Jeroen Duindam. Vienna and Versailles: The Courts of Europe's Dynastic Rivals, 1550-1780. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. xii + 349 pp. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-82262-6.
Karin J. MacHardy. War, Religion and Court Patronage in Habsburg Austria: The Social and Cultural Dimensions of Political Interaction, 1521-1622. Basingbroke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 331 pp. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-333-57241-2.
Reviewed by Joseph F. Patrouch (Department of History, Florida International University)
Published on HABSBURG (August, 2004)
Bourdieu, Elias, and the Habsburg Court: Two Recent Studies of Early Modern Mechanisms of Rule
The field of Habsburg court studies is booming. Connected to an international turn to the analysis of court life now credited to the late-twentieth-century reception of the works of Norbert Elias (particularly his Die hoefische Gesellschaft which was finally published in 1969), a row of research projects are currently under way in Vienna dealing in various ways with the court as a social, economic, and political unit. One piece of evidence to support the conclusion that court studies are an active aspect of early modern historical scholarship in and on Austria is the establishment in 1999 of the Arbeitskreis Hoefe des Hauses Oesterreich which recently held its tenth workshop on related topics. Another piece of evidence is the appearance last year of the two books under review. Karen J. MacHardy tries to focus the theoretical apparatus of Pierre Bourdieu on the subject, while Jeroen Duindam uses a comparative approach to continue his critique of Elias and the influence of the French model in the field.
MacHardy, an Austrian native and associate professor of history at Canada's University of Waterloo, presents an analysis of the structures tied to political authority in the Habsburgs' central European lands (especially Lower Austria, the province now known as Niederoesterreich) in the century leading up to the civil wars in those lands now often tied together and seen as the start of the Thirty Years War. In contrast to Duindam, who stresses the relative successes of the central European Habsburgs in the century following this war, MacHardy wants to understand the difficulties the Habsburgs faced ruling over (and through) an increasingly antagonistic local gentry and nobility. She proposes the concept of a "co-ordinating state" (p. 6) to explain the ruling structures developed by the dynasty's members and supporters during the century in question. Instead of utilizing the comparative framework employed by Duindam, MacHardy provides a more localized study, one based partly on an analysis of sources relating to the Lower Austrian Estates, sources now found in the Lower Austrian State Archives, but more heavily reliant on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century published sources dealing with the nobility and Estates in this province (as well as nineteenth-century archival sources which discuss Lower Austrian noble property holdings.)
The attempt to widen the lens focused on the initial period of conflicts which would spread across Europe and become the Thirty Years War to include the Habsburg archduchy below the Enns (Lower Austria), if not the also important Transylvania and Upper Hungary, is a praiseworthy one. This province included the Habsburgs' leading residence city of Vienna, a city which, after 1612, would be increasingly favored by the various central European Habsburg rulers as their residence of choice (thus justifying Duindam's choice of title and subject concentrating on that city in his comparison with the French king Louis XIV's (ruled 1643-1715) residence chateau outside of Paris).
As MacHardy states clearly on her first page, "[t]his book analyzes the origins of the Civil War in the Habsburg lands by providing a case study of the much-neglected involvement of the Austrian Protestant nobility" (p. 1). She divides her presentation into six chapters separated into two parts and includes twenty tables and sixteen figures in the analysis. The weight of the quantitative evidence is presented in the later chapters on the court, especially chapter five, "Advancing at the Imperial Court," and chapter six, "Confessionalizing Court Patronage." The book concentrates on the period 1580-1620.
MacHardy's work can be placed into the historiographic context of the significant, if now somewhat dated, discussion of the limits of the analytical concept "absolutism." This concept was developed to help understand the political regimes constructed in some parts of Europe, particularly in the seventeenth century. The concept can be connected to attempts at establishing typologies in European political history. MacHardy places her study in the context of the classic "dualism" school of analysis frequently tied to the name of the Austrian historian Hans Sturmberger. Perhaps more importantly, the book can be tied to the literature on "state building" in early modern Europe, although she does not mention the European Science Foundation's project "The Origins of the Modern State in Europe." For more information on how that undertaking does not include a study of the rulers' households, see Duindam, (p. 12 and especially p. 18) where it is pointed out that the household is not mentioned in Wolfgang Reinhard's contribution to the project, his edited volume Power Elites and State Building.
MacHardy explains: "because I do not privilege Habsburg rulers as the dominant agent in state formation, I also maintain that the ability of the early modern state in exercising power in localities rested on both the expansion of infrastructural reach and the capacity to secure the cooperation of brokers of power in local communities" (p. 11). The key for understanding the Lower Austrian nobility's situation in and attitude toward the Habsburgs' central court, according to MacHardy, is to be found in the concept of "Habitus" as formulated by Pierre Bourdieu (p. 166). MacHardy repeatedly makes use of Bourdieu's concepts to help explain some of the appeal of court service to the Lower Austrian nobles who may have disagreed with their overlords on religious and constitutional grounds. In fact, according to MacHardy, "increased rivalry between the Catholic and Protestant elites over vacancies at court was a major cause underpinning the formation of a grand alliance against Habsburg policies by a section of the Protestant nobility" (p. 183).
The Habsburg rulers' successes at "confessionalizing patronage" (p. 198) after 1600 led the Protestant nobles of Lower Austria to feel that their investments in court service were for naught and that their future prospects there were decreasing. This helps to explain their willingness to ally with similarly disgruntled nobles across the Habsburgs' central European lands. "Religious and political divisions crystallized as conflict because they were fuelled through the selective allocation of Habsburg patronage," MacHardy argues (p. 211).
The court is given a similar, central role in the analysis of early modern European societies by the Dutch historian Jeroen Duindam. Currently a lecturer at the University of Utrecht, Duindam has developed a reputation as a critic of the Versailles-and-culture-centered analyses of early modern courts which have been developed out of the ideas of Norbert Elias. Building on themes in his earlier work and various publications since then, Duindam presents an up-to-date and detailed comparison of the court situations of the Bourbon rulers in France and the Habsburgs in central Europe.
Founded on extensive research in various archives, including the Haus-, Hof-, und Staatsarchiv, the Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv, and the Hofkammerarchiv in Vienna as well as the archives nationales in Paris, Duindam paints a fascinating portrait of court life in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries, holding the court of emperor Leopold I (ruled 1658-1705) of Habsburg up as a mirror to the too-well-known court of Louis XIV of Bourbon. In addition to an elaborate review of court records dealing with ceremonial and procedure, Duindam also provides (especially for the Bourbon case), conclusions drawn from evidence published in the period in question.
There is no need here to go into the history of how the new Bourbon dynasty in France has managed to so insinuate itself into the historiography of early modern Europe. The literary success of writers such as the duc de St. Simon, Madame de Sevigne, and even the unhappy Liselotte von der Pfalz, has contributed to this phenomenon. Jeroen Duindam asks us to take a step back from the assumptions and conclusions tied to the now aging hunting lodge turned residence at Versailles and to think about that old-fashioned castle-on-the-city-walls, the Hofburg in Vienna. As Duindam states, "for the paradigmatic Versailles decades from 1682 to 1715, the Viennese court is the obvious choice" for a comparison (p. 13). He continues, "I strive to disentangle the Ludovician court from propaganda, literary embellishment, and eighteenth-century myth-making by comparing it to its Habsburg counterpart" (p. 19).
Duindam's method is similar to MacHardy's: he chooses to look for "patterns and changes, recurring tensions and positions; the careers of individual rulers, ministers, and courtiers have to remain subservient to this goal" (p.226). This means, of course, that readers not fully versed with the basic figures and features of the French and Austrian courts in the period may be well counseled to think twice before paying the required $80.00 (US) to purchase this work. (The same could be said of the similarly-priced volume by MacHardy: both books assume a substantial amount of knowledge on the part of the reader--perhaps Duindam's more than MacHardy's due to the latter's relatively long retelling of the secondary literature in the initial chapters.)
A significant point of contrast between MacHardy's and Duindam's works is the role given to the local Lower Austrian situation, the immediate physical and political context of Vienna as residence. Duindam explicitly excludes the Lower Austrian institutions as well as the Bohemian and Hungarian ones. He also does not go into much detail on the broader Imperial institutional frameworks and contexts. The household roles of imperial court officials such as the electors (including the Imperial Chancellor in Mainz) and their hereditary alter-egos are mentioned, but Duindam's analysis--as his title says--is much more centered on those men (and a few women) in the imperial household resident often in Vienna.
While Duindam's main emphasis is on the comparison of the Habsburg court in Vienna around 1700 with its rival court in Versailles around the same time, as his title points out with the dates 1550-1780, the discussion touches on themes much broader. For example, it is clear from Duindam's analysis how important the reforms or edicts of reform of the one-time Polish king and last-of-the-Valois, King Henri III of France (ruled 1574-1589), were for establishing the ground rules for activities at the Bourbon court. As a representative of a dynasty battling for the French throne through a century of tumult, it seems that Louis XIV depended to some extent on ceremonial ties to the previous dynasty. While the kings of Navarre would eventually succeed in getting members of their family on the thrones of both their neighboring kingdoms, France and Spain, this had to be done with a ceremonial bow toward the established traditions of these realms. (Of course the Bourbons' successes in Iberia in the eighteenth century also enter into Duindam's analysis.)
Duindam compares the evidence relating to budgetary expenditures at the two courts. The costs associated with keeping the courts themselves were the third-largest expense in both instances, following war and debt service. However, the central European Habsburgs spent less than their counterparts to the west in France. The court in Vienna seems to have been a quieter, more modest affair, without crowds of visitors or part-time and hereditary courtiers. As Duindam's title indicates, the city of Vienna itself is a factor of difference between the two courts: while the Bourbons established their claims and games in the hunting preserves of the realm, the Habsburgs, following perhaps a family tradition of urban connections, remained tied physically to the city of Vienna.
Duindam points out clearly how the definition of culture as tied to the courts has to be modified in some regards. It is not merely a world of what one might consider "high culture," such as music, architecture, and high art, but instead a world with a confused mixing of concerns and activities about things such as rank, religion, hunting, "and recurring eruptions of merry spectacle" (p. 287). His court as a site of a "maze of interconnections and influences" (p. 296) contrasts with MacHardy's charted-out site of conflicts leading to frustration and rebellion. As Duindam states, his "conclusions do not fit easily with Versailles' reputation for unqualified royal power, and they indicate that the emperor's court was in some ways more conspicuously successful." (p. 302)
These two works by MacHardy and Duindam provide important insights into the primary Habsburg courts often tied to the city of Vienna between 1521 and 1780. MacHardy's work is much more focused on issues specific to the court's relations with the male nobility of the province immediately surrounding the increasingly-popular seat of the court. The differences in court-local nobility relations during the period 1582-1612, when the emperor was mostly resident in Prague, could have been further highlighted. MacHardy chooses instead to concentrate on continuity between that period and the one immediately before the rebellion when the court was again in Vienna (1612-1620). The presentation in her book is marred by various typographical errors (such as on the map on p. 54 where Salzburg becomes "Salzhurg," Carniola "Carniol," Wroclaw "Wrochaw," and it seems the Lusatias are switched). There is also the question of the rather undifferentiated or underanalyzed use of modern genealogical sources and revolutionary-era publications. One instance which could have used further discussion was MacHardy's decision to rely extensively on the 1847-1848 collection of historical documents that the politically-suspect Wilhelm Jurany managed to have published in Leipzig during the period of laxer censorship and before his publishing house was sequestered, closed and auctioned off in 1851.
While MacHardy's work barely seems to take into account the variety of recent undertakings in the field of early modern Austrian court studies, by contrast, Duindam's work is fully tied into the active and diverse undertakings of the various scholars across Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and elsewhere who have chosen in the last decade or less to look into issues relating the subjects such as patronage and clientage systems or residences.
Both of the authors under review here chose the long term of a century or more to look at shifts and adjustments in what the authors see as structures. A briefer chronological frame of analysis, concerning, for example, the life of an individual, could also be chosen. A recent study that comes to conclusions similar to the ones discussed above in reference to these two works, but in the context of one person's life, is Thomas Winkelbauer's massive study of Gundaker von Liechtenstein. Winkelbauer illustrates in rich personal detail the worlds touched upon in the more institutional surveys of Duindam and MacHardy.
Duindam's turns of phrase and international perspective (from what better angle to survey Habsburgs and Bourbons than from the Low Countries?) and his commitment to the cause of putting "Mythos Versailles" in context warrant the attention of scholars of early modern court life in the Habsburgs' lands. His devaluation of the role of the Iberian branch of the family, a role "too readily explained by the inevitable Spanish relatives, travels and influences" (p. 179) is highly debatable, especially for the earlier part of the period he studies, when an Iberian-trained and raised ruler, Ferdinand (as emperor Ferdinand I, ruled 1558-1564) sat supervising court ordinances and structures, playing a role for later Habsburg court life in some ways similar to the one played by Henri III in France.
With the appearance of these two works, the more general English-reading academic audience can discover how two scholars have tried to situate the model-breaking Habsburg central court system(s) of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early-eighteenth centuries into the literature on state building, absolutism, and court studies. While clearly not intended for a wide audience, one can only hope that these comparisons and situations "trickle down" to a larger audience and complicate the rather simple images of court life in early modern Europe often encountered.
. A conference on the reception of Elias was held at Stuttgart in May 2003: "Hoefische Gesellschaft und Zivilisationsprozess: Norbert Elias' Werk in interdisziplinaerer Perspektive." See the review by Sophie Ruppel dated May 27, 2003 and posted to H-SOZ-U-KULT June 13, 2003.
. For a report on the Arbeitskreis, see Jan Paul Niederkorn and Stefan Sienell, "Arbeitskreis, Hoefe des Hauses Oesterreich," Fruehneuzeit-Info 12 (2001): pp. 7-9. The entire volume is dedicated to "Thema Hof."
. Wolfgang Reinhard, ed., Power Elites and State Building. The Origins of the Modern State in Europe, vol. D (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). This work is not mentioned in MacHardy's bibliography.
. See his Myths of Power: Norbert Elias and the Early Modern European Court (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1995), the translation of his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Utrecht, titled "Macht en mythe."
. An excellent introduction to themes associated with the Hofburg can be found in Hellmut Lorenz, "The Imperial Hofburg: The Theory and Practice of Architectural Representation in Baroque Vienna," in State and Society in Early Modern Austria, ed. Charles W. Ingrao (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1994), pp. 93-109.
. Much of this evidence is presented in the form of references to WWW sources such as those associated with the European State Finances Database project directed by Richard Bonney. See pp. 86, 87, 110, 126.
. For more see Inge Kieszhauer and Dagmar Goldbeck, "Zum Leben und Wirken des Verlegers Wilhelm Jurany in Leipzig und Budapest," Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte 5 (1995): pp. 223-244.
. See, for example, the various publications and symposia sponsored by the Residenzen-Kommission der Goettinger Akademie der Wissenschaften since its foundation in 1985. In the English-speaking world, such research interests are tied to many fields, but the Society for Court Studies, with its North American and British branches and journal The Court Historian deserves special mention.
 Thomas Winkelbauer, Fuerst und Fuerstendiener: Gundaker von Liechtenstein, ein oesterreichischer Aristokrat des konfessionellen Zeitalters. Mitteilungten des Instituts fuer Oesterreichische Geschichtsforschung, Ergaenzungsnband 34 (Vienna and Munich: Oldenbourg, 1999). Referred to in Duindam's but not MacHardy's bibliographies.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/habsburg.
Joseph F. Patrouch. Review of Duindam, Jeroen, Vienna and Versailles: The Courts of Europe's Dynastic Rivals, 1550-1780 and
MacHardy, Karin J., War, Religion and Court Patronage in Habsburg Austria: The Social and Cultural Dimensions of Political Interaction, 1521-1622.
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