Local elites in the Habsburg Monarchy after 1868:
A theme issue of the Acta Poloniae Historica (vol. 121/2020)
Historians dealing with political and economic history, circulation of ideas, or literature, have delved in-depth into the elite on the Habsburg monarchy level and the elites within the nations forming this composite state. Recently, quite a number of studies have been published that address the issue from various field-related perspectives (history of architecture and city-planning – Damjanović, Prokopovych; social history – Nemes, Glassheim, Sosnowska; history of organisations – Nolte, to mention but a few, are exemplary to the trend). In our opinion, not as much attention has been given to local elites. By ‘local’ we mean not only spatial locality – places remote from main centres of power – but also social and cultural locality. In simplest terms, the latter can be understood as a distance towards influential groups at the top decision-making level.
Our planned theme issue is meant to offer a set of studies concerning various regions and diverse problems, all under a common thematic umbrella – namely, local elites. Thereby, the Monarchy can apparently be described as a specific cultural area. We should like to initiate reflection on the formation of the attitudes prevalent amongst decision-making elites when remote from central (Vienna and Budapest) or national coercions (modern nationalist movements). We seek to explore the question whether the dimension in question, which eludes central totalising narratives, might indeed be described in more adequate terms (in its cultural – rather than political-only – aspects, the Habsburg specificity has been tackled in some classical studies, as in Schoerske, McCagg, and by more recent authors – e.g., Baric).
We propose that our authors reflect upon local elites in the Habsburg Monarchy in the interesting period after the year 1868, when the territory’s modernity was taking shape in its political, social, and cultural dimensions. A year after the dualist monarchy was enacted, political relationships were established within the Kingdom of Hungary (the agreement with Croatia; the situation of the Slovaks). In our view, 1868 can be regarded as a symbolic beginning of a new order set across the Monarchy – however conventional or indicative any such date may be.
Source analysis-based research conducted from the standpoint of micro-history, or social history, may reveal certain complex dimensions of the functioning of communities that are unobvious from a later, monocentric, standpoint. Local elites – those which gained a special position due to their social or economic capital – were frequently formed along different lines than their higher-level counterparts. Their entanglement in local everyday realities was much greater and had a bearing on the choices they made. We entertain the hope that a collection of texts written from such a point of view will allow to discern the specificities of locality, or the localities, within the Habsburg state. It will also enable us, perhaps, to better understand the operation or functioning of multinational socio-political communities.
Suggested issues to address:
- Activities of civic institutions (clubs, associations, foundations)
- Biographies – professional and local
- Family/social association networks
- Urban policies pursued on local level
- Power relations on communal/regional level
- Elite members’ ethos, civic ethos
- Fluidity and stability: social aspects
- Analogies beyond the Austro-Hungarian territory