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Austrian Studies Fund

XII Annual Convention, Austria Centers Edmonton, Calgary, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 1-4 September 2018

Impressions by Oene de Haan - PhD candidate at Utrecht University.

‘The devil is in the detail’ is a famous quote, pointing to the fact that the difference between success or failure often depends on small, apparently negligible, objects, facts or occurrences. The details of and around the Annual Conference of the Austria Centers in Edmonton however reached near-perfection if not perfection.

It started with the seamless preparation of flight and hotel, to be followed by a well-organized conference at three different locations of which one on half a day travel distance. All necessary travels, transfers and subsequent returns and arrivals occurred almost unnoticed. And during the breaks and joint breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plenty of opportunity was created to meet the participants of the other Austria Centers.

This leads to the next, of course more valuable, detail of this conference, being the opportunity of meeting various directors and researchers of the various Austria Centers in cities like Vienna, Budapest, Olomouc, Jerusalem, Edmonton, Minnesota, Berkeley or New Orleans. Not to mention the rich details in their presentations on a wide variety of topics. The topics ranged from early modern funeral Czech culture or Hungarian witch trials via the development of the Slovene language or German-Moravian authors to deportation of ethnic German civilians from Hungary into the Sovjet-Union in 1944/1945, the position of gay women in the former German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany till current developments in Hungary under the Orbán-government or the relationship between the FPÖ and Israel – just only to mention a few.

Finally not to forget the last detail - but for me a milestone - being the opportunity to present for the first time my own research project. As PhD-candidate Political History at Utrecht University, I started two years ago my research into the implementation of reforms at the local level in Habsburg-Austria, Bavaria and Prussia in the decades around 1800. On such reforms a rich historiography exists on the influence on these reforms of the court or the development of a central royal bureaucracy. However, surprisingly little research seems to have been undertaken with respect to the implementation of such reforms on the ground in a district or local community. In the course of my research project I ‘discovered’ the Austria Center at Leiden University and benefitted of getting linked into this academic network.

But next to all these rich details including the feed-back on my own presentation, the conference also changed the way I consider or look at Habsburg-Austria. Until this conference the spatial and temporal aspects of the empire dominated my view. Alternatively formulated: what changed over time or during a certain timeframe in the empire and what caused and were the consequences of these changes. The conference learned me that I can also use Habsburg-Austria as lens or window to look at the various countries which succeeded the Habsburg-Austrian empire or even to historical topics in general.

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