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Professor Dr. Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger - Maria Theresa

Research Assistant at the Historical Institute,  University of Koeln,1982-1990.
R Ministry of University Education North-Rhine-Westphalia, 1991-1992.
Professor at the Historical Institute, University of Koeln,1996.
Professorship of Early Modern History University of Muenster, since 1997.  
Rector Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, 2018. 


Selected Works

  • Maria Theresia. Die Kaiserin in ihrer Zeit. Eine Biographie, München: Beck 2017.

       (Maria Theresa. The Empress  in her Times. A Biography).

  • Leipzig Book Fair Prize.

  • Cultures of Decision-Making, London 2016. 

  • The Emperor's Old Clothes. 

  • A Short History of the Holy Roman Empire, Princeton University Press.

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Episode #1

Q: How did you get interested in history in general, and Maria Theresa specifically?

A: I am a historian of the early modern period European history and was especially interested in political culture a constitution of early modern Europe including the Holy Roman Empire. I was fascinated by the ambivalence of this period, the 18th century, which was very pre modern on one hand, but on the other hand was the period of enlightenment. Maria Theresa’s reign covered 40 years in the 18th century, from 1740-1780, and so she shares in a way the ambivalence of this period, and this is what made her so interesting in my eyes.

Episode #2

Q: What made Maria Theresa such a compelling historical figure?

A: She is a compelling figure for various reasons. First, because the very special circumstance of her reign, her inheritance status. Second because of her personal characteristics. Maria Theresa was very charming, extremely meticulous and took her   'job' as Empress very seriously.   She was extremely religious and convinced that God had given her a mandate and the ability to reign and overcome all of the obstacles she faced.

Episode #3

Q: What were Maria Theresa's main accomplishments?

A: First of all she managed to prevent all of her many enemies, from destroying the Hapsburg Empire. Her most important achievement I would say, is that she managed to push considerable reforms which were necessary to make Austria a more modern state.

Episode #4

Q: How did Maria Theresia interact with minorities in general, and with the Jewish community in particular?

A: This is a very strange story. There here was no such thing as religions freedom and basic human rights. However, the 18th century was the era where these ideas developed. Maria Theresa extremely opposed this development. She was convinced it would lead to chaos and godlessness. She was very hostile to the idea of religious tolerance. But on the other hand there was a tradition of guaranteeing privilege's to certain groups.

There were no Jewish rights at all.

Episode #5

Q: What was the cause of the decree to expel the Jews of Prague in 1774?

A: In 1744 during the bloody War of Succession she persecuted the Jews of Prague and Bohemia in a way not common for the 18th century. She had this very unusual extreme anti-Judaism. In this sense she followed the tradition of her ancestors who persecuted Jews from time to time.  In 1744 Prague had the largest Ashkenaz population in Europe. And when Prussia occupied Prague in 1744, ass often, there was a rumor that the Jewish community collaborated with the enemy. Maria Theresa decreed that the 10,000 Jews of Prague had to leave, in the very cold winter, by the end of the year.

Full Interview - Professor Dr. Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger

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