The Austrian Society for Eighteenth Century Studies

3.2   22 congresses in 28 years and Graz 2011

Between 1985 and today all in all 22 congresses were held by the ÖGE 18 alone or in cooperation with other societies and institutions. Currently the planning of the ISECS World Congress is under way. Table 1 provides the basic information on year, subject in German (if applicable in brackets ÖGE 18 publication), and place.


During the presidency of Moritz Csáky two international congresses were organised in Vienna. The first one took place from May 30th till 31st, 1985 and picked up the general topic of four jour fixes in 1983/1984.[46] The participants came from Bucarest, Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Marburg an der Lahn, and Graz. The second one in December 1987 was planned on the occasion of the Europalia 87 Österreich[47] in Brussels. Additional to the Viennese congress, the ÖGE 18 participated at one of the 26 conferences and debates during the EUROPALIA. The last congress initiated by Moritz Csáky and hold at the beginning of Gunnar Hering’s presidency was the congress on the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death in 1991. It was also the first congress not hosted in Vienna, but in Salzburg.  

Three years before this the society had its first major crisis. Owing to the upcoming 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989 vice-president Edith Rosenstrauch suggested a congress. Moritz Csáky’s opposition to this idea resulted in irresolvable tensions between the board members. At the end she resigned from the board and the society. In several interviews by Beatrix Müller-Kampel between 1994 and 2000 Edith Rosenstrauch said about her disagreement with Moritz Csáky: “Da es […] zu Auseinandersetzungen zwischen uns beiden kam, räumte ich das Feld und zog mich aus der Gesellschaft zurück. Damals jährte sich die Französische Revolution zum 200. Mal. Ich war der Ansicht, daß es Aufgabe der Gesellschaft wäre, hier etwas zu veranstalten. Da Csáky diese Vorschläge nicht unterstützte und sich davon distanzierte, ging ich mit einigen anderen daran, ein neues Forum für diesen Anlaß zu gründen.”[48] After her resignation from the board and the society Edith Rosentrauch founded the “Society for French Revolution Studies”. Eventually, ten years later at the 210th anniversary of the French Revolution the ÖGE 18 was one of eight partners[49] of the international congress “The French Revolution and the project Modernity” at the University of Innsbruck from October 20th till 24th, 1999. The present president, Wolfgang Schmale, a specialist of French Revolution, reconciled the diverging interests, and the society became a member of “Commission Internationale de l´histoire de la Révolution Française”.

Starting with the presidency of Harald Heppner the cycle of the congresses became yearly and in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 even two congresses per year were arranged. Also the focus started to shift from Vienna to the national level. Out of nine congresses between 1994 and 2001 only three took place in Vienna (1997, 1999, 2000) while the remaining nine were hold in Graz (1994), three in Innsbruck (1995, 1998, 1999), in Seggau (1996) and in Eisenstadt (1998). Further analyses of this time period show that by slowly discontinuing the jour-fixe system in 1999/2000 the board could concentrate its activities and resources more strongly on the organisation of congresses. Similar to the jour-fixe system the ÖGE 18 was not committed to one field or discipline in their congress system, but always aimed for interdisciplinarity and internationality in their scientific debates.

There are congresses such as in 1996 “Building boom and atmosphere of departure in the 18th century” which presented especially lectures on the process of modernisation like the Etablishment of the k.k. General-Bau-Direktion (Christian Benedik), The baroque boom after the elimination of the Turkish danger (Daman Prelovsek), and The expansion of the road network (Eva Faber). The congress of 1998 in Eisenstadt on the topic of “Force of Nature as a subject of politics, science and art in the 18th century” discussed it from various perspectives like a natural-historical one in the presentation The earthquakes of 1768 in Wiener Neustadt and in Leoben 1794 (Christa Hammerl). Also the field of technical history was touched with the subject The introduction of lightning arrester in the Habsburg Monarchy (Alois Kernbauer). From a political point of view Erhard Oeser spoke on Immanuel Kant and the earthquake of Lisbon. There were also one lecture from the art history, one from musicology, and one from German Studies.

In 1999 the focus on the gender aspect of the Eighteenth Century Studies broke new ground. The congress “Image of gender and reality of women in the 18th century. Perspectives of the Austrian research” was initiated and organised by specialist for Finnish-Hungarian Studies Andrea Seidler (Vienna), historian Eva Faber (Graz), and historian Gunda Barth-Scalmani (Innsbruck) under the patronage of the Historical Commission of the Austrian Academy of Science.

The congresses of the new millennium choose military topics like “fortification and innovation” in 2004 and in 2007; a cultural transfer approach to the Jewish history in 2004; a biographical – cultural historical perspective such as the congresses on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Aloys Blumauer in 2005 or the 300th anniversary of Francis Stephen of Lorraine in 2008; the research on the estates in the Habsburg Monarchy in 2006; a regional topic such as “The change of a landscape. The long 18th century and Styria” in 2006; a field of research from the Book History like “Communication and information in the 18th century” in 2007. Considering the last ten years and here especially three congresses (in 2000 the congress “Structural change in cultural praxis. Contributions to the cultural historical view of the era of Maria Theresa”, in 2005 the congress “Josephinism – An Assessment” and in 2008 the congress “Francis Stephen of Lorraine and his circle”), the society focused on the three most important rulers of the second half of the 18th century. By doing so, it provided new insights into this period which resulted in its complete scientific re-evaluation.

The board itself was mostly solely responsible for the organisation of the congress. However, with the shift toward the national and international level it became more common to cooperate with other societies and institutions. The Eisenstadt congress of 1998 was organised together with the Austrian Society for History of Science; the one in Vienna in 2005 with the Austrian Society for Literature, the one in Graz in 2006 with the Historical association for Styria and the one in Vienna in 2007 with the Society for Book History in Austria. Other partners in 1999 and 2000 were the various commissions of the Austrian Academy of Science.

Regarding its international connections one has to differentiate between the society’s connection to the umbrella association of all national societies ISECS and its connection to foreign scholars and societies. Strictly speaking the international relations of the first one and a half decades were limited to the invitation of foreign scholars to various lectures and congresses. Since the end of the 90s cross-border co-operations became more common. In 1998 the first bilateral congress in Innsbruck, coordinated by Helmut Reinalter and Harm Klueting from the German Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, took place. Its counterpart was realized in Cologne in 2002. Especially Wolfgang Schmale dedicated his term as president to the promotion of the society’s cosmopolitan atmosphere. In 2005 the congress on „Josephinism – An Assessment“ was organised with the help of the Centre interdisciplinaire bordelais d’étude des Lumières (CIBEL) de l’université Michel de Montaigne – Bordeaux III. At the Graz congress „From Myth to Reality. Building of Turks and Fortifications between Danube and Adria“ in May 2007 the German Society for Fortification Studies participated as partner. The new cosmopolitan approach is also reflected in the organization of workshops and the ÖGE 18 publication series.

The ISECS connection was not very good developed until the new millenium. In 2000 Renate Zedinger described the problem to Harald Heppner in a facsimile: “Die österreichische Gesellschaft ist im Bewußtsein der Delegierten, die hier [ISECS Executive Meetings] aus der ganzen Welt zusammenkommen, nicht präsent; eventuelle Zusammenarbeit (nach Gesprächen mit schweizer, deutschen und französischen Kollegen) reduziert sich auf Herrn Reinalter.”[50] Apparently, although the ÖGE 18 became member of the International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ISECS) already one month after its foundation, the relations were never really cultivated. The only cross-border attempt until the 1998 bilateral congress in Innsbruck took place on June 10th, 1983. The ÖGE 18 met with the working group for Eighteenth Century Studies, located at the Hungarian Academy of Science, and the Hungarian society in Budapest.[51] They agreed to organise annual jour fixes as well as to promote the scientific exchange between the countries. However, apart from the invitation of Hungarian scholars to Viennese lectures there is no proof of a closer cooperation after this initial meeting. The Austrian-Hungarian relations remained apparently on a personal level between scholars. Also the first and only ISECS congress hosted by an East European country, the one in Budapest in 1987[52], was not attended by an Austrian delegation. Instead the focus lied on the Europalia 87 Österreich in Brussels.

Harald Heppner wrote retrospectiveley in his preparation of his final speech as president of the ÖGE 18 at the general assembly on November 15th, 2001 that the board started to pay more attention to ISECS during the ISECS congress in Münster in 1995 and then again in Dublin in 1999.[53] Then in 2000 the ÖGE 18 jumped at the chance to be host of the ISECS Executive Meeting in 2001, after the original organizer the Romanian Society had to withdraw their offer due to domestic political instabilities. The meeting took place in Vienna from September 19th till 20th, 2001. The conference theme was “New currents of thought: theory and practice in the eighteenth century”. The success of the meeting did much for the international standing of the society and was an important step towards 2011. Renate Zedinger represented the ÖGE 18 at the next Executive Meeting in Warsaw in 2002. During the 11th World Congress for Eighteenth Century Studies in Los Angeles in 2003 the ÖGE 18 organised a panel to “The Perception of Space in the 18th century”. In 2005 Harald Heppner suggested to submit an application for the 13th World congress in 2011 at the next ISECS executive meeting in Helsinki 2006. He did so with success. The congress is going to take place in Graz from July 25th until 29th, 2011. During the ISECS Executive meeting in Dublin 2008[54] it was discussed and agreed on that the sub-theme “Central and Eastern Europe in the Age of Enlightenment“ will be added to the overall theme of the congress “Time in the Age of Enlightenment: Situating the Present, Imagining the Future”. It was reasoned that the congress of 2011 should especially encourage central and eastern European colleagues to attend and present at ISECS.

In preparation for 2011 besides going online with a congress website[55] various scientific activities are planned[56]: In October 2009 a post-graduate workshop, directed by Wolfgang Schmale, “New research for the Eighteenth Century: Habsburg Monarchy, Russia, Ottoman Empire, and America” took place in Vienna. Besides scholars from Austrian universities also French, Czech, Romanian, German, and Belgian colleagues participated. The presentations were as usual very diverse and interdisciplinary. A second workshop, directed by Gunda Barth-Scalmani, is planned in Innsbruck from November 4th till 7th, 2010. The theme is kept deliberately open in order to encourage young scholars to submit suggestions for panels as well as papers to be presented at the world congress in 2011.

Other projects for 2011 focus on two publications. Besides the present one there is another one edited by Harald Heppner, Peter Urbanitsch, and Renate Zedinger focusing on the “Social change in the Habsburg Monarchy. The era of Enlightenment”.

[42] See Antonicek, Mozart, 133–137.

[43] See Schmale/Steer, Kulturtransfer..

[44] See Frimmel/Wögerbauer, Kommunikation.

[45] See Heppner/Barbarics-Hermanik, Türkenangst.

[46] See Lindner, Vaterlandsliebe, 9–20.

[47] See <> (14.02.2010).

[48] Müller-Kampel, Lebensstationen, 74.

[49] Internationale Forschungsstelle „Demokratische Bewegungen“; ÖGE 18; Commission Internationae d’Histoire de la Révolution Française; Französisches Kulturinstitut in Innsbruck; Human- und Literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät der Universität Innsbruck; Centre Universitaire de Luxembourg; Philosophische Fakultät der Universität Brünn; Europäische Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste Salzburg.

[50] Facsimile from Renate Zedinger to Harald Heppner without Date, but it must have been sent right after the ISECS Executive meeting in Lausanne from September 20th till 24th, 2000.

[51] See Hopp, Ungarn, 73–78.

[52] From July 26th till August 2nd, 1987 the 7th World Congress on Enlightenment took place in Budapest.

[53] See notes to Heppners final speech as president on November 15th, 2001.

[54] See minutes of the ISECS Executive Meeting in Dublin 2008 <> (14.02.2010).

[55] The congress website can be found online <>.

[56] See ÖGE 18 board minutes from February 7th, 2008.

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