Barbara Jelavich Book Prize


Honorable Mention

The Sinews of Habsburg Power: Lower Austria in a Fiscal-Military State 1650-1820

Honorable Mention: William D. Godsey
Title: The Sinews of Habsburg Power: Lower Austria in a Fiscal-Military State 1650-1820 (Oxford University Press)

Based on very extensive archival research, this highly learned monograph offers a new interpretation of the birth of the modern state in Habsburg-ruled central Europe, seen through the lens of the “fiscal-military state.” William Godsey argues compellingly that the Lower Austrian Estates were a key dynamo behind the Habsburg Monarchy’s power: funding the empire’s standing army; tapping domestic credit (and thereby facilitating a huge state deficit); and acting as a crucial intermediary via which the state extracted income from the population. While illuminating much about how the machinery of the Monarchy functioned and endured, Godsey notably challenges the myth of an absolutist state, revealing the Estates’ continuing and crucial role especially during the reign of Maria Theresa. Since the Lower Austrian Estates were crucial to Habsburg power, Godsey’s contribution offers a new key to understand the longevity of a regime that was built very much on compromise rather than absolutism. By undertaking a longue durée approach, Godsey offers not only a detailed and meticulously researched case-study, but also an authoritative study of the Habsburg history from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Winner: Will Smiley