Picturing Austria-Hungary: The British Perception of the Habsburg Monarchy 1865-1870

TitlePicturing Austria-Hungary: The British Perception of the Habsburg Monarchy 1865-1870
Publication TypePublication review
AuthorsLojkó, Miklós
Author(s) of reviewed materialFrank, Tibor


PublisherBoulder, Colorado: Social Science Monographs; Wayne, New Jersey: Center for Hungarian Studies and Publications
ISSNISBN 978088033560
Review year


Full Text

As in our own time, during the late 19th century, Europe faced a choice between centralised authority and national sovereignty, common affairs vs. home rule, federal administrative power vs. state rights. This is a study of the British perception of the making of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1867, a process which posed fundamental structural questions for Central Europe and beyond. The book focuses on ideas, techniques, and methods of political marketing that created most of the national images and stereotypes of the Habsburg Monarchy in Victorian England, then the centre of world power and world opinion. Among the many different makers and shapers of the British image of Austria-Hungary, Lajos Kossuth, Henry de Worms, and Arthur J. Patterson are depicted here on the basis of a variety of newly discovered primary sources.

The book is made up of four main sections: The first, entitled “Intervention or non-intervention: foreign affairs in British political thought in the 1860s”, outlines the guiding principles of British foreign policy at the time with special reference to the nature of Britain’s limited but material interest in the Habsburg Monarchy. The second and more substantial part, under the title “Marketing Austria-Hungary: sources and channels of information”, addresses diplomatic, commercial and military relations and the impact of contemporary British journalism. The third section, entitled “Images of Austria-Hungary”, reproduces, from journals and books, including memoirs, British impressions of, among other subjects, the economy and society in Austria-Hungary; the history and national character of the Hungarians; the nationality question in Hungary, as well as the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise. The fourth part conveys the complete series of secret British diplomatic reports of Sir Robert B.D. Morier from Buda-Pest, dated in 1866, which are published in this volume for the first time.

One of the unique characteristics of the book is that by projecting the future into the past, or, rather, by discovering the future in the past, the author suggests that a conscious strategy of packaging or marketing of a product, in this case, of a country, took place when the various actors described or dressed up Hungary for the purpose of winning the sympathies of world opinion. This refreshing approach is mixed here with a more traditional and systematic analysis which treads on the well-established path of international relations methodology: The work surveys contacts and diplomacy; the influence and interaction of states, compares various aspects of the countries in focus, and finally, it examines the perception of Austria-Hungary and its people by another nation. By employing these interdependent methods in the novel context of “marketing”, the author has succeeded in breathing modern spirit and dynamism into his subject. In addition to the solid theoretical background, the book delivers the fruits of extraordinarily meticulous and assiduous historical and philological research in both primary and secondary sources which is sadly becoming rare in the 21st century.