my doctorate, entitled ‘Empires on the Edge – The Habsburg Monarchy and the American Revolution 1763-1789, which I recently completed at the University of Edinburgh. I am currently working on developing this into a book manuscript which demonstrates the wider nature of the American Revolution and brings to attention a rich, but neglected story of connection between two unlikely states.

Please feel free to contact me about my doctoral work or my other projects for 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.


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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 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 much could ever transpire between Central Europe and North America all the way across the Atlantic, but my work reveals these surprising connections.

In seven chapters, I chart the rise and fall of US-Habsburg relations from the end of the Seven Years’ War (1763) until the French Revolution (1789). 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? And how have we forgotten this?

The answers I believe rest in the perception of economic gain. Both sides believed each other had something to offer and when this illusion waned, so did the notion of a relationship. Consequently, the Habsburg Monarchy became the last of the European ‘Great Powers’ to recognise the United States. This situation, I argue, has also misled our historical memory to overlook this eighteenth-century period of vibrant connection.

Outline

Introduction: “Can a Prince be a Friend to the Rights of another People?” – Early America, the Habsburg Monarchy and Republican Revolution

Part I. Beginnings

Chapter One: “Some of Distinction Here are Warm for the Part of America” – Knowledge of and Sympathy for the American Cause in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1763-1783

Chapter Two: “The Long, Laborious, and Most Odious Task” – The First Struggle for Recognition between the Habsburg Monarchy and the United States, 1776-1779.

Part II. Rise

Chapter Three: “We Must First Bide Our Time” – The Erosion of Habsburg Neutrality in the War of American Independence, 1780-1782.

Chapter Four: “A New Set of Merchants” – The Development of Postwar Commerce between the Habsburg Monarchy and the United States of America, 1783-1785.

Chapter Five: “If His Imperial Majesty Should Think Fit” – The First Habsburg Representatives in the United States, 1783-1789.
Part III. Fall

Chapter Six: “A Trifling Personage” – Thomas Jefferson and the Second Struggle for Recognition between the Habsburg Monarchy and the United States, 1785-1786.

Chapter Seven: “General Imbecility, Confusion, and Misery” – The Habsburg Disillusionment with the United States of America, 1786-1789.
Conclusion: “A Story of Benign Neglect” – US-Habsburg Relations before the French Revolution

 


 

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