The University of Southampton

HIST6111 The Rise and Fall of the Habsburg Empire 1815-1919

Module Overview

This module introduces you to major themes and controversies in the history of the Habsburg Monarchy during its last century of existence. It aims above all to approach the subject from different directions: for example, the uncertain status of the empire as a European Great Power; the changing interpretation of national identity and nationalism; the Monarchy’s structure (especially debates about federalism and the creation of the Dualist system in 1867); social and economic modernization; the cultural renaissance of 1900; and reasons for crisis and collapse in the twentieth century. There is a rich historiography in English but most historians have approached the subject from a particular angle reflecting their specialism. Often older works (eg. pre-1970) still offer much, while new approaches in the last decade have sought to re-evaluate and reinvigorate well-worn themes. The course works with a range of colourful documentary material (in English and translated) to reassess why an empire, viewed in 1815 as essential for European stability, was by 1914 driven to unleash a European war that caused its own destruction.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce you to key themes in the historiography of the Habsburg Monarchy in its last century of existence • Introduce you to vibrant debate about the domestic and foreign policy of the Empire • Introduce you to the interaction between centre and periphery in the Empire, through a range of studies from different regions; and also the interaction between the imperial mission at home and abroad in a European context

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Key themes in ‘Habsburg studies’, political but also social and cultural, in the period 1815-1918
  • The interaction between centrifugal and centripetal forces through the long nineteenth century
  • Recent debates, especially about national identity, the imperial mission, the potential for reconstruction, the disintegration of the Empire
  • The Empire’s changing position in the European States System
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Read and digest a broad range of complex sources and texts
  • Identify and summarise key themes across a range of reading
  • Draw out the key arguments and ideological agendas of texts and primary documents
  • Interpret the nuanced language of a number of translated texts from different aspects of Habsburg history
  • Succinctly communicate your ideas orally and in writing
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate different historical approaches to the study of the Habsburg Empire and the conclusions that can be drawn depending on historical methodology
  • Analyse comparatively regional developments, exploring the similarities and differences in a regional context
  • Engage in critical reading, structuring ideas and responses to it orally and in writing


This module introduces you to key developments and debates in the historiography of the later Habsburg Empire over the past thirty years. It relies especially on English/American works but also incorporates historiographical ideas from east-central Europe. The module is taught through a series of seminars that proceed chronologically but also thematically and geographically, weaving together domestic and foreign aspects of the Monarchy. You can specialize in particular areas of the Empire (geographical or thematic), but are also expected to consider their studies comparatively with a view to imperial developments. Themes include: • The Habsburg dynasty and its mission • The Metternich system and the 1848 disaster • Growth of national consciousness: Czech, Hungarian and South Slav examples • Ethnic and civic nationalisms • The debate over state modernization • The Habsburg Monarchy in the European states system • The crisis of German and Hungarian liberalism • Bosnia as a colonial experiment: the Southern Slav Question • The First World War and the debate on disintegration

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Following a programme of suggested core and selected readings • Seminar discussions • Document analysis Learning activities include • Individual study and research • Preparing and delivering seminar presentations

Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Completion of assessment task26
Total study time152

Resources & Reading list

Healy, M (2004). Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire. 

Judson, P. (2006). Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria. 

Okey, R (2001). The Habsburg Monarchy c.1765-1918. 

Beller, S (1996). Francis Joseph. 

Bridge, F.R (1990). The Habsburg Monarchy among the Great Powers 1815-1918. 

Schorske, C (1981). Fin-de-Siecle Vienna. 

Sked, A (2001). The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire 1815-1918. 

Jaszi, O (1929). The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy. 

Freifeld, A (2000). Nationalism and the Crowd in Liberal Hungary 1848-1914. 

King, J (2002). Budweisers into Czechs and Germans. A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848-1948. 

Evans, R.J.W (2006). Austria, Hungary and the Habsburgs. Central Europe c.1683-1867. 

Cole, L. and Unowsky, D. (eds) (2007). The Limits of Loyalty. Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy. 

Good, D (1984). The Economic Rise of the Habsburg Empire. 

Clark, C (2012). The Sleepwalkers. 

Nemes, R (2005). The Once and Future Budapest. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • Comment on seminar presentation • Personal essay-session


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Facebook Google+ Twitter Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.