Category Archives: Austrian history

What was the ‘Risorgimento’?

The word means ‘resurgence’ but that will not mean much to students. It was a nineteenth century movement designed to unite Italy, which had not been united since the Roman Empire;  even then solidarity had not been achieved.

The origins of the idea came from ‘enlightenment ideas’ stirring in the eighteenth century, especially in the final years, with Bonaparte as the inspiration. The movement got itself together after the Congress of Vienna 1814/15. It is strange to relate that it commenced with insurrections – not one would have thought the best way to unite a country –  but small rebellions in the 1820s and actual revolutions of 1848 paved the way, helped by violent anti-Austrian feelings and the fiery and compelling speeches of Mazzini, and the more moderate Gioberti. Continue reading

The Treaty of Trianon (1920) and its effect on Hungary

This treaty is another good example of the collateral damage to be expected when states join in wars with the express intention of gaining territory, though the war in question has nothing or little to do with them. In the First or Great War of the 20th century, Hungary, because of its alliances with Austria, fought against the Western allies. Romania, sensing a chance to do well out of it, declared for the allies.

The Treaty of Versailles decreed that Hungary, among the states which fought for the loser, Germany, should share the blame and pay the price. After the four terrible years spent mostly advancing and retreating over the trenches were over, Hungary became a Republic, but a Communist revolt established a Communist administration in 1919. This failed, and a monarchical regime (in name only) was introduced with a new constitution, under the leadership of Admiral Horthy. Continue reading

Switzerland and the Swiss Guards

Originally named Helvetia, this is a landlocked democratic European republic, with boundaries to the east with Liechtenstein and Austria, to the south with Italy; the west by France and finally to the north with Germany. The official name now is the Swiss Federation.

In the tenth century Switzerland was a small part of the Holy Roman Empire (q.v.) but the Swiss Confederation was established in 1291, when the ‘cantons’ or regions of Uri, Schyz and Unterwalden formed a mutual league for defence. There was a brief period of Austrian domination, producing among other things the ‘William Tell Incident’ in which a Swiss archer of note was supposed to have shot an arrow through an apple balanced (how?) on his son’s head and followed this remarkable feat by putting a second arrow through an Austrian official’s heart. The stuff of dreams, perhaps, but the Swiss believe it. Continue reading

The EIGHTY years war

There have been wars that lasted a few days; the Great War lasted a terrible four years, and the Second World War six. There was a thirty year war that nobody needed, except perhaps for giving employment to soldiers, but many died where they stood and were not recorded as thinking it worthwhile. The Punic Wars took forty-three years to complete, and Rome won them all anyway. It is possible to find a war endured by its participants for eighty years (1568 – 1648) and naturally the conflict was over Habsburg domination. Continue reading

Alexander II (killed) & Alexander III (survived) of Russia

Alexander II, the second son of Nicholas I was born in 1818. It is true but sad to say that the only significant reforms made in Russia in all the nineteenth century were carried out by him; yet his reward at the age of seventy-one was to be murdered.

As a boy and young man he liked to imitate his father’s admiration for autocracy, and announced that he had not the least intention of allowing any of the Czar’s powers to be diverted into a popularly elected parliamentary assembly, when he, too, became Czar. The surprising reforms probably came about because of the unsuccessful Crimean War (q.v.), which clearly showed the world that Russia was not the all-powerful military nation she aspired to be. Chiefly, there was the lack of money, a direct result of a ‘serf-based’ economy in a largely agricultural state. Continue reading

The defenestration of Prague

This is a difficult word to find in many otherwise excellent dictionaries; its source is the French word fenêtre meaning window. The act of defenestration means the throwing of an object, which might be a person, out of a window. Scenes of this violent act occur in Polanski’s film The Pianist, in which a terrified Jewish family watch a Gestapo raid on a flat in a building on the other side of the street. They see the Nazis pick up an old man stuck in a wheelchair, open a french window on to a balcony, and hurl the man in his wheelchair four stories into the street below.

This kind of thing seems to be popular with filmmakers, since Mel Gibson includes the defenestration of a young friend of Edward I’s son Edward the Prince of Wales, straight out of a castle embrasure down to the cobbles below. This is not historical, merely a means by which Mr Gibson (who notoriously dislikes the English) can define what he sees as the character of Edward I in an early scene in the film Braveheart. Continue reading

Bavaria and the War of the Bavarian Succession

Bavaria is an almost painfully beautiful area in the south-easternmost part of Germany. It is also one of the oldest existing political entities in Europe, though it has changed in structure (and size) over the centuries.

It first appears as a duchy under domination by the Franks in the sixth century A.D., when it included large tracts of what is now Austria. It has been ruled by a succession of famous dynasties, including the Guelphs. By 1180 however, the Wittelsbachs seem to have taken over. Continue reading

Appeasement

A bit of a dirty word since 1938 but it shouldn’t be. There is enough appeasement going on now over the disgusting situation in Syria to fill the Golden Bowl with appeasers eager to keep Assad Junior happy. It is all rather puzzling. With one Bush, America went with its cautious allies to war against Iraq because Saddam invaded Kuwait. Firepower won, of course, but Saddam’s government remained! Then Bush Jr. went to war with Iraq with equally cautious allies, beat him up, and permitted the locals to lynch Saddam in a particularly horrible way. Now in Syria the Assad boy kills hundreds of fellow citizens every day, even using poison gas to do it, and the world’s committees sit expensively around asking themselves what to do. Continue reading

1936: The Remilitarization of the Rhineland

Triumphant remilitarization, the Rhioneland 1936 / iwm.org.uk

Triumphant remilitarization, the Rhineland 1936 / iwm.org.uk

The ill-prepared and unfortunate Treaty of Versailles (q.v.) had left the left bank of the Rhine plus an area 50 kilometres deep on its right bank permanently demilitarized by order. This order was made again at the signing of the Treaties at Locarno in 1925. Britain and Italy (!) were to be the guarantors.

German governments since 1918/19 had wished to terminate the demilitarization, for the natural reason that it decreased German authority and, worse, exposed the very centre of German industry (the Ruhr) to a possible French attack. Continue reading

The Thirty Years War

The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden / lookandlearn.com

The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden / lookandlearn.com

The British were involved in this nasty episode, though only on the margins. All wars are horribly wasting, but this one could be taken as the best example. It was about religion, which hardly comes as a surprise. It is amazing that most human conflict since the death of Christ has come about because of differences of opinion and dogma, when Christ taught that all men should love each other. How humans have reacted during the centuries after His death is hardly His fault. Continue reading