The Law and Rhetoric of Treason in the Late Habsburg Monarchy: The Case of Croatia

Tuesday 18th October 2016, Senior Parlour, Gonville and Caius College, 5-6pm

Professor Mark Cornwall (University of Southampton)

Supported by the DAAD Cambridge Research Hub with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO)

In the last decades of the Habsburg empire the phenomenon of ‘treason’ surfaced regularly in political discourse and in the law, and produced some major treason trials both before and after 1914. This paper, part of a major research project on treason in the late Habsburg Monarchy, explores what treason meant to the Habsburg elite in terms of state security and the loyalty they expected from citizens. It uses as a case study the complex situation in Croatia, which was ruled ‘unconstitutionally’ for most of the pre-war decade. Most notorious was the regime of Paul Rauch (1908-1910) when a violent rhetoric of treason proliferated on all sides, particularly as Serbs were suddenly stereotyped as disloyal. The result was the notorious Zagreb treason trial (1909), which remains very unresearched yet was compared at the time to the Dreyfus scandal in France. The paper explores how loyalty and disloyalty was interpreted in Croatia, as well as the causes and results of the state prosecution of Serb ‘traitors’. It thereby seeks to draw conclusions about the mindset of the Habsburg elite on the eve of the First World War. How far can we term this a regime in crisis?