Actors and Political Decision-making in the "Oriental Department" of the Aulic War Council (1606-1665)

The “otherness” of the Orient has been challenging the Western world in innumerable ways. Matching the appropriate decision in issues related to regions and states differing from our home lifeworld seems today as complicated as it was centuries ago. In regard of this, it is worth having a closer look at decision-making strategies of previous eras which may open up new perspectives in the managing of present conflicts as well.

The presence of the Ottoman Empire in early modern Central Europe had doubtlessly a deep impact on the countries and nations of the region. The Habsburg Monarchy belonged to the most important state-level actors of the contemporary political scene and had been facing an extraordinary military challenge of the Crescent Moon since the early 16th century. It goes without saying, conflicts require a profound understanding of the opponent to build up an appropriate strategy for future actions. Related to the early modern Habsburg-Ottoman rivalry in Central Europe, my project targets the following main questions: Where and by whom were the relevant decisions made and how can actors of the decision-making process be located in the court society and institutions? Where did their professional expertise come from and how did the Habsburg government exploit and circulate their knowledge? Finally, how did the Habsburg Monarchy create its own diplomatic corps and strategy for managing affairs related to the Ottoman Empire and the Oriental world?

Investigations shall focus on a major period of peace in the 17th century, when subtle peacekeeping mechanisms and experienced diplomats defined the relationship between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. Investigations will focus primarily on the activity of the Viennese War Council, a collegial board of military and civil experts, which controlled the diplomatic machinery on the Habsburg side. The organ was established in 1556 and was originally designed for managing the Ottoman war in the Kingdom of Hungary. It became responsible for the diplomatic issues concerning the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East since the early 17th century and covered a great deal of topics, such as peace negotiations, diplomatic missions, interpretation of correspondence, operating the diplomatic outpost in Constantinople etc. Through examining the Viennese War Council my endeavor is to address the characteristically early modern Oriental diplomacy of the Habsburgs studying its very core behind the scenes of diplomatic performances focusing on how decisions of fundamental importance were created in order to avoid serious military confrontations and stabilize Habsburg-Ottoman rule in the Central European space.


Dr. Zsuzsanna Cziráki

Project term

July 2021 - Februar 2024


Austrian Science Fund (FWF): M 3034 Meitner-Programm