The Spirit of 1914 in Austria-Hungary

  • Mark Cornwall University of Southampton
Keywords: Austria-Hungary, spirit of 1914, World War I, patriotism

Abstract

This article studies the “spirit of 1914” in the Habsburg monarchy, the myth that an enthusiastic mood prevailed across the empire during the first summer of the Great War when troops were sent off against the Serbian and Russian enemies. It seeks to explain how far this mood was spontaneous or directed from above by the state authorities, and finds that both interacted with each other as mobilization occurred. It also seeks through a range of voices to show the actual diversity of emotion in these early weeks of hostilities. Many young men enlisted in order to pursue an adventure, many imperial patriots or nationalists viewed the war as an opportunity for some “rebirth” for their cause; the press was largely unanimous in suggesting popular support for the war. However, underneath this façade many individuals were as much fearful as hopeful, particularly the older generation. The strict censorship of news from the start of the war obscured these negative voices, but we find them in diaries and memoirs of the time. These also suggest that the early excitement was short-lived. Many soldiers quickly experienced the horror of war, especially in the east, and felt changed utterly by the trauma. On the home front, the shock came more slowly as casualty lists and refugees surfaced. By October 1914 the initial expectations, encapsulated in the early “spirit”, were already waning. The state had to face the prospect of total war, where its ability to protect its population was fatally put to the test.

Author Biography

Mark Cornwall, University of Southampton
Professor of Modern European History

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Published
2015-10-16
Section
Articles