Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Karl A. Roider, Jr


Historians have debated whether the radical reforms of the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790) were motivated by the spirit of Enlightenment or simply by Realpolitik. The purpose of this work is to go beyond the legal and philosophical discussion surrounding this debate; to examine the effects of one piece of legislation, the Edict of Toleration, as the government interpreted and applied it in the southern province of Carinthia; and in so doing, to provide a clearer picture of the person of the Emperor and his bureaucracy. While today's conception of toleration includes an equal recognition and respect for all rights, opinions, and practices, religious toleration as set forth by the Emperor was enacted by authorities who believed that they belonged to the only true religion and had no hesitation about placing limits on it. Key stipulations in the general edict, published in October 1781, permitted Lutherans, Calvinists, and the Greek Orthodox to call pastors and teachers and to build churches and schools when they had one hundred families or five hundred persons in a congregation and to be considered for advancement in civil and academic posts based on merit rather than confession. Even though Protestants were still considered second-class citizens under the toleration legislation, their legal status was vastly improved over earlier conditions. While Catholic religious leaders strongly opposed the toleration, government officials in Carinthia often treated non-Catholics fairly and even compassionately. However, the greatest threat to the Protestants establishing their churches came from among their own people. Educated Protestant pastors, who emigrated from schools in Germany and Hungary, encountered illiteracy, immorality, and poverty on a large scale among people who were often unwilling to change long-held traditions and who quarreled over meager resources. Because the non-Catholics in Carinthia never accounted for more than five percent of the population of the province, they were neither a threat to the Catholics nor much of a support to the Emperor. Without the regular attention of Joseph II and his bureaucrats, the Protestant church there, in all likelihood, would not have survived.