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A Case of Peculiar Orientalism? The late Habsburg Empire through the early writings of R. W. Seton-Watson (1906-1914)

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Aliprantis, Christos  ORCID logo


This study uses the methodological tool of Orientalism, as described by Edward Said, to examine the attitude toward the early 20th century Austro-Hungarian Empire expressed in the writings of R.W. Seton-Watson (1879-1951), a highly influential British historian and traveler in the Habsburg lands. The paper focuses on the question of whether, in his observations of the Dual Monarchy, Seton-Watson came to comprehend that state and its peoples through the prism of Orientalism, assuming a hegemonic occidental attitude and perceiving Austria-Hungary as an oriental, decayed and corrupted state. The study examines the most crucial (but simultaneously the most poorly researched) era of his life regarding the formation of his opinion about Central Europe, i.e. his youth and his early contacts with the Danubian Monarchy, from his first travel there (1905/06) until the outbreak of the Great War, when his attitude took its final form. The numerous books and pamphlets that Seton-Watson published in these years regarding the international and domestic position of Austria-Hungary, as well as his rich private correspondence with his Central European associates, are examined for Orientalistic thinking. Following his own line of thought, the present essay will focus progressively on Seton-Watson’s reflections on Austria as a European Great Power, while describing his relations with the Magyars and the other peoples of the Hungarian Kingdom. Subsequently, his interest in the South Slav peoples of the Monarchy and their treatment by the Viennese imperial authorities will be discussed. Eventually, his image of the Empire during the turbulent summer of 1914 is analyzed, in order to reach a conclusion regarding whether and to what extent Seton-Watson saw the Habsburg Empire via the lens of Orientalism.</jats:p>



4303 Historical Studies, 50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

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