This area of focus brings together research plans and projects that aim to offer perspectives different to those associated with the history of the modern (nation-)state or purely dynastic history. The concept of composite monarchy (H. G. Koenigsberger and J. H. Elliott) is employed as a heuristic instrument for investigating such issues as the functionality of the Habsburg polity, the social relationships that underlay it, and the asymmetries in its structures. At the same time we hope to develop the concept further in the light of the recent debate about the nature of empires, other large political amalgamations, and complex political systems. Integrating the Habsburg Monarchy into this debate will allow us to highlight significant attributes of this polity without necessarily seeing them as specifically unique to it.