Venice and Venetia under the Habsburgs, 1815-1835

Venice and Venetia under the Habsburgs, 1815-1835

Venice and Venetia under the Habsburgs, 1815-1835

Venice and Venetia under the Habsburgs, 1815-1835

Synopsis

This book looks at the administration of Venice and Venetia as part of the multinational Habsburg Empire in the years between the collapse of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and the death of Francis I in 1835. It rejects entirely the 'black legend' of Austrian domination that long informed the traditional Risorgimento historiography. Instead, it presents a picture of an administration that was a hybrid of Napoleonic modernization and Habsburg bureaucratic practices, which offered the most effective and responsive government in Restoration Italy.

Excerpt

The Austrian government in Venice … is not only a pure and unmixed
despotism, but a studied and designed aggregation of every abuse that can
tend to desolate and oppress, to break the spirit of the species, to damp
industry, and to quench hope.

(Lady Morgan, Italy (London, 1821), ii. 74)

… it seems impossible to escape the conclusion that the principles and
requirements of the Austrians were in contradiction to the needs and
aspirations of nearly every section of Venetian society.

(Paul Ginsborg, Daniele Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848–49
(Cambridge, 1979), 2)

In 1979 Paul Ginsborg remarked in his landmark study of the Venetian insurrection of 1848–9 that 'much work remains to be done on Austrian administration and policy before and during the revolution'. in the intervening years some headway has been made in this task. However, the main reason for writing the present book is quite simply that the so-called second Austrian domination of 1814–48 remains a neglected area of Venetian history. As my title makes clear, my principal intention is to provide an account of the Habsburg administration of Venice and its mainland during the two decades between the defeat of Napoleon and the death of Francis I, Emperor of Austria, in 1835. in attempting to go some way towards filling the gap left by other historians, I have deliberately set out to furnish a fairly detailed account of the machinery of government, education, censorship, policing, conscription, and taxation during the first two decades of the Restoration. But I have also sought to offer much more than a dry description of the workings of the Habsburg system. Instead, I have used the Austrian administration of Venetia as a case study to cast light both on the nature of the Habsburg Empire in the Restoration, and on the way in which rulers sought to come to terms with the ambivalent legacy of Napoleonic domination. This, I hope, will contribute to debates about the nature of Italy in the early nineteenth century and the origins of the movement for national unification and independence that came to be known as the Risorgimento.

P. Ginsborg, Daniele Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848–49 (Cambridge, 1979), 397.

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