Joseph II was an enlightened despot that sought to make legal, economic, educational and ecclesiastical reforms. He established a free press. He tried to recruit the best scholars and scientists for the University of Vienna that was no longer under the control of the Church. He established national training colleges for priest and limited the authority of bishops. He established the Edict of Toleration in 1781 which gave Lutherans, Calvinists and Orthodox Christians almost equal status with Roman Catholics. Measures that restricted the Jews were removed. During 1780 and 1790 he closed most of the monasteries only allowing the ones that served a useful function such as: agriculture, care for the sick or education to stay open. Perhaps his greatest achievement came in 1781 when he abolished serfdom. He achieved a surplus of imports over exports. Industry developed mainly in the Alpine land around Vienna and in Bohemia and Moravia (parts of today’s Czech Republic). The Austrian Netherlands (later Belgium)
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resisted the centralized Habsburg rule and revolted. In 1786 a new Universal Code of Civil Law was issued.
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Leopold II: 1790-1792 (1 minute)
Joseph II was succeeded by his younger brother Leopold II (1790-1792) who had been Tuscany where he ruled for 25 years and gained the reputation of being an enlightened prince. His reign was short if he had lived longer he might have managed to salvage many of Joseph’s reforms. He reduced the power of the police and dismantled some of the centralized state that Joseph had put into place.
9. The Enlightenment: Conflicts with Revolutionary France and Napoleon and the Formation of the Austrian Empire: 1792-1815 (11 minutes)
The painting Archduke Charles of Austria during the Battle of Aspern-Essling by
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The Beginning of the Conflict between Austria and France (1 minute)
The First Coalition: 1792-1797 (2 minutes) The Second Coalition: 1799-1800 (1 minute) The Empire of Austria (1 minute)
The Third Coalition: 1805 (1 minute)
The Fourth Coalition: 1806-1807 (1 minute) The Fifth Coalition: 1809 (1 minute)
The Foreign Policy of Metternich (1 minute) The Sixth Coalition: 1812- 1814 (1 minute) The Seventh Coalition: 1815 (1 minute)
Francis II succeeded his father Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor (17921708) and proved to be conservative. However, the Josephist bureaucracy was still in place and continued to make reforms, such as the introduction of a new Criminal Code in 1803 and the General Civil Law Code of 1811. Francis major concern of this period would not be domestic affairs but foreign policy as the French Revolution had begun in 1789 sending shockwaves throughout Europe.
Leopold II of Austria and King Frederick the Great of Prussia had issued the joint Declaration of Pillnitz in 1791 which expressed concern about what was happening in France. The French revolutionary government saw this as a threat to their newly gained sovereignty and responded by declaring war on Austria. This introduced a 23 year period of almost constant conflict between Austria and France who would fight six wars. At the time the threat that France posed was not viewed as serious. Prussia and Russia were more interested in gaining additional territory in Poland. Austria was planning campaigns in Belgium and Bavaria (today part of Germany).