John Robertson

  • Fellowship year:2013-2014
  • University: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Title: Stoking the Furnaces of War: Labor Mobilization, War, and Revolution in a Habsburg Industrial District, 1906-1919
  •  In 1918, the ancient Habsburg Monarchy shattered into a multitude of successor states.  My project examines the changing character of authority in Habsburg Central Europe between 1906 and 1919 in order to understand this collapse and the subsequent creation of Czechoslovakia.  Therefore, I undertake an in-depth local study of the Ostrava-Karviná industrial district, now in the Czech Republic.  Historians of the region often blame ethno-nationalism for the dissolution of the Habsburg state.  My study, drawing on German-, Czech-, and Polish-language sources, argues that this view is far too limited.  By analyzing relationships between the military, the industrial labor force, and the Habsburg state before, during, and after the First World War in the Moravian industrial region of Ostrava-Karviná, I demonstrate that a breakdown in traditional authoritarianism in the face of mass political mobilization undercut the logic of Habsburg governance even before the outbreak of the First World War.  The militarization of industrial labor and pursuant repression of political life at the beginning of the war further delegitimized the Habsburg state, a process accelerated by widespread deprivation as the war further stressed the Monarchy's economy and society.  The collapse of the Habsburg regime's repressive apparatus in 1917 marked the end of the state's internal cohesion, leading to its collapse following final defeat on the battlefield.  The Czechoslovak state, however, would reconstruct much of the repressive industrial militarization that the Habsburg had been forced to abandon, setting the stage for further conflict in the interwar period.