Lead Project

Peter Becker + Jana Osterkamp

The synoptic view on government activities through the lens of our central sources, approx. 250.000 written submissions to the emperor, requires a statistical approach. It will be based on protocol books established by the cabinet office on a yearly basis, which provide a perfect basis for our systematic analysis. Our statistical analysis is informed by methods and tools of policy field analysis. We understand submissions as governmental acts and thus as policies which were developed within the changing polity of the Habsburg empire and within specific actor networks. We claim that policy matters, i.e. that policy making was not just responsive to the demands articulated by political actors, and that the emperor, his government, and the parliaments shaped policies and politics of the monarchy. Following Fritz Scharpf (1973) we conceptualize policy making as a process, which begins with the articulation of problems and ends with the adoption of decrees and legislation by the sovereign. Their common thread is the objective of political and economic integration and the stabilization of the imperial state building project.
The use of the submissions as empirical basis requires a reflection on the institutional framing of policy making. This methodological question of policy field analysis (Wenzelburger, Zohlnhöfer 2014) has to address the ways in which procedural rules of the cabinet office bias the representation of policy making in their files.
The time series analysis of policy fields requires the comparability of data over time, for example in regards to the continuity of the emperor’s role in enacting legislation and decrees even after the constitutionalization.

The time series analysis of policy fields requires the comparability of data over time, for example in regards to the continuity of the emperor’s role in enacting legislation and decrees even after the constitutionalization. Governmental acts were nevertheless subject to change, not for constitutional but rather for procedural reasons. The rapidly increasing number of submissions posed serious problems for the processing capacity of the cabinet office and of the emperor. To contain the flooding of his desks, the ministries’ autonomous sphere of decision making was systematically extended from 1852 onwards. A systematic reevaluation and extension of this autonomous sphere of ministries, the council of ministers, and the president of the general accounting office (Oberster Rechnungshof) was elaborated by the cabinet office’s director Adolf Braun in 1895 and enacted in 1896. Entire fields of administration were removed from the cabinet office: military issues in 1853, petitions from military personnel in 1864, and petitions from Vienna in 1880. Statistical analysis of this data cast a fresh look at policy making from the viewpoint of the output side of the policy process. We will look at the development of governmental activities in various policy fields in their changing regional focus and interdependence. Information on cities and regions are an invaluable basis to systematically reconstruct the way in which the monarchy in its territorial dimensions has been present at the desk of the emperor.

Peter Becker

+43 1 4 2772 7288


University of Vienna
Universitätsring 1
1010 Vienna

Peter Becker is Professor of Austrian History at the University of Vienna. His research focuses on the biologization of the Social since the late 19th century an on the history of state and administration since the late 18th century. Within the first research field, he has been working on the history of criminology (Verderbnis und Entartung, Göttingen 2002, The Criminals and their Scientists, New York 2006 – together with Richard Wetzell) and on the increasing relevance of the neurosciences to explain deviant behavior. (The Neurosciences and Criminology, in: Engineering Society, 2012) His work within the second research field originated with a fresh look at the history of police and policing from the perspective of a sociological of knowledge. (Dem Verbrecher auf der Spur, 2005) His cultural studies approach to organization, rationalization and communication of 19th and 20th century public administration continued these reflections and further contributed to a cultural history of state and administration.

His current research relates to the position of the Habsburg monarchy within the new internationalism since the mid-nineteenth century and the implications of this positioning for the successor states’ engagement with the new international order after 1918. (Von Listen und anderen Stolpersteinen auf dem Weg zur Globalisierung, in: Internationale Geschichte, 2017) He also works on the transformation of statehood both in the Habsburg monarchy of the long 19th century and in the transition to the successor states. (Stolpersteine auf dem Weg zu einem kooperativen Imperium, in: Kooperatives Imperium, 2018)

Jana Osterkamp

+43 1 4 2772 7288 (Vienna)

+49 89 552 6060 (Munich)


Collegium Carolinum
Hochstraße 8
81669 Munich

Jana Osterkamp (*1977) is a historian and legal scholar. Her current research encompasses a larger study on the history of federalism in the Habsburg Empire in the “long” 19th century. Since 2012 she is director of the „Emmy Noether“ junior research group „Ordering Diversity. Concepts of Federalism in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its Successor States“ funded by the German Research Fund (DFG) and situated at her home institution at the Collegium Carolinum, Research Institute for the History of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Munich. Since 2007 she held teaching assignments at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich (LMU) and the University of Vienna. In the academic year 2016/17 she represented the Chair for East European History at the LMU Munich. In 2014 she was Feodor-Lynen research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Vienna. 

Between 2009 and 2018 she was among the Principal investigators in the international graduate programme „Religious Cultures in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Europe“ in Munich, Prague and Poznan. Between 2012 and 2014 she was member of the board of the graduate school for Eastern and South-East European Studies at LMU Munich and the University of Regensburg. She defended her thesis about Constitutionalism in interwar Czechoslovakia at the Max Planck Institute for European History of Law in Frankfurt am Main that was awarded with the Werner Pünder-Preis at the University of Frankfurt.

Together with Peter Becker she is Principal investigator of the D-A-CH – research group (DFG/FWF Austrian Research fund) “The emperors’s desk: a site of policy making in the Habsburg Empire? Francis Joseph I and his Cabinet Office”.

Universität Wien + Collegium Carolinum theemperorsdesk.univie.ac.at Munich Vienna