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By Michael Mitchell

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Her son, Joseph II, was influenced by Enlightenment ideas, though these were sometimes contradicted by his belief in his own absolute rule. He continued the reform of the state, reducing the burden on the peasantry, secularizing church property, taking control of the clergy and establishing the principle of religious toleration. The monarchy was the main continental opponent of Napoleon, and its army the first to inflict a serious defeat on the French, at Aspern in 1809. However, the earlier devastating defeats Napoleon had inflicted on the Austrians had forced Emperor Franz II to abolish the Holy Roman Empire in 1806; two years earlier he had responded to Napoleon's crowning himself emperor of France by establishing the empire of Austria.

She is almost entirely self-sufficient in agriculture and hydro-electric power, has an important tourist industry, is a major producer of high-quality steel and has a successful advanced engineering sector, including mechanical and steel engineering and electronics. In terms of GDP per head of population she has ranked in the top ten countries in the world over the past twenty years. The success of the present does not mean that her past as the heart of a great power has been entirely forgotten.

There is still a cosmopolitan outlook among her leaders and the desire and experience to play a role on the international stage. A sign of this is the number of international meetings, such as conferences of the CSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe), held in Vienna and the international organizations which have their headquarters there. This includes a number of UN agencies housed in the Vienna International Centre, a purpose-built district beside the Danube. It is above all in culture that Austria is the heir to the Habsburg Empire.

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Austria: Revised Edition by Michael Mitchell


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