The essays in this volume have been written for different occasions over the past twenty years or so. As is indicated in each case, about half of them were published at the time; the others not. All have been revised for the present collection, and that included translating a number of them. In substance, however, they are left as originally conceived, especially those which have already appeared in print in English. It is always hazardous to try to recast a finished piece of scholarship, notwithstanding its faults. Like amateur interference with clockwork mechanisms, the bits all too often resist reassembly.
I have described the component parts of the book as essays, rather than as chapters. They do not cohere with one another quite like the stages of argument in a monograph: indeed, they probably should not, if they are to be free to reflect the essential variety and intractability of the historical record. This also allows each to be read separately, as a free-standing item; and I have retained what I hope are productive and helpful elements of internal overlap. Nevertheless, I have sought to indicate the ways in which the different research conclusions may support one another. Moreover, I trust that arrant contradictions, at least, have been avoided.
All of the book is about Central Europe; a large part of it pertains to the Habsburg Monarchy. Such terminology is, strictly speaking, rather anachronistic: like much of the historian's working vocabulary, it would have been little employed by contemporaries. The notion of 'Central Europe' raises semantic issues which are addressed in the last essay. 'Habsburg Monarchy' can be misleading in a different way. Whereas much of Central Europe stood more or less under Habsburg aegis during the period under examination here, and that rule incorporated an intensity of dynastic involvement increasingly singular in the modern history of the continent, overuse of the word can carry too strong an implication of 'Habsburg' agency at all points, exaggerating the scope for governance (good or bad) by one individual or family. Comparable difficulties attach to 'Austria', a term which—besides denoting more limited and specific territories—was long, well into the eighteenth century at least, applied to the dynasty itself (the 'house of Austria') or to its possessions viewed in a basically patrimonial way.
Thereby hangs a larger tale. One of the two principal currents of historiography on my subject matter has been broadly centralist: concerned with an Austrian state, with Viennese authority, with metropolitan culture and its
For these complexities, see Grete Klingenstein, 'The Meanings of [Austria] and [Austrian] in
the Eighteenth Century', in Royal and Republican Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe, ed. R. Oresko
et al. (Camb., 1997), 423–78.