Mittwoch, 27. Mai 2015, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

Geschichte am Mittwoch/Geschichte im Dialog

Ilay Berkovich: Old-Regime Armies? Conscript Armies? The Case of Habsburg Austria (1740-1792)

Universität Wien - Institut für Geschichte, HS 45
Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien


Moderation: Thomas Winkelbauer


Histories of the Revolutionary Wars often portray the victories of the young French Republic not only in military but also moral terms. Traditional accounts speak of enthusiastic citizen-soldiers who swept aside the foreign mercenaries of the old-regime monarchies. While recent historiography takes a more nuanced view of the conflict, it still considers the French army as a modern military force, whose use of conscription and humane disciplinary policies has produced stronger cohesion among its soldiery and greater combat effectiveness for the army as a whole. My paper reconsiders this conventional view by presenting my ongoing research on what is commonly seen as one of Europe's most archetypical old-regime armies.

Statistical analysis of regimental muster rolls reveals that landständische Werbung, a system of conscription by the Habsburg provincial assemblies, was the largest single source of Austrian military manpower. This occurred well before mass conscription was introduced to Europe by the French republic. Moreover, this development was well underway before Joseph II allowed regiments to draw recruits directly from the local communities. These reforms are seen as a sign of the growing militarization of German society, pioneered by Prussia's introduction of cantonal system 40 years before. My findings suggest that the establishment of cantons in Austria was not a radical break with the past, but rather the streamlining of an existing practice.

Zur Person:

Ilya Berkovich completed his PhD in Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 2012. He has published items on crusader and eighteenth-century history. His monograph Motivation in War: Ordinary Soldiers in Armies of Old-Regime Europe is forthcoming from CUP.


Institut für Geschichte


MMag.Dr. Andrea Brait
Institut für Geschichte