The Josephinian Reorganisation of the Military Frontier

Tuesday 30th January 2018, Senior Parlour, Gonville and Caius College, 5-6.30pm

Professor Alexander Buczynski (Croatian Institute of History, Zagreb)

Soon after the Seven Years’ War ended, Grenzer regiments of the Military Frontier in Croatia that were under the control of the General Command in Karlstadt (Karlovac) were afflicted by such misery and famine that its inhabitants were impelled to eat tree bark and cornstalks. Halfhearted efforts of local military authorities could not withstand the subsistence crises that soon became a sad characteristic of this rugged part of the Dinaric Alps. Early in 1775 Empress Maria Theresia’s Imperial Secretary Adam von Giorgio submitted a lengthy, very detailed report to his sovereign on the causes for the decline of the Karlstadt Generalcy. As a result of his devastating critique against the General Command, the Karlstadt Regiments were visited by Emperor Joseph II later that year. It was the first time that the co-ruler saw this part of the Monarchy and he was so appalled by the poverty of the Grenzer inhabitants that he prompted a systematic, wholescale reform of the Military Frontier that was crowned with the introduction of the so-called Canton System (similar to the Prussian military system) in 1787. This paper will address the circumstances that caused the subsistence crises in the Karlstadt Generalcy, different (often opposite) countermeasures suggested by the emperor’s most trusted associates Joseph Colloredo, Franz Moritz Lacy and Gideon Loudon, as well as Joseph’s attitude towards the Grenzer in general. Does the extensive administrative and military restructuring of the Military Frontier confirm the stereotype of Joseph II as an impatient and stubborn ruler who wanted to carry out change as quickly and thoroughly as possible?