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The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire$
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A. Wess Mitchell

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196442

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196442.001.0001

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Damnosa Hereditas

Damnosa Hereditas

Habsburg People and State

Chapter:
(p.52) 3 Damnosa Hereditas
Source:
The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire
Author(s):

A. Wess Mitchell

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691196442.003.0003

This chapter looks at the constitutional makeup of the Habsburg state and the limitations it placed on the mobilization of resources. In contrast to its physical geography, the political geography of the Danubian Basin greatly complicated the task of Habsburg empire building. Accumulated in a pell-mell fashion over several centuries, the territorial holdings of the Austrian Habsburgs formed a composite state made up of multiple, historically separate polities, each with its own separate constitutional arrangement with the ruling dynasty. Its human population consisted of more than a dozen ethnic groups, none of which was strong enough to dominate the others. This internal makeup impeded the monarchy’s evolution as a modern state in two ways: by hindering the development of a centralized, efficient state administration and implanting sources of domestic conflict into the social fabric of the state. Both factors shaped Austria’s behavior as a strategic actor, placing it at a disadvantage in competition with more centralized and unified Great Power rivals. Ultimately, these characteristics prevented the monarchy from mobilizing its full power potential, effectively removed territorial expansion as an option for increasing state security, and presented internal vulnerabilities for enemies to exploit in wartime.

Keywords:   Habsburg state, political geography, Danubian Basin, Habsburg empire building, Austrian Habsburgs, polities, constitutional arrangement, ethnic groups, state administration, Austria

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