The maintenance of a permanent standing army in connection with enduring international rivalry and recurrent warfare constituted a primary task of early modern government in the Vienna-based Habsburg monarchy. Yet in contrast to the preservation of public order, the dynastic state’s other major activity, it has received surprisingly little critical attention. The sources indicate that the immense expansion of the Habsburg military between the mid-seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries had a profound impact on state and society that in turn conditioned the monarchy’s international staying power.
A themed volume in the “Proceedings of the British Academy” series (The Habsburg Monarchy as a Fiscal-Military State c. 1648–1815: Contours and Perspectives, eds. William D. Godsey and Petr Maťa, Oxford University Press, 2022) renders greater precision to the concept of the ‘fiscal-military state’ more generally and systematically integrates the problems of war and foreign competition into perceptions of the Habsburg Monarchy in particular. It likewise sets both an agenda and a framework for future research into the operations of Habsburg power and authority in its various component parts, while bringing the latest specialized research before an international audience. The concepts of the ‘fiscal-military state’ and ‘composite monarchy’ are employed to help illuminate both the contours of political and social change between the Thirty Years’ and Napoleonic wars and the ways in which domestic transformation impacted upon the Habsburg monarchy’s ability to compete abroad. It assumes that local elites were crucial to making a successful compound state such as the Habsburg monarchy work.
Work is now continuing to consolidate and expand this area of research. The problems of credit, contractors, and the mobilization of war-related resources at the local (manorial) level, all of which emerged from the work on the volume mentioned above, appear to be especially promising aspects.