Historie – Otázky – Problémy

Nobility and the Jewish Society in the Habsburg Monarchy


Abstract: The problem of the study of Jewish elites is that it is often ahistoric, oscillating between indiscriminate admiration and total refusal, which merely reflects the extremes of a traditionally unbalanced attitude of the society towards the Jews as well as towards nobility in general. Jewish nobility is part of the so-called new nobility of the 18th to20th centuries, although in legal terms it does not constitute any specific group within it. Like other families belonging to the new nobility, its members obtained their titles as a reward for their credit and contribution to the monarchy and public welfare and, but for a few rare exceptions, had no social or family ties to aristocratic or old-nobility families, despite the fact that it was precisely the new nobility who, since no later than the middle of the 19th century played a crucial role not only in the economy of the country, but also in its politics, army as well as its culture. Unlike aristocracy, this new social group, usually called „second society“, was open to all newcomers who had acquired a certain social status. The reason for nobilitation did not play any role in being a member of this elite: while some individuals were ennobled thanks to their entrepreneurial success which allowed them to give out large sums to charity, others earned their title due to exemplary performance of administrative or military service, and still others were nobilitated as a reward for their success in art and science. Whereas members of the latter group were nobility only through their titles and lifestyles, and through their family ties remained connected to the bourgeoisie, rich entrepreneurs and top state officials were often able to transform their considerable wealth in political and social capital.

Key words: Nobility; Jews; Habsburg Monarchy

Doc. PhDr. Jan Županič, Ph.D., působí na Ústavu světových dějin Filozofické fakulty Univerzity Karlovy a na Katedře občanské výchovy a filozofie Pedagogické fakulty Univerzity Karlovy. Zabývá se dějinami habsburské monarchie v „dlouhém 19. století“ a dějinami a vývojem šlechty v období novověku ( jan.zupanic@ff.cuni.cz).