SYMBOLICAL COMMUNICATION AND POLITICAL CULTURE IN THE HABSBURG MONARCHY IN THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES
This post-doctoral thesis (Habilitation) investigates how regional assemblies (Landtage) and meetings of the Estates operated in seven countries of the Habsburg Monarchy. As important tools of building consensus, political communication and administrative consolidation, the assemblies of the regional Estates remained part of the political culture of the Habsburg Empire to1848. However, their image has largely been defined with reference to modern forms of parliamentary representation favoured in older research. Moreover, for the period following the Thirty Years’ War, they have been overwhelmingly misunderstood as insignificant institutions and received little scrutiny. In order to sharpen the contours of their role as mechanisms of consensus-building as well as sites of distinction for the Estates in the composite Habsburg state, the project attempts to sound out the regional assemblies’ spatial and temporal dimensions.
The project firstly investigates the assembly and conference halls in which the Estates met for their consultations. Although numerous architectural studies exist of the historical buildings that housed the regional assemblies, the history of the use of these meeting rooms is hardly known. The project explores their furnishings, decoration, spatial distribution and use of the ‘Landstuben’ (regional assembly halls), their special contexts and symbolic dimension, on the basis of sources largely neglected until now. The symbolic aspect was manifested on the one hand in the ceremonial order of events and the mechanisms of distinction, and on the other in session and hierarchical disputes. Secondly, the project looks at the temporal dimension of the regional assemblies. It analyses local decision-making processes on the one hand, and negotiations between the regional assemblies and the centre of power on the other. According to the thesis, the transformation of the regional assemblies from ad hoc events to continuously or regularly meeting bodies mirrors the advanced intertwining of the Estates with the sovereign administration in the Habsburg fiscal-military state of the early modern era.