Innovation on the Danube and Loyalty in the Habsburg Empire


The Habsburg dynasty ruled over an empire, which from 1815 until its collapse in 1918 encompassed much of modern-day Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and parts of Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Montenegro and Italy. Modernizing forces throughout the nineteenth century fueled nationalist sentiment, which disrupted the social cohesion in the multiethnic empire. The state fought to counter these trends by reaffirming the positive role and influence it had on people’s lives. Specifically, the Habsburgs supported technological innovations such as river regulation and the rise of steamboats on the Danube, which capitalized on historical associations people had to the river, enhanced the river’s importance to people’s livelihoods, and re-channeled people’s loyalties and connections to both the state and to each other.

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