Noble Entrepreneurship in the Eighteenth Century Habsburg Monarchy
Baroque castles, conspicuous consumption and prodigality were used in historiography to describe the nobility as the ruling social group in the early modern period. Literature on noble elites in the Habsburg monarchy likewise reflects such topics and topoi.
This research project, funded by the Austrian Science Fund with an Elise Richter Fellowship, considers the nobility of the Habsburg monarchy as a driving force for economic development in the eighteenth century regarding both, the family itself and the monarchy. Due to the nobility’s privileged status, the aristocracy possessed the capital, the infrastructure and the manpower to invest in agriculture, industry, technology and banking. Income and family strategies diversified in the eighteenth century given that traditional fields of activity such as military service became less important. The IMET project will explore three major research questions:
- Long-term family strategies in the economy that in the end increased income and risk management
- Innovations and management strategies in agriculture, estate administration, industry, banking and joint stock companies in order to scrutinize the market orientation of nobles
- The economic training and courses of education of nobles as a precondition of the professionalization of noble economic activity
The IMET project is designed as a qualitative study. Selected families from different regions of the Habsburg monarchy will serve as objects of investigation. The accounts of the families’ general treasury, economic correspondence, instructions as well as travel itineraries are of particular interest. Examples from the Austrian Netherlands, from the Austro-Bohemian core lands and from Carinthia offer an interesting synopsis of economically strong regions of the eighteenth century Habsburg monarchy with important branches such as textiles, mining, trade and banking. In comparing these case-studies with other examples the project will help understanding noble engagement in the Habsburg economy.