Projekt: Borbála Zsuzsanna Möller Török, Describe and Govern. Statistics and State Building in the Composite Habsburg States, 1770–1867

Borbála Zsuzsanna Török:

Describe and Govern. Statistics and State Building in the Composite Habsburg States, 1770–1867

FWF Lise-Meitner-Stipendium: 1. 7. 2017 – 30. 6. 2019

My project inquires into the intellectual foundation of state building in the Habsburg Monarchy from the late 18th century until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise. It focuses on factual knowledge about the state in descriptive statistics (Staatenkunde, state description). Historians have ignored the study of this knowledge field, taking for granted its eclipse by the end of the Napoleonic wars.

The starting point of my undertaking is indeed the surprising resilience and popularity of state descriptions until the 1870s. Staatenkunde flourished in all corners of the Monarchy, addressing everywhere the same kind of empirical facts, attributes and functions of the state. It is a rich source of practical knowledge about the public laws and administration, the army and schooling, the counties and the towns, the population, the flora and fauna of the polity. I claim therefore that the discipline had a key role in shaping administrative knowledge and language across the entire Monarchy from Tyrol to Transylvania. This again fostered the integration of the lands and therefore a more efficient management of the Habsburg conglomerate. To what extent this integration via knowledge about the state actually became a reality is a core question of my research. At the same time the study invites a rethinking of the history of modern (quantitative) statistics by embedding its scrutiny into the specificities of Habsburg social and political realities.

The project links the history of statistics with that of public administration and state building, while applying the perspective of science studies. It analyzes and compares practices of statistical knowledge both in selected hereditary lands as well as crownlands, and asks about the role of local environment in the process. The goal is to grasp the dynamics of contemporary knowledge about the state, but also feelings of solidarity and conflict, in short, the chances of integration, of very different regions into a shared political formation in the middle of Europe.

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