How to break a state: the Habsburg Monarchy's internal war

John Deak, Jonathan Gumz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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The Habsburg Empire’s final years and its experience in the First World War have traditionally been a story of dysfunction and national disintegration. This article, by contrast, stresses that the prewar Habsburg state was far from dysfunctional and in many ways approximated its other nineteenth-century constitutionalist counterparts within Europe and across the world. Yet the war and the stresses surrounding it, especially along the seam of civil-military relations, tore that constitutionalist state apart as the Habsburg Army declared its own internal war against the Habsburg civilian state. The army focused its ire on the rule of law within that state, which it viewed as contributing to the state’s weaknesses, and ultimately its initial failures, in the first year and a half of the war. Thus, the Habsburg Empire descended into a state of exception as the army took advantage of an array of legal tools designed to accompany initial mobilizations to make deep and lasting incursions into the practice of managing civilians. These incursions caused widespread dismay among broad sections of the Habsburg populace, while simultaneously undermining the practices and procedures of the Habsburg administration. Yet in plunging into a state of legal exception, the Habsburg Empire was hardly an anomaly in the twentieth century. Rather, it was a harbinger of what was to come as the nineteenth-century constitutionalist state came under assault in emergency situations in Europe during the First World War and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1105–1136
JournalThe American Historical Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017


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