Visual History of the World




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The Modern Era

1789 - 1914

In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.



Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.



German States: The Reshaping of Austria and Prussia



After the Congress of Vienna, Austria sought to exert its influence throughout Europe: Metternich's policy of restoring the pre-revolutionary order decisively shaped European politics and made it possible for the Habsburgs to avoid giving way to demands for reform. The situation in Prussia was different; the humiliating defeat at the hands of Napoleon led to sweeping reforms of the military and bureaucracy aimed at strengthening the state. Therefore the largest German nations developed very differently and eventually became rivals. This explains why Bismarck was able to unify Germany in the 1860s without Austrian support but with the widespread acceptance of the people.


Austria's Restoration Policy

With stifling centralism the Austrian government frustrated nationalists and radicals. Through shrewd diplomacy they were able to temporarily thwart Prussian ambitions in Germany.


Metternich's successor, Prince 1 Felix zu Schwarzenberg, established a constitutional scheme into which the various nationalities were incorporated.

He saw to it that 2 Ferdinand I was forced to abdicate after the March Revolution of 1848.

4 Francis Joseph I, who in 1854 married Elizabeth, the daughter of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, was crowned as his successor.

1 Prince Felix zu Schwarzenberg
2 Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria
4 Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria

The new emperor broke the promise of democratic reforms he had made prior to the bloody suppression of the 1848 revolts. The government reinforced the absolutist regime with severe police repression. In 1849 the minister of the interior, Baron von Bach, inaugurated the "Bach System," a bureaucratic measure centralizing authority in Vienna. With the New Year's Eve Decree of 1851, the liberal constitution conceded to the revolutionaries was repealed. The Catholic clergy was considerably strengthened by the Concordat of 1855. On the other hand, the support of the peasants was secured through the abolition of serfdom, and the middle classes tended to support the regime when it seemed to be threatened by radical agitation.

In foreign affairs, Austria's neutrality during the 3 Crimean War of 1854-1856 alienated Russia without winning the support of France and Britain, leaving Austria isolated.

3 The Battle of Sitistra, during the Crimean War of 1854-56

Austria also lost many of its Italian territories, including Lombardy, in the Treaty of Zurich of 1859, while Italy's unification movement, supported by Napoleon III, resulted in grave military defeats for Austria at the battles of Magenta and Solferino.

Francis Joseph I was also forced to confront domestic challenges. Bach was relieved of his office, and a more federalist constitution was implemented. The February Patent of February 26,1861, once again provided for stronger centralism and ensured a privileged position for the Germans in the multinational Habsburg state. This further antagonized political activists among the other nationalities.

At the same time Austria and Prussia struggled with each other for supremacy within Germany. Schwarzenberg was able to thwart the creation of a German confederation without Austria and under Prussian leadership that was supposed to be agreed upon by the "Prussian Union parliament" in Erfurt in March and April 1850. Prussia was thus frustrated and forced to delay its bid to usurp the Habsburgs' leading role among the German states.




Empress Elizabeth, nicknamed "Sisi," was an unconventional aristocrat and did not want to submit to the ceremony of the Austrian court. She traveled extensively and maintained contact with the rebellious Hungarian aristocracy. It was at her urging that the double monarchy of Austria-Hungary was established in 1867, whereby Hungary regained its constitution.

She was murdered on September 10, 1898, by an Italian anarchist. The empress was adored during her lifetime for her beauty and independence. After her death, she became an iconic figure in the empire.




empress consort of Austria

born Dec. 24, 1837, Munich, Bavaria [Germany]
died Sept. 10, 1898, Geneva, Switz.

empress consort of Austria from April 24, 1854, when she married the emperor Francis Joseph I. She was also queen of Hungary (crowned June 8, 1867) after the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich, or Compromise. Her assassination brought her rather unsettled life to a tragic end.

Elizabeth was the daughter of the Bavarian duke Maximilian Joseph. In August 1853 she met her cousin Francis Joseph, then aged 23, who quickly fell in love with the 15-year-old Elizabeth, who was regarded as the most beautiful princess in Europe. Soon after their marriage she became involved in many conflicts with her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophia, which led to an estrangement with the court. Generally popular with her subjects, she offended Viennese aristocracy by her impatience with the rigid etiquette of the court.

The Hungarians admired her, especially for her endeavours in bringing about the Compromise of 1867. She spent much time at Gödöllő, north of Budapest. Her enthusiasm for Hungary, however, affronted German sentiment within Austria. She partly assuaged Austrian feelings by her care for the wounded in the Seven Weeks’ War of 1866.

The suicide of her only son, the crown prince Rudolf, in 1889, was a shock from which Elizabeth never fully recovered. It was during a visit to Switzerland that she was mortally stabbed by an Italian anarchist, Luigi Luccheni.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Elisabeth, 1864, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter


Elisabeth 1864 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter


Elisabeth with diamond stars in her hair, 1865, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Leopold Horowitz, 1899


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Gyula Benczur, 1899


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Bertalan Szekely, c. 1867


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Philip Alexius de Laszlo


Visit of Empress Elisabeth at the Castello di Miramare 1861;
Charlotte of Belgium (in white dress) welcomes Elisabeth while her husband Ferdinand Maximilian and
his brother Emperor Franz Joseph I, wait on the boat


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Amanda Bergstedt


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Anton Romako


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Franz Schrotzberg


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria





Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Ludwig Angerer


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Ludwig Angerer


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Emil Rabending


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Emil Rabending


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Emil Rabending


Empress Elisabeth of Austria with her favourite dog Shadow by Emil Rabending


Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Franz Hanfstaengl



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