On October 12, Dean John Boyer, the founder of the University of Chicago’s Vienna Center and Vienna Study Abroad Program, provided an in-depth lecture on the history of the Habsburg Empire and the city politics of Vienna in the 20th century. Here are 8 takeaways from session 2 of our Deep Dive series, “Vienna, Austria, and the Habsburg Empire.”
- When the play opens, the chief autocrat is Emperor Franz Josef.
This emperor came to define the ethos of the empire. He reigned from 1848 to 1916. His rule provided stability to the empire.
2. High Austria aristocracy was influential.
They consisted of wealthy, large families who owned huge chunks of land around Austria. The aristocracy is a critical component of the culture of Vienna.
3. Vienna as the site of a vibrant Jewish community
After the Revolution of 1848, due to migration from places like Bohemia and Hungary, the Jewish population increased. In 1910, near 90% of the civilian population of Vienna was Jewish. After 1945, the Jewish and aristocratic communities were fundamentally altered from the war, a change that still affects the fabric of the region today.
4. Second district of Vienna across the canal is called Leopoldstadt.
It is where the play gets its title. Leopoldstadt is also near the Ringstrasse, an important cultural boulevard.
5. In 1899, there were several political movements in Austria.
The Christian Social Party emerges in Vienna with support from rural areas of Austria; it still exists today as the People’s Party. The liberal bourgeois movement was also an integral player in politics.
6. In 1934, the Austrian Civil War occurred for four days.
The ramifications of this division are still felt today.
7. The German occupation of Austria occurred between 1938 and 1945.
Eyewitness accounts from the time describe the terrible quality of life during this period. There was a significant loss of faith in the governmental institutions and a system of law.
8. In 1955, a treaty was signed that granted full territorial independence to Austria.
Occupying forces withdrew from Austria and the country had sovereignty restored for the first time since the Anschluss in 1938, when Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany.
To find out more about the rich history behind Stoppard’s new play, tune into our next Deep Dive session!